The Gallery: Creating Stories from Emotional Landscapes

I often am asked how I come up with some of my narrative work, where the ideas come from.  To be honest, I imagine it’s a similar process to writers: you write what you know… I shoot themes and images that come to me through personal experiences combined with inspiration shots I am continually gathering. But the Gallery was different.

The process for the shot that we call ‘The Gallery’ started with a conversation with a dancer named Andrew Daly. In this conversation, I asked him to relay to me a few personal stories or events from his life that were highly emotionally charged and relevant. I was looking for his story, for a level of emotional availability that would be fairly easy to access in a photo shot.

Accessing emotional poignancy is a difficult thing for dancers to achieve in a photo shoot. They are often preoccupied with looking good physically.  That concern, along with the absence of the stage lights and the trust that forms between the performer and the black hole of the audience, means that I need to find just the right ‘trigger’ in a photo shoot that can get them to go to that emotional place.

Andrew was very forthcoming with me, telling his stories with enough detail that immediate images started to form in my head.

Image making art storytelling through photography Rachel Neville NYC

Andrew Daly, Dancer Photo Rachel Neville

Selecting one of his stories to create, we moved back to the emotional content when shooting by selecting the right music, taking the time needed to get into the shot and to slow the energy to roll through his body. With some specific directions related to the shapes I was looking for, Andrew was able to give me multiple, really fantastic versions in a relatively short amount of time.

I truly enjoy creating with other artists in this collaborative way.  While I am a dance photographer first and foremost, working with lines and shapes is what I do on a daily basis. Going beyond that to pull out and create stories that we can all connect with on a deeper level is what I love to do most.  And I am so happy to share it with you.

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