January 2006 – I am new to living in Los Angeles and I attend my first burlesque show at the Monday Night Tease in Hollywood. At the time, I hadn’t picked up my still camera for over 3 years. I attended shows for a year before I got to know some of the dancers as friends. I can’t afford to keep shooting film so I invest in a new DSLR and finally bring it to a show.
Burlesque in this century is a very self reflective and intimate art ranging from classic fan dances to pure mockery of politics and pop culture. The frames represent to me the wide range of feelings that each performance is intended to convey and the overall feeling of what burlesque means to me. Some dances are easily captured in one frame while others, like a film, need multiple frames to juxtapose story. Burlesque is a celebration of the beauty of the human experience. It is glamorous, witty, sexual, kinetic, coy, communicative, and heartbreaking.
I never used a flash because it is distracting to the performer. At shows I am limited to narrow apertures and slow shutter speeds – a combination which I feel lends itself perfectly to dance – although I am often criticized by my peers for my lack of focus and intentional use of motion blur. However, the images I choose to show the world are purposely picked for these traits. I do very little retouching of images as well. A lot of performers feel like true burlesque is about celebrating what you are naturally born with, including any bruises, moles, hairs, or costume malfunctions that might happen on stage. My photographs are only a reflection of that attitude.
These images are just a few of over 10,000 frames I shot in a 3 year period. I would be neglectful not to mention the dozens of other dancers during this time period who are not shown here. It is really hard to get a well exposed image in a gritty nightclub when someone is dancing across the stage at high speed. This is just a small representation of my favorite images, not a history of everyone who was in the scene at the time.