COLIN DANCEL



︎︎︎ INSTAGRAM
︎︎︎ WORK

COLIN DANCEL: CHOREOGRAPHY AS FRAGMENTS, PARTS AND PIECES

BY MARIE ALBERTO

I BELIEVE THERE IS ALWAYS A REASON BEHIND WHY WE ARE MOVED BY OR TOWARDS SOMETHING. WHAT MOVED YOU TO BE A PHOTOGRAPHER? TELL ME ABOUT YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF PHOTOGRAPHY, OR EVEN OF DANCE AND PERFORMANCE.
      I was always certain that I wanted to be in fashion – the ever abstract, fancy, dreamy world of the industry. Initially, I thought, fashion design made the most sense. Perhaps I had a very premature concept of what it really means to be in the industry at that time. So I was this 17 year old trying to manoeuvre around fashion school, jumping from one internship to the next until I developed an aesthetic appreciation for styling (or so I think I did - that didn’t last very long). I had to shoot my own portfolio and that was it - I learnt I am better at taking photographs. That was 4 years ago and to be completely honest, I had no idea what I was doing. Underwhelming, isn’t it?

        It is only recently that I am understanding more what I do, why I do it and its impact. The most valuable knowledge I have is that as a photographer, more than sharing a story, I am able to shape perspectives. More so with the subjects I love best: backstage of fashion shows and movement in which there are a million things overlooked. And if I am able to see and capture even just a speck of that, it completely changes how one views the entirety of a show or performance. I find solace in those pre- and in-between moments. I guess that is what moves me as a photographer?

THERE IS A SENSE OF SUBTLENESS, EPHEMERALITY, AND A DISTINCTIVE VOICE IN YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS THAT I TRULY ADMIRE, LIKE THOSE WITH MADGE REYES FOR THE FORE. HOW DOES CHOREOGRAPHED MOVEMENTS SPEAK TO YOU AS A PHOTOGRAPHER?
        Madge is such an amazing performer and it was such a privilege to be able to do that shoot with her. I refer back to it a lot and am planning to do more.

        Movement in the context of choreography, it’s fragments and the in-betweens of it is something I have learned to appreciate a lot. (Side note: this was something I would have never predicted for myself. Dance is the biggest frustration for me - I have two left feet). I see choreography as fragments, parts and pieces. That raise of an arm, left leg over right leg, a bent knee; those steps that make it whole.

        Picture this: you are in a room full of people and if you completely eradicate sound and just observe each and every person. How they chew, how they pick up a napkin, how they type, how they converse, their gestures, facial expressions and all sorts of mundane things. Just look closely and silently, it will give you a whole new perspective on how to look and actually see things. I learned that from a friend. I think that is precisely what I did in that shoot.

IN THE FILIPINO CULTURE, WE ARE OFTEN GROUNDED BY PERFORMATIVE ACTIVITIES SUCH AS SINGING, DANCING AND ACTING, INITIATED BY THE ENVIRONMENT WE GROW UP IN. WOULD YOU SAY IT MAY HAVE INFLUENCED YOUR VISION AS A PHOTOGRAPHER?
        Growing up I was very shy but I have a very supportive mother who paid for different summer classes. From voice lessons to guitar lessons and painting too. All that I’d like to believe, built character and my sense of self. Two very valuable anchors in being a creative.

DANCE AND ACTING ARE TWO DIFFERENT DYNAMICS AND PERFORMANCE PRACTICES. CAN YOU DESCRIBE HOW BOTH PERFORMED IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA?
        You’re right. Those are two very different things and two very different people too. I believe it goes both ways - photographer and subject. There should be some kind of dynamic and a level of understanding between the two. [...]There should be no restraints in photographing movement.

I’M VERY CURIOUS ABOUT THE PROCESSES YOU USE, FROM THE SUBJECTS YOU CHOOSE TO THE PLANNING, EDITING OR PRINTING PARTS OF YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY SERIES. HOW DO YOU CREATE A NARRATIVE BEFORE THE SHOOT?
        I try to plan as much as I can, especially when it’s for work. So I review images as much as I can. I’ll draw layouts and light setups sometimes, even. I’d also have a list of poses and angles, but I am learning that I am more personal, in-the-moment, spontaneous than I am technical. There are so many technicalities that up until now I don’t fully understand but I can, and I will play around. I would normally carry two, maybe three cameras with me with two different digital settings and a film camera. Happy to share with you that I’m also a trigger happy lady. [Laughing] I’d like to think I’m covering all my bases that way. I just shoot. I am always happy when I get to play around. Especially in post-processing, there are so many things that i discover in that process. An image could be a hundred more if you crop hard enough.

CLOSE UPS AND CROPPED IMAGES OF DETAILED PARTS OF THE BODIES AND GARMENTS SEEM TO BE BIG ELEMENTS IN YOUR WORK. IS THAT SOMEHOW INTENTIONAL?
        It was intentional at first that has now become almost a reflex. Again, there is something in the way I view what is presented in front of me - fragmented and by pieces and parts. Much like how I eat my bread or how I read a book (sentence by sentence). I have to understand each part in order to fully digest it as a whole. You know, I have to re-watch movies for this very reason.

        Human bodies are so complex and is something that I am learning to understand. From the faculties of our brains to the tingles on our feet. There’s nothing more human than photographing a human. Does that make sense?

I WAS DRAWN TO THE USE OF BLACK AND WHITE, DARK TONES, LOW BRIGHTNESS IN YOUR IMAGES THAT I FOUND REALLY INTERESTING. WHO ARE YOUR MAIN REFERENCES YOU ALWAYS LOOK UP TO?
        I usually just play around and recently I have been drawn to images that you almost can’t see nor understand. To be completely frank, I am not sure why. So much of my work is discovering things during the process of it coming together, and I find so much comfort in that. It’s raw and it’s realer that way or at least I think it is.

        Anything that holds no pretense and shows reality as is, I am all for that. RJ Camacho and Martin Parr’s images. “Infinite Jest” is a whole page of rambling. And why not? That is what precisely I go through daily. “Slowness” Series by Vestoj is something I find myself referring back to time and again. It explored aspects of slowness, its value and power - such a timeless piece. New Yorker articles like “Love is Not a Permanent State of Enthusiasm” and Perversity. The Paris Review: Return, Investment, Return. Reality served hot. “Homo Sapiens and The Imagined”, “The Imaginary and The Symbolic” questions and answers what is real. So much of that, I balance that by watching Modern Family.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE CREATIVE SCENE IN THE PHILIPPINES RIGHT NOW?
        It’s actively learning and experimenting, just as it should be. We have so much talent and so many dreams in the country. For such a long time, Filipino designers have always aimed to put the Philippines on the fashion map and while there is so yet to achieve the creative industry is slowly learning how to properly lay the necessary foundations. And we have to. We have to see what works, what doesn’t and how to adapt to changes and uncertainties.

CAN YOU TELL ME ONE TO THREE VERB(S) THAT ARE VALUABLE TO YOU AS A PRACTITIONER AND AS A PERSON?
        [searches for verbs]
        Verb as a state of being - I AM learning. Continuously. There is so much that I want to learn and so many questions I need answers to - just about anything. How much energy are we saving on automatic doors? Why are there so many white cars? Do bears have milk? How skewed is my memory from when I was a kid? How did we become so trusting when we’re surrounded by constructs invented by who knows who? How does one un-love? Who told us to aim higher in life when it could have been so simple? Can I scan a moving image, how will that look like? Can I fix government websites to aid efficiency in the country? Perhaps. We’ll see.

        Action Verb - Do + Go. My high school teacher who is like a sister and a mother to me always tells me that I’m a go-getter. As a kid, I have always wanted to move out, to move countries, see the world, be an agent of change, teach and feed children, all the wildest dreams. I never grew out of that more so now that I am conscious of the things I can and cannot control. My eyes are quite literally wide open with everything that is happening, especially in the industry that I am in and in the times we are in. The exploitation, broken systems, unheard voices, flawed representation, greed and injustice. All that and I am just one person and one brain but I have always believed that I can be part of a solution in one way or another and that is what I am thriving for.

        Ridiculous how many times I said I.


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