LARA ANGELIL


︎︎︎ INSTAGRAM
︎︎︎ THE FILM

LARA ANGELIL: ON THE INTERSECTION BETWEEN PHOTOGRAPHY AND FILM IN DANCE

BY MARIE ALBERTO

HOW HAVE YOU BEEN COPING WITH THE CURRENT STATE OF THE WORLD?

        Although the industry is back in full swing now, I did spend the beginning of lockdown reflecting on my past work and researching a lot of new ideas. It was a very healthy and stabilising experience for me, to be honest. I needed to take a step back and give my mind space to be creative and productive again.

EXPLORING THE SECTORS OF PHOTOGRAPHY AND FILM, WHAT’S THE FIELD YOU FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE IN, AND WHY?
        I work primarily in the field of photography — but when I want to explore movement, video is a helpful tool in expanding my visual narratives. I am also seeing photography and video intersecting more and more now. So many photoshoots have a DOP alongside a photographer, capturing still imagery and video.


WHILE CREATING A GESTURE BOOK AND A MOVEMENT STUDY, COULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR APPROACH TO DANCE AND GESTURES?
        The gesture book was inspired by Edith Piaf and her incredible sense of movement when she performs. Her gestures are so dramatic, performative and theatrical — but yet so natural and emotional. My posing is often inspired by these little details that I find in inspirational characters.

WHAT WAS THE STARTING POINT AND INITIAL CONCEPT BEHIND “MOVEMENT STUDY”?
        I have this WONDERFUL book called ‘Danse Africaine’ by Germain Acogny that documents every detailed movement in African dance. Each page has a specific image of different limbs performing a variety of gestures, taking you through the entire composed movement step by step. I thought it was so beautiful visually that I wanted to interpret it with my friend Masumi.

HOW WAS THE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS OF YOUR PROJECT WITH MASUMI?
        As mentioned above, the book showed a full page of triptych images showing the sequence of a movement. I wanted to show the same layout but with video. I decided that in some sections I would film similar gestures and then play them in the frame at the same time — almost like Masumi was interacting with herself. This has been a technique I’ve continued to explore.


HOW DID YOU CREATE THE SHORT FILM “MOVEMENT STUDY”?
        This was a personal project between myself and dancer Masumi Saito. It was completely improvised. I showed Masumi the book and explained a little bit about what I was hoping to achieve and she interpreted the rest. She’s an incredible dancer and has an ability to create very unique gestures and movements.

TO WHAT EXTEND DO YOU DIRECT A DANCE FILM AND A PHOTOSHOOT? DO YOU LET THE SET HAPPEN ORGANICALLY?
        I always discuss with models/dancers in advance and I do direct quite a bit when I am on a photoshoot. But it does depend on the subject! Some subjects (dancers in particular) have a very organic ability to move and it’s important to recognise when direction can stand in the way of that. I usually can sense very quickly if someone is in tune with their body and the concept and doesn’t need me to direct. In some other cases, when a subject is still a bit unsure of their posing/movements, I try and help them through direction to gain a bit of confidence. Then, towards the end of a shoot, they usually find their rhythm and manage to tell a story with their bodies.

YOU’VE COLLABORATED WITH MANY MOVEMENT ARTISTS, HAVE THOSE INTERACTIONS CHANGED THE WAY YOU USE, CAPTURE AND PRESENT MOVEMENT IN YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY AND FILM?
        Yes, 100%! The more I work with dancers, the more I understand posing and gestures in still photography. I should really be doing a lot more projects like these! Every time I work with dancers it helps me train my eye for upcoming fashion shoots where models may not be as comfortable moving their bodies. Watching dancers is the best practice to visualise posing later.

IN ALL OF YOUR WORK, BOTH SELF-INITIATED AND COMMERCIAL, WHAT IS THE PROJECT THAT INSPIRED YOU THE MOST, AND WHY?
        That’s a very difficult question to answer. I have a very strong connection and attachment to ‘Object of Desire’. Yen-Ching was such a free spirit that day and I had planned very little for this shoot, but for some reasons the stars aligned and we created something so beautiful! We went to the Tate Modern, inside the huge main hall near the entrance, and Yen-Ching just started to dance while I was filming. Everyone stopped and watched her and we had a huge audience after a few mixtures. Usually it’s not allowed to film in the Tate but I think everyone was so transfixed on her beautiful performance that they allowed it.

HOW DO YOU USE THE ELEMENTS OF FASHION AND STYLING IN YOUR WORK?
        The fashion in my imagery is usually decided in collaboration with a stylist. Their vision, in connection with the concept, will be merged with my visual narrative. The clothing they choose can sometimes directly relate to the movements, posing and body - or it may refer more simply to the storyline and character..

THE FASHION INDUSTRY SEEMS TO HAVE A GROWING MANOEUVRE IN THE USE OF DANCE, SUCH AS IN THEIR RUNWAYS OR IN THEIR FASHION CAMPAIGNS. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS?
        I believe that movement, body-language and posing have become a new visual language for photographers and videographers. Due to the high volume of imagery we come across every day and the number of standard posing we see regularly, I believe the industry is looking for something new. An exploration of the body through movement in the hopes that they may discover something unique.

WHAT IS FOR YOU THE MOST POWERFUL BODY LANGUAGE?
        In my opinion, the most powerful body language are sexual gestures. They can be so violent but also so lyrical. If you were to dissect sexual gesturing and movements you’d have a very interesting concept there ;) Maybe that’ll be my next video!

WHAT ARE THE VALUABLE THINGS YOU HAVE LEARNED FROM WORKING WITH DANCERS AND MOVEMENT ARTISTS?
I find that watching dancers is the best practice in training your eye to see posing and gesturing. In still photograph you are dealing less with a full movement but with a snapshot of a gesture or a frozen pose. Both can take detailed directing or a keen sense at what moment to press the shutter button — dancers can help you build a visual archive that aids you in directing on set later.