Just having hopped (melted from exhaustion, really) off the plane from Southern Pole Championships in Miami, I wanted to get this thing that I had been thinking about for weeks into writing.
After every competition or showcase that Joe and I photograph, we greet the performers offstage and tell them how much we enjoyed their dance. And the feeling is always a strange kind of gratefulness and joy, like having witnessed a turning point or the first few steps of an epic adventure.
One of the reasons we love the pole community is how tight it is. Every single person is approchable and genuine. So when we rush up to these dancers and tell them how much we loved it, whether they're level one pole babies at their first competition or international boldface names, they react with such grace. We always get hugs and thank-yous. They remember us year after year. But I often wonder if they realize the connection we feel to them as artists.
We entered this world as visual artists, before we were decent enough on the pole to call ourselves dancers too. And when we photograph dancers, every time that shutter fires or that record light flickers on, it feels like a collaboration. The performer is pouring out their heart onstage and we are desperately grasping at every chance to capture that emotion. We're reaching for that triumphant moment (and the feeling is so intense and immediate when it happens) when our timing perfectly matches the dancer's. When their body snaps into the perfect line, they fling their limbs out to full extension, hair swirling, and the light gleams in their eyes and we go AH! SNAP!
Of course, onstage, they're unaware of the camera behind the lights. They don't know that another artist across the room is riding that emotional wave right alongside them. And so it's this strange one-sided, long-distant partnership that can feel so intimate from our side. We regularly laugh - and cry - behind the camera. It feels like magic when we can capture the fleeting art they make on the pole. It feels like we've climbed a mountain together or fought an epic battle. When they step offstage, we exhale too.
When we race up to a performer and embrace them, and gush about how amazing - truly, amazing, honestly, brilliant, beautiful - their piece was, I always hope that we don't seem overbearing. We're not crazed fans, and we're not sucking up. We mean it. It was a wild ride, and we were witness to it.