Book (p)review: Jordan Matter: Dancers among us - A Celebration of Joy in the Everyday
Workman Publishing, 2012
Dancers are storytellers. They're trained to capture passion with their bodies. The often create a fantasy world or offer us a deeper look into familiar settings. They bring to life what we feel but what most of us, lacking their artistry and athleticism, are unable to express physically.
Concert and festival photography has been my great passion for some time, but the truth is that all kind of stage performance (e.g. theatre) makes me feel those little butterflies of excitement in my stomach. Besides music, I’ve been honoured to photograph dancers and dance performances for few years now, privileged to work with well known dance school and production house Plesna Izba Maribor in the town where I live in. So, my (p)review of this book that focuses on dancers and not musicians shouldn’t be surprise to any of my blog’s regular readers.
Jeffrey Smith, New York, NY
That said, I have to admit that two months ago, I didn’t know anything about the photographer Jordan Matter, let alone of his famous photo project "Dancers among us". In preproduction for the photoshoot I had with two young and very talented Slovenian dancers Monja Lorenčič and Domen Žugelj recently, it was they who told me about Mr. Matter and his great photos. I googled him, loved what he is doing and ordered this book via fabulous Book Depository (free delivery worldwide) immediately. Although there were a lot of images from this project already online, the book has actually so much more - if you like what you see on the official’s project website, you’ll love the book, simple as that!
Marissa Quimby, Seattle, WA
The basic idea behind this photos is dancers doing their thing in usual, everyday situations. Dancers being "fully alive in the moment, unself-conscious, present". Dancers being dancers! Amazing as the photos from this project are (no photo-shopping, trampolines or hidden wires here, as author proudly states), Jordan Matter’s own story is in a way even more amazing. He wanted to become a professional baseball player, majored in theatre, worked as actor, and after one Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition that changed his life, became a photographer. Coming from an artistic family (he is a grandson of Herbert and Mercedes Matter, a very successful photographer and painter, respectively, and the son of filmaker Alex Matter and Ford model Paula Feiten), this actually shouldn’t be a big surprise. Inspirational, nevertheless.
Parisa Khobdeh, Yankees Stadium, NY
Great ideas + brilliant dancers = amazing photographs
The book is divided into seven chapters (with titles like "Dreaming", "Loving", "Playing", "Exploring") and every chapter has a short but very inspirational intro text not about dance and dancers per se, but about authors life, family, children, love, death and similar themes. Every image in the book has a title, the name of the dancer(s) and a location, while few of the images are supplemented with 4-5 images of the same scene, showing us that to get that perfect moment of that millisecond, is actually hard work - great addition to the book! But, the real gem is "Behind the scene" section that talks about some of the images in the book, and is an excellent bonus content, especially for photographers!
What happens to this enthusiasm, this ability to be wholly present in the moment? Why are these pure moments of passion so often replaced with cynicism, boredom, and indifference? As I played with my son, I thought about creating photographs that would show the world as if through his eyes. The people in the images would be alive and in the moment, celebrating all aspects and emotions of everyday life.
Jordan Matter has been shooting dancers for this project for three years and all around the United States (he still does it, and now around the world) and he had dancers traveling seven hours just to do a shoot with him. The photographs in the book (and some new ones on the site) are so amazing, that just to pick few ones that I included in this blogpost, has been a tough call.
Matt Oaks, Astoria, NY
To summarise, "Dancers among us - A Celebration of Joy in the Everyday" is an awesome book of even more awesome project, that I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in dance and/or dance photography!
All photographs published with author's permission.