This subject I have raised before in a couple of previous blogs through the years. But when I find myself empty of inspiration I like to look at some of the pictures that I have taken that seemed to be so right when I took them. Because they appeared to be so right they were very easy to do. In was sometime in early 2003 that I went to rehearsal of a Ballet BC program held at the Vancouver Dance Centre on Davie and Granville. I watched all the dancers I knew flex, bend and stretch. But then my eyes suddenly followed a ballerina who was walking like no ballerina I had ever seen before. I went up to her and introduced myself and asked about her. Her name was Sandrine Cassini and she was French. I enquired as to her training and she told me that she had danced with the Paris Opera Ballet! I became most excited promising myself to ask her in a near future, once I got to know her better about a project I had in mind that had occurred to me the instant I found out she had danced with Paris Opera Ballet. The graceful Cassini had something which I would simply define as presence and I was not the only to notice it. The then director of the Ballet BC, John Alleyne picked her for the principal role of the Alberta Ballet’s Carmen choreographed by its director Jean Grand- Maître which had its Vancouver premiere later that year in October. The Georgia Straight assigned me to photograph the principals, Sandrine Cassini and Edmond Kilpatrick. I took some good photographs of them together and some better ones of Cassini alone. It was after that session that I gained enough confidence to ask her to pose for me as a grown up Degas’ Little Dancer Age Fourteen. I had recently read that the little girl’s name was Marie van Goethem and that shortly after she had posed for Degas she left the Paris Opera Ballet and became a prostitute under her mother’s tutelage. I was shocked and saddened. I wanted to do a sequence of photographs in which there was a rosier future for the unfortunate girl.
Cassini showed up in the studio and the project (I photographed her from different angles) took under 30 minutes it was that easy. Here is one of them and it is my favourite. I tell my photography students that it is important to master a technique (and perhaps a few more) so that when one is taking pictures the technical side of things is automatic and under one’s radar so that all the time is spent in the taking of the picture. Of course most of the time should be spent talking to one’s subject until all is ripe and ready for the picture. The picture taking should be easy and fun. Every time I ever faced Cassini it was just that, and a bit more if you can note the fire behind the expression on her face. For me it seemed that somehow she could go back to the 19th century and be Marie van Goethem or Prosper Merimmée’s Carmen.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.