From Concept To Photograph Via Burnaby BC

Here, on February 2, 2008 I wrote about modern dancer Alison Denham.

When I looked at her negatives today I had the thought on the importance of conceptual thinking in what used to be my career as an magazine (editorial) photographer.

Between 1975 (when we came to Vancouver from Mexico City) and 1986 we lived in the Vancouver outskirts in Burnaby. Even now when I take a photograph (and especially when I shoot it for a magazine) I think, “How would the average person in Burnaby see this photograph? Would they understand it? Is it a tad too sophisticated?” In short, and as an example, if I photographed a doctor for an article on doctors would the photograph represent a doctor without the need of an explanation underneath?

Alison Denham was not and is not a ballet dancer. If I had photographed her in dance leotards most in Burnaby would have thought, “Dancer.”

My 13 year-old granddaughter who dances at Arts Umbrella uses the following to determine if a particular dance performance I would be taking her is modern dance or classical ballet, “Papi will they be dancing barefoot?” While this difference is not always true in defining ballet or modern dance it is an across the board statement that would work most of the time.

In the case of Denham I wanted to show her dramatically formed abs and flat stomach. A leotard would not do. Had I photographed her without a top that would not have been an image I could use here or originally as it was used, in a city magazine.

So the concept had to scream dancer and show abs, A bikini would have been confusing.

So I arrived at the idea of using a long stream of narrow cloth (I picked off-white so that it would reproduce with less contrast with b+w film). To stick it on Denham I purchased in London Drugs the two-sided tape that is used by bald men to secure their tepees or to hold together those near-nothing strapless dresses.

When I showed Rebecca (she is not 17) the photograph her first question was, “Did you put it on her?” I explained to Rebecca that a photographer never touches a photographic subject particularly when that subject is not wearing much. At some point I might have helped a tad but the second picture here should explain fully how it was done. When one teaches photography (and I have) this sort of conceptual thinking is the hardest to convey to students

Link to: From Concept To Photograph Via Burnaby BC

Originally published at

Into Bunny Watson. I am a Vancouver-based magazine photographer/writer. I have a popular daily blog which can be found at:

Into Bunny Watson. I am a Vancouver-based magazine photographer/writer. I have a popular daily blog which can be found at: