The performing arts can be full of reciprocity: the opportunity to be seen, heard, and thus valued as an individual. We as teachers can often offer our students individual feedback in our technique and choreography practicum courses, while audiences can supply accolades after viewing a performance. Yet, with class sizes constantly increasing, time constraints steadily tightening, and larger quantities of content required to be taught, it can be difficult to offer reciprocity to all of our dance students on a regular basis. Often, a lack of reciprocity even among some of our students hints at favoritism amongst the student body (whether valid or not) and can also be damaging to the self-esteem of our pupils.
There are multiple ways of engaging in reciprocity with students in our teaching practices, from engaging in active listening skills to verbally communicating our recognition of their efforts, thoughts, and feelings back to individual or groups of students. While these are highly successful methods, another powerful, yet seemingly unlikely agent of reciprocity is photography. Candid photography (not necessarily posed) of our students dancing and/or performing has the ability to illustrate the skill, participation, and overall presence of our students. Depending on our sponsoring body’s guidelines, we can share these photos with our students, their families, and perhaps wider communities as an acknowledgement of our students and our processes.
At the same time, photography not only has the potential to offer the student a sense of reciprocity from their teacher, but perhaps also their wider community and most importantly, reflexively from themselves. While there have been numerous opt-ed pieces on the rise of narcissism through “selfie” photo-culture, the use of candid photography (photos that are not posed, but rather taken during the flow of a process) has the potential to offer a more genuine and authentic representation of lived-experience. Since these photo-representations can be experienced and re-experienced by multiple people, the possibility of reciprocity increases. The subjects of these photos also have the opportunity to validate their experience reflexively by viewing the photo and remembering their associated experience.
In a digital age, where cameras are more available, and photo-editing software can obtained though numerous apps and platforms, it can be difficult to know where to begin or take the knowledge and resources we already have.
WHERE TO START
1) What are your sponsoring body’s guidelines and boundaries?
This should go without saying but you need to have a clear understanding of your sponsoring body’s (your school or organization) guidelines and regulations around photography of students before taking any photos at all. We need our students to remain safe, and for our dancers’ rights to be respected at all times. So do your homework, and even if you face tight restrictions, be creative in how plan to you use photography.
2) Obtain and Know Your Tools
It seems that cameras can be found everywhere from smartphones to tablets to laptops/desktops, while various good-quality handheld cameras saturate the market (if you do not have one, for any reason, try to burrow one).
It’s important to know how to use what you got. That involves taking the time to explore the functions of the device you have, if only for a few minutes here and there. Technology can be confusing and that can be paralyzing. This is where our peers, students, and online web tutorials become indispensible. We are often not alone in our confusion and the answers are out there to be found. Go find them!
For instance, below is a small article on how to use specific functions of the iphone camera:
The same is true for editing your photos. You may be or become an excellent photographer, but with so many factors involved in capturing a moving moment, there are countless instances where editing allows a image to truly shine. Not sure of which apps and software are best to use? Check out the links below.
Here is a list of some of the best photo editing apps currently on the market:
Here is a list of alternatives to “Photoshop,” many of them free:
INCORPORATING PHOTOGRAPHY AS ACTS OF RECIPROCITY
Slideshows are great when you are more restricted with how you can employ photography. Shown through projection, on a laptop, tablet, etc. these displays can be shared as a preshow-lobby attractions at class performances, community events, or simply one-on-one with our students in the studio (great end-of-term closing ritual).
2) Collage Memory-Boards
Print out your photography and combine all of your photos in a large collage memory-board that can be displayed in your studio for all your students to see and admire.
3) Social Media
Social Media offers a plethora of platforms for sharing content. If you are able to use these platforms, while conforming to your designated guidelines, you have the unique opportunity to share your class and performance processes with a wider audience. Sharing photography in this way, highlights your students amongst this larger audience, allows the student easy access to the photos for their own use, and is fantastic way to build interest in your program. Knowing the pros and cons of social media networks are important if you choose to use them. If you would like a breakdown of major social media platforms check out the link below:
**Zackary Forcum is a Dance Teaching Artist, who is attending Mills College Dance MFA Program, and sits on CDEA’s Greater Board**