Ken Browar and Deborah Ory’s The NYC Dance Project comes out of a tradition of dance photography established by George Hoyningen-Huene, Horst. P Horst, Irving Penn, and Barbara Morgan, among others. Traditionally, dance pictures were taken for publicity or commercial purposes. The photographs were taken in a studio where it was easier to control lighting, placement, composition, and costumes than it would have been in live performances. The NYC Dance Project follows this rich tradition within art history, modernizing the subject to fit today’s needs for cultural innovation.
“When dancers perform, it’s the moment, and then it’s gone.”
Spotlight: NYC Dance Project
Go behind the scenes in the photo studio thanks to this insightful video by Adorama that presents husband and wife duo Ken Browar and Deborah Ory’s transformative NYC Dance Project. The “Spotlight: NYC Dance Project,” an Adorama original, shows the couple’s creative process and practical grounds for producing a series that has become an important cultural contribution for the contemporary world of dance. Through captivating and compelling photographs depicting elegance and movement, the project aims to record and archive elite performers in the NYC dance circuit.
The project’s origin came about with an exciting realization. After searching for modern dance pictures to gift their ballet-loving daughter, the couple noticed the scarcity of available photographs of contemporary dancers. Seeing that the only available images were those of an older generation of classic dancers, like Baryshnikov and Martha Graham, the photographer, and retired dancer duo, merged their combined skills in fashion and editorial photography and embarked on a journey to showcase the wonderful world of present day’s dance and dancers, centered in New York City.
“For us, it’s really about capturing the emotion the dancers express through their body. We don’t want to show tricks necessarily. Sometimes the movements are really simple and really subtle; it could just be a beautiful arm gesture or a beautiful breadth that their doing. But really we want to capture emotion through motion. I think that’s the message. It’s that they have to have some passion and power in the images.”
Ken Browar grew up in Los Angeles and moved to Paris with a plan to become a photographer at the age of 19. Staying in Paris 20 years later, his love for photographing movement began by capturing dancers at the Paris Opera Ballet. Browar went on to become a renowned fashion photographer. His work for many European magazines, including Vogue, Elle, and Marie Claire, continued to highlight his excellent eye for grace and motion.
Deborah Ory, a dancer since the age of 7, maintains a passion for the art of movement, which is evident in her photography. She began photographing the rehearsals she was supposed to be in using a camera her father had brought home, foreshadowing an early connection between photography and dance. Her work includes editorial assignments for House & Garden, Mirabella, Self, Health, Martha Stewart Living, and Real Simple. Ken and Deborah together both form the collaborative partnership that is the NYC Dance Project.
In the video, the photographic sessions of Browar and Ory unfold naturally. As organic collaborations between the photographers and the dancers, the footage sheds light on how the duo is capable of capturing such sensuous and captivating images.