Photography: A Physical Art

We talk to Flavio Colker, Deborah Colker’s brother and the official photographer for the Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker.

How did you first become interested in photography?
As a kid, I was into objects and machines. I went through a watches craze ( I would stare at watches on men’s arms in the streets and that created some weird situations for my parents ha ha ha) and then I discovered the photo camera. Flavio ColkerI thought it was beautiful. . . and it took pictures. I used to draw a lot and read by that time. With pictures, everything came together. I was a loner, 12years old by the time and built a darkroom. The acts of shooting, developing and watching the print come through were highly pleasurable to me. It has always been about pleasure really.

What is it about this medium, as opposed to perhaps video and film, which appeals to you?
The non rational, non logical , improvised nature of the photo shoot gives me a lot. Although I’m attracted to films, scriptwriting in particular, having directed a short film and many pop videos, I still see photography as being artistically more advanced. Everything you see in films has been done before in photography. Film and video. . . they have an agenda. You make images with a prewritten Flavio Colkernecessity, using prediscussed lighting and artistic atmosphere. In a photo shoot, a portrait for example, you bring the camera and some lights to the person’s house and see what’s interesting there.. what’s visually interesting in his/her face. The result, though, is something you will only discover when you develop the pictures.  In Portuguese, development is “revelation”, to reveal. It’s a revelation process. You can’t do that in film. It’s not in the film’s nature.

What are the most important skills a photographer can have?
Vision and a fast finger. Vision means mixing all the influences, your favourite image makers and writers in a photo shoot. Recognize a great image when it appears in front of you and click it. The proccess of recognizing comes with lots of information and your own thoughts over the information. You are not there to make only a good picture. . . you are there to make a visual statement. Be it with good or bad technique. There is an interesting misunderstanding involving the occupation: a good photographer is not a technician and yet the name implies one. To make a statement you have to loop around technique, deceive it. For example: using modern means to recreate an old look. A technician always comes as using old techniques to create new looks. An artist knows the importance of the past.
All this won’t happen if you can’t shoot the decisive moment, like Cartier Bresson called it. Then, Flavio Colkermost of the critical thought has to go and you are in some kind of trance. You connect with your models and you can predict the split second when to “fire the gun”.

What is it about photographing dance that particularly interests you?
Hmmm… most of it doesn’t interest me really and I try to bring as much as I can from other genres to it. Journalism, fashion are more interesting. Their real world. . .  textures, faces, clothes and lighting are far more expressive than a theatrical stage. If I could, I would bring all the dancers to middle of the most crowded street and do the shooting, preferably with a good mystery story behind it and not the libretto.

On the other hand, dance is a refinement of the human form. A refinement of movement. A tantalizing, “dizzyfying” sexy body moving. But I miss the personality. Maybe what bothers me the most is the inability of dancers to bring their faces to the table. I mean, it’s all concentrated on the bodies. They usually smile. . . or stay serious. Cause that’s what’s been taught to them. See? How photography reveals reality?

How do you go about capturing the movement of a dancer in a still image?
Well. . . let’s see if I understood your question. I believe there are some moments and I mean Flavio Colkerfractions of seconds, when the movement of all the dancers in a scene make up a powerful harmony. . . be it a harmony of speed or calmnness. I just see it. Maybe that’s my only real talent: the ability to see the most expressive moments of human movement.

What makes a person photogenic?
There are some obvious rules I made up to when select models (something cruel, I especially hate, selecting people): long limbs, big hands. .  . a big mouth. But in the end, there is true mystery to photogenic. Some people, they just light the film up. It’s a kick, a high, to see it happening in the viewfinder. Photography is such a physical art!

What does the word ‘beauty’ mean to you?
Love. But I’m still a simpleton. Seriously, if beauty is applied to anything other than love it’s immoral and leads to horror, sadnness and death.

Who or what inspires your work the most?
Bruce Weber and Helmut Newton. Other than those two. . . books. Raymond Chandler’s crime novels and Mishima’s writing. Some films of Paul Schrader (Lightsleeper is one of them). I was never into art and painting but Andy Warhol hit me strong.

See also:
Tour(s): Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker – 2004, Companhia de Danca Deborah Colker – 2006, Deborah Colker 2010