All My Life’s A Circle

November 2nd, 2007

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Almost 40 years ago when I was a clueless 17 year old photographer I walked in to the dance department at Ohio University looking for something to photograph. I had never seen anything like modern dance before. It wasn’t something I was likely to encounter in the small town where I grew up and it wasn’t something that was ever on television. I fell in love with what I found there.

For some reason the director of the department, Shirley Wimmer, seemed to like me and encouraged me to photograph. Soon I was taking photos of all their productions.

That was a great year of awakening in my life. I was never the same after that year. Encountering modern dance changed my life forever. And that change has made me very happy. It probably planted the seeds of my losing interest in photojournalism and ultimately seeing photography as a way to express myself as an artist.

Thinking back on that year, it’s amazing to me all the things that I experienced, not really understanding what was going on. I was really overwhelmed by all that I encountered as a freshman in college. My high school was designed to turn out factory workers. I was totally unprepared for college. But I discovered English Lit courses where all I had to do was read the best books ever written and talk about them in class with a teacher who could help me understand them.

And there was the Comparative Arts course, taught by Ivan West, which opened up the whole world of art and music to me. Most students avoided Ivan West because he was known as the hardest instructor in the program…but he insisted that we learn and understand the material and that was what I wanted to do, so I deliberately signed up for his class each quarter.

And there was dance. I still marvel at how fortunate I was that year. I was able to see a “concert” by John Cage with Merce Cunningham at the university auditorium. I’ve never forgotten that concert. It influences my photography and my understanding of art and life to this day. John Cage stood at the podium with two decks of cards. In one deck each card contained a short story or a Zen Koan. On the other deck were numbers…from 15 to 45, I believe, but I don’t really know. Cage shuffled the two decks and put them face down on the podium. Then he drew a card from each deck and read the story for the number of seconds indicated by the number card. And Merce Cunningham danced to it.

D20 7181 filtered All My Lifes A Circle I loved it. I didn’t even begin to understand it, but I knew it was special and it meant something. After that concert I read John Cage’s books and listened to his music and I began to understand what he was doing and to learn from it.

I learned to listen to everything I am hearing when I’m at a concert. The baby crying and the loud truck in the street outside are part of the unique experience of that moment in time and can be appreciated as a part of the whole. I learned to see all movement as dance and to just experience the joy of movement and sound in the world every day. I can’t imagine how different my life would be if I hadn’t learned to listen and see this way.

After I left Ohio University I still returned for a time to do dance photography. But life got more complicated and there just wasn’t time for me to do that work in the way I wanted to do it. I stopped photographing dance.

Recently I’ve been wondering what I should be photographing next. I’ve been doing figure photography as my main subject for several years. It’s time for a change. I’ll still do figure work, but something else needs to take the foreground now.

So, I contacted the current director of the Ohio University School of Dance. What a pleasant surprise it was that she remembered me after all these years and was happy with the idea of me returning to photograph their concerts.

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So, I’ve photographed a dance concert again. These are a few samples. There will be more dance photos coming as I get time to edit the shoot. I also plan to write about how I photograph dance and why as well as the relationship between dance and photography. I’ll still be posting some figure work now and then, but expect to see more dance than nudes. I may have some other non-figure photo directions coming soon too.

But I’m very happy. I love dance and I’m shooting dance photos again. Life is good. Dance is wonderful.

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About this Blog

Photos and comments by Dave Levingston. This is the place to see my most recent work which may include nudes, dance, landscape, nature and whatever other kinds of photos I feel like taking.

Since it does contain nude photos, this blog is not intended for viewing by anyone under the age of 18.

All photographs and written comments on this blog are protected by the copyright laws of the United States.


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