Hal Eastman Photography


The Dancessence fine art dance photography book contains thirty-two images exploring the pure heart of feminine dance and the exquisite sculpture of the dancers’ bodies: soft, strong, subtle, powerful, fluid, cursive, rhythmic, and elegant. The images were made in a studio in Carmel, California with dancers from the United States and Europe. The dancers were choreographed in stationary, sometimes horizontal positions, but imagined themselves in full movement, suspended in time and space. The images were made on a light absorbing background in total darkness using a manual 35mm SLR camera with a fine-grained, slow-speed color film. The camera shutter was held open in a long exposure while the dancers’ bodies were “painted” with a hand-held light source developed in collaboration with a fiber optic scientist from New Jersey Bell Laboratories. The film was scanned to a digital format, converted to black and white, and retouched, but not digitally manipulated. This process creates a softer, more painterly look to the images than is possible with conventional flash photography of moving dancers.

Dancessence won the 2010 Independent Publisher award for Best Book Arts Craftsmanship. It has also been favorably reviewed by leading dance photographer Lois Greenfield; recognized photographers Howard Schatz and Joyce Tenneson; legendary dancer Anna Halprin; and choreographers Carolyn Carlson and Trey McIntyre.

The book was designed by Takigawa Design, Monterey, CA, and printed by Hemlock Printers in Vancouver, Canada, as a quintone in a 10-micron stochastic process on 65# uncoated cover paper. The book’s slipfolio cover paper was handmade in Khandbari, Nepal. The free-sliding slipfolio was hand fabricated in Phoenix, Arizona, using bamboo wood, a magnet, and a tipped-in print, and then screen printed.

Reviews of Dancessence

“With an original voice and a sensitive eye, Hal Eastman has managed to capture the ephemeral. In Dancessence we experience a distinctive calm in action that reminds us of the beauty in the in-between. This is beautiful work.”

Trey McIntyre, Artistic Director, Trey McIntyre Project

“Hal Eastman’s photographs in Dancessence, are more than exquistite. He penetrates to the heart of ‘the feminine’ in dance. His images create a dance of their own – the way he uses light to illuminate the shapes that the female body can make in motion open up a whole new world of sensual beauty for us!”

—Joyce Tenneson, leading American photographer

“I first met Hal Eastman as a beginning student attending a dance photography workshop I gave in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1999. He was an unusual student, because instead of pursuing the art and technique of stop action photography, one of my specialties, he experimented with taking longer, blurred exposures of the dancers.

“This poetic vision eventually developed into his first book, Natural Dance, published in 2003. It depicts magical images of nymph-like dancers playing in natural settings. Now Eastman has moved into the studio, refining this technique to emphasize only the essential contours of the dancers’ movement and bodies in a softened, ethereal way.

“In this pursuit, it is interesting to note that he has utilized a technique for photographing dance that was necessary before modern strobe lights could stop the action. Like earlier photographers, Eastman places the dancers in static positions that connote movement. However, he then uses very long exposures and “light painting” to create a softened effect. The dancers’ faces are obscured, thus they become pure forms, floating in a sea of black . . . abstract, graphic and illusory.

“Critics have often maintained that very sharp literal photographic renditions of dancers ‘frozen’ in flight don’t fully express the emotional aspects of their movement. However, in Eastman’s work, we get a synthesis of the literal and emotional, spawning a whole new vision.”

—Lois Greenfield, leading dance photographer