Aerial Photograph of ballet dancer Montana Rubin

Aerial Photography Looking at Ballet

Aerial Photography Viewpoint of Ballet

Ballet has been admired on stage for centuries as an elegant and graceful form of storytelling, from The Nutcracker to Swan Lake to Cinderella to Romeo and Juliet. However, we usually appreciate the poise and forms of the dancers and their performance looking straight from the ground or far away from the balcony seats. For a breathtaking change of pace, here is a look at ballet from above in the aerial photography of Brad Walls.

A Look at the Aerial Photographer

Brad Walls Aerial Photographer
Brad Walls

Australian photographer Brad Walls fell in love with photography as a teenager. The artist borrowed cameras from his mother and friend, and he pursued his signature aerial perspectives after purchasing the first consumer drone when it was released. Since 2019, Walls’s work has gained international acclaim. He has been featured in pieces such as the Washington Post, the Guardian, and CNN, and he continues to publish his Aerial Photography on social media. His photography has been featured on the front cover of Signature Luxury Travel, in Aesthetica Magazine, and he placed second as 2020’s Aerial Photographer of the Year in People.

Approaching Aerial Photography

While Aerial Photography has been in existence since as early as the mid-19th century, this photographer has put his own flare on the perspectival technique. Rather than solely capturing a subject from a new angle, Walls focuses on experimenting with negative space, minimalism and color theory in his work. By incorporating these elements, Walls is able to draw the eye of his viewer to take a closer look at shape, shadow, and color in his subjects. He has documented various poses of the body from above when capturing synchronized swimming, gymnastics, and ballet.

Inspiration for Aerial Photography & Ballet

Olive Cotton’s Tea cup ballet Inspiration for Brad Walls' aerial photography & ballet
Tea cup ballet (c. 1935)

When asked what his inspiration was for photographing ballet, Walls revealed that he was initially inspired by Olive Cotton’s Tea cup ballet (c. 1935). The photographer stated that the lines and shadows on the coffee mugs in the photograph reminded her of arms akimbo, which refers to the stance of one standing with their hands on their hips. Some refer to this pose as showing “attitude.” Cotton was then inspired to have the piece express a theme of dance.

While ballet has been the subject of visual arts for centuries, like that of Edgar Degas and Richard Young, it is typically rendered from traditional perspectives or full frontal or profile. “I had never seen anyone purely focus on the composition from above for ballet,” notes Walls.

His Favorite Photograph: Ombre Trios

Ombre Trios by Brad Walls best example of aerial photography & ballet
Ombre Trios by Brad Walls

In early 2020, Walls began exploring ideas of shadows, shapes, and tutus. He contacted a member of the Australian ballet, Montana Rubin to propose a collaboration. The two were able to work together due to the lack of performance obligations brought about by the pandemic.

Walls photographed his subject in a warehouse to contrast the concrete floors with the ballerina’s soft movements. He also shot in an event space with ornate floor tiling to complement the Rubin’s tutu. In the artist’s favorite photography of the series, Ombre Trios, we can see the concrete floor stretching diagonally from the lower right-hand side to the upper left-hand side. The ballerina is shot from above, but the viewer is able to clearly see her pose due to her elongated shadow against the concrete. Here, the photographer captured her shadow cleanly against the plain concrete so that we can even see the detail of her tutu. It is a perfect opportunity to explore the dynamism of light, shadow, and shape.

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