On Seeing: A Journal – #244

In 2001, Irving Penn published a book, “Dancer,” made up of photographs of Alexandra Beller. Unlike the many sleek models Penn used in his fashion work, Beller was unusual in that she was heavy.  Yet she moved with the grace and lithe beauty of a more traditional dancer. Penn saw amazing qualities in this hard-working and very focused young woman, and made many striking images for his modest book.

A few years later I photographed the Bill T. Jones Dance Company and there she was, one of his troupe of 10 dancers. Inspired by Penn’s work and the work she did in my studio,  I asked her if she would work with me both in the studio and underwater.  We had additional opportunities to work together when she was pregnant and soon after, when her son was a newborn. Currently, Alexandra teaches dance in her own company and at Princeton University.
Alexandra Beller in the pool.

The challenge for her, as with many of my underwater subjects, was to sink and stay down for the time necessary to make photographs. Given her powerful desire to succeed at performing and her ability to focus, the images I created were even better than I’d hoped for.

As a creative dancer, she understood completely the idea of exploring and  experimenting, which let us collaborate on some crazy stuff.

At 38 weeks of pregnancy.

She returned to my studio soon after her son was born.

With the troupe DNA (Dance New Amsterdam).