The subtitle of this book is `A celebration of joy in the everyday' and it is just that. Photographer Jordan Matter asked members of the Paul Taylor Dance Company based in New York to pose for him. He wanted to take the dancers' out of their usual context and to place them in unexpected situations. In this way he captures a moment which may be exhilarating, joyous, reflective or just plain witty. His first idea was to use dancers based in New York, this later became a much wider concept and he travelled around the United States photographing some very game dancers in some extremely demanding scenarios. The book is divided into different chapters, Dreaming, Loving, Playing, Exploring, Grieving, Working and Living, and every possibility is examined, explored and captured. He has written text to accompany the photographs, often to explain how it was that he was motivated by a particular situation and it is apparent that his wife and two children are the inspiration for most of what he does.
There is a note: `No trampolines or wires were used in the taking of the photographs in this book, and the dancers' poses have not been digitally enhanced or altered.' Taking this into account makes the pictures all the more remarkable, because dancers are often flying through the air or moving swiftly, and the need to capture the exact, right moment is a complicated technique.
From the first moment I began to look at this book I couldn't put it down, each page has a witty or apposite caption and there are quotes from writers - `I dwell in possibility' from Emily Dickinson or `Too much of a good thing can be wonderful' from Mae West. Scenes from everyday life as with `And don't come back' showing a male dancer in semi-backbend on the steps in front of a house and girl friend, or more appropriately ex-girlfriend, throwing his clothes out of a window above. S.W.A.K shows a dancer posed lying along on a metal strut above a mail box, holding the letter she has just received from her amour. The background is a fenced field with cattle and she is apparently in the middle of nowhere. I love the wit in `Hitch' which shows a dancer standing on a wooden post in arabesque, holding up her thumb for a ride, and a sign nearby carved into a wooden plank reads `Leaving Atlanta'. In another picture captioned `craving', a dancer's foot in pointe shoe stubs out a half-smoked cigarette.
Most of the photographs have been annotated at the back of the book, with a description of the process or problems of getting the various shots. I found this enlightening in terms of some of the more extreme shots which appear to be impossible except with manipulation of the image. When the apparent levitation of a dancer has been explained in terms of a back flip caught at the perfect moment, all becomes clear.
This is a book to make you smile when you are sad, or just to enjoy at any time.