Featured Interview – Richard Calmes
Featured Interview – Award winning photographer Richard Calmes
I have been following Richard Calmes for the past two years and I am completely in awe of his ability to capture the beauty and strength of the dancers. It is a collaboration of two totally different medias, combining, to make award winning works of art. With many magazine cover photos and an international following we thought we would interview him to see what makes him tick!
” If it was easy, everyone would do it” ~ Richard Calmes
Richard Calmes has turned a passion for photographing dancers into an internationally acclaimed retirement career. This Atlanta based visual artist has journeyed from the military to boardrooms of the software industry and then to dance studios where he captures beauty with his camera.
His journey began long before any dance photos were taken. Back in the day Calmes was a combat photographer in Vietnam. Calmes experienced connection with the dance world through his wife and daughter. They are both dancers! He worked behind the scenes with dance companies through marketing, fund raising and board development before he took his first ballet photo. The transition from dance company supporter to dance photographer was and instant revelation for him. From the first sessions of photos taken for marketing purposes nine years ago, Calmes knew he was on a definitive path!
Tell us a little about your work.
I am an action photographer. Dancers move and I capture this movement and energy in a single frame. I photograph dancers out in the world and in the studio where I control the lighting. My challenge is to show the world the beauty and strength that a lifetime of training and dedication can create. I photograph many performances to help dance companies, but I never publish this work, as it is the work of others. There is not a performance image in any of my three books.
How did you first get into photography?
I bought a camera at the PX in DaNang, South Vietnam. I became friends with the group combat photographer. He took me under his wing and when he left, I took his place as combat photographer. So, I have been photographing for a long time! I started photographing ONLY still photos of dancers about nine years ago.
my wife is the marketing director of a ballet school and one day came to me needing photos for a brochure. I photographed them and LOVED the process. I wasn’t new to dance, our daughter grew up a ballerina so I learned a lot about dance as she grew up. I shot video at that time and didn’t take a single photo of my daughter dancing.
describe one of your most memorable photo sessions.
Well, ALL of my sessions are memorable in one way or another!
One of them was back in 2008 in New York City. On day one we photographed in Times Square. I photographed the dancers in cross-walks with the famous setting in the background and then moved to the subways and shot many more photos. On day two we were at 5 Pointz in Queens and had been shooting all day. Although I had some nice shots there were really no “Killer” ones. I had planned to do a session on the roof nearby building as the sun set behind the skyline across the river. The dancers were all tired and really didn’t want to climb five floors of steps to the roof, but I promised them that it would be worth it! When we got to the roof the light and conditions were PERFECT! I photographed the first dancer in the air with NYC underneath them. The dancers viewed the shot on my camera screen and suddenly they were all energized. One shot after another turned out amazing!
What are your favorite tools of the trade?
My first camera I bought in Vietnam was a Canon. I have used Canon cameras ever since. I transitioned into digital about ten years ago. My work is a combination of photography and post processing. I don’t make composites, but I do like to enhance my image. I use a Canon 1DX outside and a Canon Mark III for studio work. My favorite lens is the Canon 70-200 f2.8 II. My studio lights are Norman and stop action at 1/1200 second.
You photograph a lot of dancers across the country. Where do you find the inspiration for each of your sessions to make them unique?
Well, when I shoot outside the setting kind of sets the mood. If I am in the city I like to put the dancers in tutus on the streets. I like the contrast! When I am shooting near water I love to put the dancers in rivers, lakes and city fountains. Each of these locations kind of dictate my creativity. In the studio I have ideas I frequently want to explore. The wonderful thing about dancers is that THEY are creative artists also! We collaborate. Most of my work is a genuine collaboration with the dancer involved. I will have a general concept and between the dancer and I, we explore that concept together.
The camera I bought in Vietnam was a Cannon and I have used Cannon ever since. I transitioned into digital about ten years ago. My work is a combination of photography and post processing. I don’t make composites, but I do like to enhance my image in post processing. I use a Cannon 1DX outside and a Cannon Mark III for the studio. My favorite lens is the Cannon 70-200 f2.8L II. My studio lights are Norman and they stop action at 1/1200 second.
Who has been your biggest mentor/influences/heroes in photography?
Early on it was Ansel Adams. His subjects didn’t move, but I love his use of light! He would spend a day in the darkroom perfecting the printing on just one image. He would make careful notes of his dodging, burning and exposure processes. He would just LOVE Photoshop! Lois Greenfield has shot a lot of creative action photography with dancers.
Since you began your photography career how have your techniques evolved over the years?
My photography work right now is more of a retirement project. I have had my careers as an Architect and Business Executive. My aim is to improve my technique with every session. I am as critical about my work as dancers are about how they look.
For someone who is starting off in a photography career, what are the top three tips you would give them?
Being older and having been through several careers during my life, my number one tip is find what you love and do that! Next is be PASSIONATE about what you do! If you lose passion move on to something else.
When you re not behind the camera taking awesome photographs, what do you do in your free time?
Calmes has built a reputation for focusing on the dancer celebrating the beauty of the body; the instrument that takes so many years to perfect. He also conducts his passion with emphasis on philanthropy. His focus is dancers only and as a result has grown an international following and his work has been numerous periodical cover and several exhibitions. His website has received over 39 million visits over the past six years. Calmes maintains a relationship with grass roots dance organization such as Regional Dance America and believes that beautiful dancers are found everywhere!
Calmes has a solo exhibition at the National Museum of Dance in Sarasota Springs, NY. running from April 2014 through April 2015. The works are titled “Dance Magic: The Photography of Richard Calmes”. The exhibition is part of the Museum’s “Art In The Foyer” series.
Please take the time to visit his website to see his AWESOME WORKS OF ART.
All photos used in this article are copy righted and owned by Richard Calmes. Thank you Richard for the use of the photos! I am truly honored to his interview and artworks on my blog!