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Kathleen O'Connell

Melissa Harris essay re photographer James Klosty's Merce Cunningham: Redux

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Melissa Harris, currently editor-at-large at Aperture, has written a thoughtful essay about Merce Cunningham: Redux, a redesigned, expanded, and updated version of James Klosty's 1975 book of photographs of Cunningham, his dancers, and his collaborators, which has been re-issued as part of the Cunningham centennial. In addition to Klosty's photos—including an additional 140 pages of photos not published before—there are texts by a number of Cunningham's associates, including Carolyn Brown, John Cage, Yvonne Rainer, Lincoln Kerstein, Jasper Johns, Gordon Mumma, Paul Taylor, and Edwin Denby. It's a big, beautiful book—and Harris' essay is worth a read if you have any interest at all in Cunnigham, or, more to the point, dance / performance photography.

From Harris' essay, ‘That Single Fleeting Moment’: Merce Cunningham in Images:

Performance photographs are rarely thought of as having the interpretive, authorial voice of powerful reportage, portraiture, or other photographic genres. They are often deemed important only as a historical record of another artist’s work, work that is by nature ephemeral. But this is short-sighted. An insightful photographer like Klosty who has viewed the same dance repeatedly, is able to impart a sense of the piece, to translate its very essence into still images, through the phrases he chooses to capture, and the way he chooses to render them. Ultimately, the staying power of any photographic project depends on the photographer’s vision, persistence, and ability to portray the subject with clarity, integrity, and ingenuity. Klosty achieved all three when, over the course of five years, and with unprecedented access, he photographed not just the performances of the Merce Cunningham Company, but also the more intimate, spontaneous, and sometimes goofy moments shared among the dancers and other collaborating artists offstage.

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Thanks for posting the link to this article. Some very nice images, great way of capturing the contours and silhouettes of the dancers. They give an idea of the counterpoint of the choreography. I like the series of moody Merce in front of the mirrored wall. A very young Douglas Dunn and Valda Setterfield in another image.

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