body art – Sergei Polunin

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Albert Watson Photographs Sergei

Albert Watson Photographs Sergei

Learning From The Masters: Albert Watson Photographs Dancer Sergei Polunin

Legendary photographer

Albert Watson. Legend. Period, end. With a career spanning five decades and multiple iconic images, his career in fashion and portraiture would be the aspiration of any budding photographer. Alongside Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, PDN recognized him as one of the twenty most influential photographers of all time. In a new video by Profoto, the man whose subjects have ranged from Alfred Hitchcock to Kate Moss, discusses his approach to lighting, photography, and life.

His subject for the shoot is dancer Sergei Polunin. Watson drew inspiration from the likes of Michelangelo and Caravaggio to create stark black and white images.  He displays Polunin both through motion and portraiture as a sculpted work of art. Shooting in studio, he used the Profoto Pro-10 pack, multiple Pro Heads, and a Softlight Reflector White (beauty dish). His camera system was a Phase One.


Several moments in the video will stick out. His use of a beauty dish in a high Rembrandt position reminds us that one of the most important things to do with light is to think outside of the box. You don’t have to use every light the way it’s expected to be used.  For example, beauty dish over camera head-on in standard “beauty” position. The unique placement comes with other adjustments.  Black fabric on the floor of the white seamless prevents light from bouncing up and filling in the desired shadows. He further uses black fabric on either side of the subject to reduce fill and deepen shadows.  This allows him to essentially create a “black box” scenario on a white cyc.


He also used see-through fabric during the movement shots to add both texture and momentum to the dance images. This minor addition takes an already wonderful shot to the next level by providing a bit of the unexpected.

Most important, Watson takes a moment to remind us that while it is easy to get caught up in light placement, exposure readings, it is always important to remember that there is a real human being in front of the lens. Technique is important, but not nearly as important as keeping the subject comfortable and engaged in the process.

A great photographer and a great resource. Check out the video to learn a bit about his technique.

Sergei Polunin / Сергей Полунин “Garden Of Eden”

Sergei Polunin / Сергей Полунин “Garden Of Eden”

Sergei Polunin / Сергей Полунин “Garden Of Eden”

Clips from Sergei Polunin for Esquire by Andrei Isakin… “a gardener is someone who practices gardening”

Alternative music: “Curtains Are Always Drawn” by Kai Engel

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Sergei Polunin is a Ukrainian ballet dancer famous for his “once every hundred years” talent, his incredulous elevation, his impeccable technique, and glorious dramatic range. He brought an unprecedented new awareness to ballet when he danced in Hozier’s viral video ”Take Me To Church.” He starred in Diesel’s “Make Love Not Walls” campaign, and is a much sought after model and actor. He has appeared in such films as Murder On The Orient Express, Dancer (a documentary of his life), White Crow, and Red Sparrow.

This is a “Ballet|балет iMovie” by Pam Boehme Simon.

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