Andy Batt was the photographic genius behind the OBT Season Brochure from 2003-2012, and has shot our dancers from the wings as well. The relationship between a photographer and a dancer is truly a collaboration, and working with the same subject for an extended period of time can bring out the best in both artists. Alison Roper and Andy Batt have shared time in the studio for all these years, and were recently reunited by Portland Monthly Magazine for the April 2014 issue (see a preview of that article here). We asked Andy to tell us about his experiences with Alison as we all prepare to “Celebrate” her in her farewell performances. Tickets are still available through our website.
“When I heard that Alison was retiring, the first thing that went through my mind was the realization that I’ve worked with her since 2003—11 years.
Alison is an artist and athlete. She’s willing to push, to find perfection in the sweat, pain and hard work. She’s always collaborated with me photographically, and never had a problem finding a solution that worked for a good photograph—even in 2003 at my first OBT photoshoot, when I was just learning how to photograph ballet.
I am in awe of the amount of work done by Alison (or any dancer) to present her artistry as something effortless and full of light while on stage. Photographing in the wings and backstage during performances, I’ve been witness to the tremendous effort and physicality required to be a ballet dancer.
I think my favorite Roper performance is in Almost Mozart—simply for the silence that reveals that duality of grace and hard work.
I recently had the immense privilege of creating one last shoot with Alison. Mike Novak, Art Director for Portland Monthly Magazine, called and asked if I had any recent images they could use for an article on Alison and her retirement from OBT.
My immediate response was to offer one last photoshoot to cap off 10 years of photographing Alison. Seeing Alison walk through the studio door for our final photo shoot hit me harder then I thought—I got a little bit choked up about it. Every time I see her, it’s like no time has passed—Alison walks through the door and picks up where we left off.
In front of the camera Alison becomes impossibly taller, more statuesque—she is literally possessed by her art. Over the years I’ve often found that when she simply stands quietly, it becomes a moment worth photographing. You can see that moment in Portland Monthly.
I wanted the image I created to show her transformation to the next story—to be about a new beginning and not an ending. At the same time I wanted to capture the grace and beauty that’s always there, whenever Alison steps in front of my camera.
Congratulations Alison—it’s been an honor and a privilege to have photographed you. I look forward to our next collaboration.
Do you have your own Alison Roper memories to share? Include them in the comments, and we’ll include them in her retirement gift!