Dance photographer Jordan Matter to showcase Steamboat photography at library talk
March 13, 2019
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Maybe you saw them when you were strolling through downtown Steamboat Springs: a dancer kicking her leg up into a split in the air above the painted yellow lines dividing the lanes of Lincoln Avenue, her photographer hollering happy encouragement before they both dashed back onto the sidewalk to get out of traffic's way.
Maybe you saw a dancer on a single tiptoe by the jukebox at Lyon’s Drug, casually sipping a pink milkshake, or two dancers leaping, somehow, into the shape of a circle by the Rabbit Ears Motel sign.
If you missed these sights in real life, don't despair. From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 14, Manhattan-based dance photographer Jordan Matter will host a talk about his work in Bud Werner Memorial Library’s Library Hall. Matter has published several books of his photography and is a YouTube star with more than two million subscribers.
If you go
What: Library Author Series presents Jordan Matter
When: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, March 14
Where: Library Hall, 1289 Lincoln Ave.
Matter's most recent collection, New York Times bestseller “Born to Dance,” celebrates the wonder of childhood in large-scale photographs.
"My (then 3-year-old) son was playing. and I saw his enthusiasm for that exact moment of his life," Matter said. "We lose that as we grow up. I thought I could use dancers as a way to exaggerate that, celebrating the joy of every moment of your life."
Matter's son is now a teen photographer, and his daughter is a dancer often featured in Matter's work. Both will be in attendance at the library talk.
Before Matter began photographing dancers, he knew next to nothing about dance terminology. The dancers were patient with him in the beginning, Matter said, as he'd try to explain or demonstrate the kick or dance pose he envisioned.
"I think that not knowing how to do something should never stop you from trying it," Matter said.
"Born to Dance" features Steamboat's Soleil Nelson, photographed in the middle of a flying inverted split in between bookshelves at Bud Werner Memorial Library.
Matter's other books and projects include "Dancers Among Us" (also a New York Times bestseller), "Tiny Dancers Among Us," "Dancers After Dark," "Uncovered," "Athletes Among Us" and "Circus Among Us."
Millions of YouTube users also know Matter from his 10 Minute Photo Challenge videos, in which Matter and a subject or two — usually dancers or athletes — race a timer to take as many quality shots in a certain setting, such as a Manhattan subway and platform, a Southern California pier and in the waters below it or the lampposts of London.
At a glance
Jordan Matter's tips for making your portraits better:
• For a beautiful portrait, find a background that matches the color of the person's eyes.
• You want the subject sharp and the background blurry. To do this, use a long lens; the higher the number, the better.
• For ideal light, shoot in the morning or late afternoon.
• You want to get far away from the background. For example, if you want a mountain in the shot, you don’t want to have the dancer on the mountain; you want the dancer far away from the mountain, so the mountain can be in the background.
• If you want to shoot someone in action, you want to use a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second.
Matter has shot across four continents and in too many cities and small towns to count off the top of his head.
His nontraditional use of public spaces for his photo shoots sometimes brings him into contact with local law enforcement.
"A lot of people would have a strong negative reaction to getting yelled at, but that happens to me fairly regularly, so it doesn't bother me anymore," Matter chuckled. "And usually, by then, I've already gotten the shot."
His videos often include advisories for viewers to not try these stunts at home.
Matter coaches his subjects through moves that make viewers' eyes pop: kicks that seem to stretch human anatomy and flips that seem to defy all logic.
Matter's words to his subjects are spoken quickly. He's constantly moving onto the next pose and space, always diving into the next scene without missing a beat and never wasting a millisecond.
"I work to make the process fun and fast paced. That pace gets people out of their head,” Matter said. “And I have this constant fear of missing the shot. If we don't get it right now, it'll be gone.”
When the 10-minute timer hits zero or at the end of an untimed shoot, everyone involved is completely spent.
The results of a Matter shoot are stunning and so absurd that viewers often declare with certainty that the subject must be Photoshopped into the background because there's no way those images could have truly have existed. And yet, the doubters are wrong. Every image is true.
More photos shot in Steamboat Springs
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