Graceful, delicate, nimble and smooth, professional ballet is often regarded as one of the most precise and challenging forms of western dance. The journey to professional dancing is a lifelong pursuit where dancers start as early as the age of two, and will continue through years of strict training and routines in order to reach their goals.
Kelly Pratt Kreidich and Ian Kreidich are an award-winning husband and wife photography team, based out of St. Louis. Kelly has always had a love for dance, particularly ballet. She gravitates to dancers because they use choreography to tell a story and evoke feeling without words. The couple started out working with students, and eventually reached out to Vanessa Woods, a dancer from the St. Louis Ballet. After one photo session with Vanessa, Pratt + Kreidich became very good friends with her and from there they have moved onto photographing the majority of the St. Louis Ballet Company’s performances, such as The Nutcracker, as well as shooting for the company’s marketing materials.
Although Ballet is Kelly’s primary passion, the duo still works as a team, involving Ian primarily in lighting techniques for the staged images. The shoots have pushed the couple to learn and grow in their lighting techniques more than any others have in the past.
We shoot with Profoto B1 Lights with various modifiers. When shooting dancers, the lights need to be set up much higher, since we find that dancers tend to look best lit from above. Dance moves also tend to take up a lot more space than your average portrait.
During planning and pre-production, Kelly and Ian typically come up with a concept first. Sometimes this concept is inspired by a dancer’s particular look or style, where as other times the concept is given to them first, and they curate dancers based on their personal feelings of best fit.
One of the biggest challenges for Kelly and Ian is to come up with shoot concepts for dance images that haven’t been done a million times. A lot of photographers take photos of dancers, which makes it harder to stand out artistically. The ballerinas themselves can also be challenging to work with since, in the couple’s experience, dancers tend to be perfectionists and have intense schedules.
Ballet is an extremly technical art form. Things the average person wouldn’t notice in an image, a dancer will want to make better. “My hand isn’t right, my leg is too turned in, my shoulder is too high”. That kind of thing.
Kelly has studied ballet, and knows “the language” which lets her communicate movement changes more easily. Over all, the dancers they have worked with have been incredibly gracious and happy to be in front of the camera. This makes it fun for Pratt + Kreidich to collaborate on images when the dancers they are shooting also have ideas of their own. Kelly and Ian describe a great ballet shot by how it shows expression with solid dance technique, and by its ability to capture beautiful implied and posed lines of the dancer’s body. While big jumps and flexible poses can be great, the couple also looks for simplicity in poses.
Most of the shoots in their portfolio take place in and around St Louis, with some near San Diego. Their location always depends on the shoot concept they are going for. Kelly and Ian try to find venues and sites that are clean, yet still visually interesting. They also have to take into consideration what types of moves are expected in the shoot, since in Ballet pointe shoes require a hard, stable surface to dance on.
The pair hope to keep their viewers on their toes, and they can’t wait to try more exotic locations while still working with the St. Louis Ballet Company.
To see more of Pratt + Kreidich visit www.prattkreidich.com.