Dasa Wharton is a Jersey based freelance photographer. She has a special interest in dance photography, in particular ballet photography. This month sees her set up a studio at the Dance World Cup finals, being held here in Jersey between 25 June – 2 July. The event will see 4,000 competitors aged between four and 25, from 38 countries around the world coming together to compete. We spoke to Dasa about her incredible portfolio of work, that has seen her photograph some of the best dancers in the world.
What was it that first interested you in dance and ballet photography?
Growing up in Prague and going to theatres was something I always did and loved. Then about five years ago I saw an amazing performance of the Czech National Ballet (CNB) and as I watched the dancers on the stage I thought how much I’d love to photograph them. So that night I wrote to the artistic director of the CNB, telling him how much I enjoyed the performance and how much I’d like the opportunity to photograph the company, and to my surprise, he agreed and let me come to one of the rehearsals. I was hooked from that point…
How did you come to be involved with the English National Ballet?
When I started with ballet photography, my main problem was finding opportunities to practice. I’d read about international ballet masterclasses, these are held in Prague every summer, for pre-professional dancers, so I contacted the administrator and offered free photographic services for the organisers – only later I found out that the international ballet masterclasses were started and ran by Daria Klimentova – a Czech born ballerina, who was the star of the English National Ballet for nearly 25 years. When I first met her in Prague she was still actively dancing…later on, she very kindly invited me to photograph one of her last performances with the English National Ballet, in the Royal Albert hall, in Romeo and Juliet (she danced the role of Juliet ). Through Daria I met her dancing partner Vadim Muntagirov, as well as other ballet dancers of the English National Ballet. You can see some of my photographs of them on this blog www.gramilano.com
You are involved with this year’s Dance World Cup, held in Jersey between 25 June – 2 July, what will you be doing there?
I was very lucky to be the official photographer for the DWC Channel Islands qualifiers in March. Thanks to John Grimshaw and the whole team of DWC for getting me involved, I- loved photographing all the local talent on the stage of the Jersey Opera House. For the finals at the end of this month I will be setting up a photography dance studio at Fort Regent and the dancers will have opportunity to book in for a one to one session – so for about an hour. I will work with the dancer in the studio, photographing them during their dance routine, stretch exercises, jumps, but also doing headshot and styled portraits, so at the end they will leave with a set of portfolio photographs, that will show them at their best.
Any single piece of advice for those wanting to pursue a career in photography?
Find your inspiration, or someone who you admire, in the field that interests you. When I took my first few dance photographs (that were pretty bad, when I look at them now) I wrote to probably 30 photographers in the world, whose work I admired. I sent them a set of my photos and asked for their feedback. I got only one reply – and this was from one of the best ballet photographers in the world, an American photographer Gene Schiavone. I was completely shocked to receive an email back from him with some really good advice in terms of my photos. I have stayed in touch with him ever since, he has been very helpful and supportive of me and I feel really fortunate to be able to call him my friend now.