Responses by Niv Novak, artist/photographer
Background: The 58-minute documentary Missed Nuance is a self-funded art project documenting the missed beauties in movement like never before. My goal was to make a meaningful contribution to dance by creating a unique recording of a dancer’s motion. As a passionate photographer of dance, I realized that so much of the art form’s beauty and movement is missed. I wanted to capture it all and to light it as beautifully as a photograph. My target audiences were anyone interested in art, dance, fashion and beauty.
Reasoning: Subtle gradations in movement, light skimming across a dancer’s physique, muscles activating, ligaments stretching, fabrics flickering, bending and floating—these countless moments of expression are missed, lost to speed. While photography reveals instants of such beauty, Missed Nuance captures it all. The precision, athleticism, beauty and the striving for higher ideals through ballet and dance are my inspirations.
Challenges: Shooting high-speed is technically challenging and the lighting is really tough. It took me eighteen months to figure out high-speed photography. There are also significant technical challenges for high-speed studio photography at 1000 frames per second. One needs five times the light intensity when compared to shooting film and video at 24 fps. Also, bright lights are traditionally very hot. New LED lights are run cooler but are mostly not bright enough. The lights are huge, heavy and hot and hard to modify. The data requirements are also significant. The camera records 11 GB per second and so we would record 4 to 6 TB on most days. My equipment setup weighs 700 kg or 1,746 lbs.
Favorite details: Making Missed Nuance has been the most fulfilling work of my life. Artistic directors of ballet companies and top dancers were thrilled and amazed by the output. Fashion and ballet fans have also expressed joy when viewing this work.
Visual influences: Studio lighting for dance and portraiture; photographers Richard Avedon and Horst P. Horst.
Specific demands: Elite dancers have very limited free time. I had to become skilled in all technical areas of this specialized area in filmmaking, convince elite dancers and ballet companies to work with me and develop techniques for lighting dance for high-speed photography.
Anything new: In addition to perfecting the skills to produce consistent work of this caliber, I learned a lot about fabric movement in dance. I teamed up with Belinda Pieris, a talented designer and former dancer who has a passion for movement in dance and fabric. We learned a lot about fabric dynamics. Belinda introduced leading Australian designers to the project. Their support and reactions to the work have been extremely positive, and I hope to collaborate with talented designers worldwide for future projects.