Bodies at Rest and In Motion

One of the spectacular treasures of the Library of Congress Flickr Stream is the Gottlieb Jazz Photos collection. There are haunting, amazing photos of jazz musicians and other performers of the 30s and 40s in their element, in both color and black and white, and each and every one captures a sort of moving now in a way that makes very clear how skilled a photographer William Gottlieb really was.
Recently, some absolutely delicious photos of dancers in rehearsal at Radio City Music Hall in 1947 were added to the stream, and I just can’t stop looking at them.

[Portrait of Lee Sherman, Radio City Music Hall, New York, N.Y., ca. June 1947] (LOC)

These shots of Lee Sherman (left, above) are full of shadow and energy and motion. The dancers’ bodies don’t feel still here, they feel like they’re moving — I find my mind naturally following gravity and the body to the next step as if it were happening right in front of me. It’s beautiful!

[Portrait of Lee Sherman, Radio City Music Hall, New York, N.Y., ca. June 1947] (LOC)
Here, the dancers are in midair, reaching for the lights as if reaching for the sky itself, alive with the joy of movement. It might be tempting to try to lighten the image, to make everything more crisp or visible, but it seems to me that to lose the shadows cast by those bare bulbs above the dancers would be a terrible mistake. They are reaching, in shadow, toward the stars.

[Portrait of Lee Sherman, Radio City Music Hall, New York, N.Y., ca. June 1947] (LOC)
I love the way black and white creates contrast in this image, as the headdresses move with the bodies that bear them. It’s a bit cheesy, in its way, but I love it. It works.
These are only some of the magical things in the Gottlieb collection. I also came across this joyous shot of The Ravens:

[Portrait of the Ravens (Musical group), between 1938 and 1948] (LOC)



About L. M. Bernhardt

For a good long while (15 years or so), I taught philosophy at a little private university in northwest IA, and occasionally branched out into playing music, dabbling in photography, experimenting with food, and writing nonsense on my blog. The philosophy teaching part ended in 2017 (program elimination via prioritization), but never fear! I've just finished my MLIS at San Jose State University, and I'm currently on the market looking for new adventures in either philosophy or LIS. For now, I labor at a fairly interesting administrative job in order to support my dogs in the lavish manner to which they've become accustomed.
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