In a remarkable alliance between the artistic world of dance and aerial photography, the New York City Ballet joined forces with Brad Walls, a respected and prize-winning aerial photographer, to create a breathtaking and truly original series of images taken from the sky.
This groundbreaking photoshoot took place at Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, an expansive salt pan noted for its stark beauty, in the fall of 2022. Elevated above the salt flats, Walls captured stunning photographs featuring the talented Sasonah Huttenbach, an integral part of the New York City Ballet’s Corps de Ballet.
Brad Walls has long been intrigued by Swan Lake, the timeless ballet tale. This fascination led him to delve into an exploration of the light and dark facets of human nature, viewed through the lens of artistic representation. His chosen setting was a salt lake, vast and desolate, which provided the opportunity to use shadows as a powerful tool for expressing varied emotions. As he puts it, “Your shadow can be a source of solace or reveal a darker mood, depending on where you are mentally.” Notably, Walls also appreciated the poetic connection of representing Swan Lake on an actual salt lake, introducing an intelligent and thoughtful element to the project.
Moreover, Walls had a distinct ambition for this initiative – to defy the traditional expectations of Ballet photography and shift the focus from the constrained spaces of the theater to the vast expanses of the natural world. He eloquently expressed this sentiment, stating, “Though ballet performances within the theater are undeniably awe-inspiring, there exists an enchanting synergy between the Earth’s natural splendors and the artistry of Ballet. The blend is harmonious and fluid.”
Born and raised between the vibrant metropolises of Tokyo and New York City, Sasonah Huttenbach vividly recollects when Brad first proposed the concept of the photoshoot. She remembers, “I felt an immediate connection to the idea – The portrayal of the white and black swans on the salt mirrored my own internal conflicts that I’ve had to confront on my journey as a Ballet dancer, moving between Japan and the United States.” She elaborated further, stating, “Ballet provides structure and a form of expression I deeply love. But maintaining such a strict discipline sometimes battles against my inherent curiosity about the world.”
In a deliberate creative choice, Walls used a single dancer, Huttenbach, to embody both the Black and White swan in his photographs. He rationalized this choice, stating, “If different dancers had been used, it would have lessened the powerful symmetry of struggle that I wanted to express through my photography.”
Looking ahead, in 2024, Walls has plans to present this remarkable series alongside other photoshoots he has conducted across the globe. This will include work with renowned dance troupes like the New York City Ballet, the Australian Ballet, and the English National Ballet. The collection is intended for a coffee table book, which will be a stunning visual journey that explores the unique fusion of dance and nature from an aerial perspective.
For an insider’s look into the making of this project and to stay updated on Brad Walls’ exciting new ventures, you can follow him on Instagram where he frequently shares behind-the-scenes content and sneak peeks of upcoming works.