How A Ballet Photographer Used Art To Heal

Luis Pons says, "It sounds selfish, but I came to photography to heal myself and express what I couldn't say in words."

In February of 2011, Luis Pons became ill. He says his illness led him into a depression that lasted close to a year and that when it subsided, the depression and anxiety became like an endless loop, each one feeding the other. 

"I literally forgot what it felt like to be happy," he said over email to The Huffington Post. "I couldn't even recall the last time I laughed. I felt very disconnected from the flow of the city. It's like I was looking at everyone in the buses and subways of NYC from outside of time. This really strange sense of observing life from this isolated and cold place."  

During this time, a friend suggested that Pons take up photography as a chance to get outside and focus on something other than his health. In the beginning, he says, he took photos of people on the streets, "really sober shots or shots that reflected my sense of disconnection." But, as he improved in both skill level and mental well-being, he found himself wanting to take photos of people looking dynamic and alive.

"In a sense, it was the need to capture people at their zenith of expression, an apex of emotion," Pons said. He finally found that zenith in dance, photographing dynamic and lively men and women stretching their limbs in unfathomable directions. And instead of clamoring back indoors, he brought the ballerinas to him, shooting fairy-tale-like images of the dancers pirouetting and grande jeté-ing on streets, bridges, beach fronts and rooftops. 

"I strive to capture the beauty of dance outdoors and also say something deeply about myself," he said. "If I can capture all three of those mysteries in one photo, it's been a magical day indeed."

Today, Pons says he shoots from a foundation of feeling. "A pose for the sake of posing is contrived and devoid of meaning," he explained. In his photographs, he "wrestles with the artist and the environment (which I have no control over) and together through reflection and action, we get the shot."

While the images showcase the strength and elegance of the likes of American Ballet Theater's Rachel Richardson and Dutch National Ballet Junior Company's Melissa Chapski, he says his work is meant to express more about himself than the movement or beauty of any of his subjects. 

"It sounds selfish, but I came to photography to heal myself and express what I couldn't say in words," he concluded. "The sublime understanding that all things beautiful are temporal. Sadness leads to happiness, regret to forgiveness, knowledge to wisdom and pain to revelation. I photograph to capture these very real human conditions and explore how to resolve them in my heart."

See more of Pons' work on his Instagram.



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