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Movement in Mourning [3 challenges in shooting pandemic struck artists]

Updated: May 21

Last year, many of us were told to put movement and performance on hold. For some of us, this meant pausing a huge part of who we are.

In a series of collaborative creative photoshoots called Movement in Mourning, Scopo attempted to capture some of the stories told by pandemic struck artists and people who consider movement essential to their lives. From the early days of Corona, when we were all questioning what the future holds, to the what seems like nearing the end of the isolation, where there is a hopeful glimpse at a return to normalcy, artists have been apart for so long, can we simply flip the switch and flow again?

Using the creative process to get out of the pandemic blues, I set out with Acroyoga duo, Devon French and Millissa Greenwood. They were separated by different family needs, cohorts and safety boundaries, and came out of the stagnant feelings of winter to find a moment to move as a pair and connect.

Location: Kits Beach, Vancouver, B.C. Concept: Every Acro partnership is a unique contract on touch - ones to be reevaluated amidst covid. Even between long standing partners.

A disclaimer. This photoshoot was conducted in accordance with local health authority COVID-19 protocols.

“Responding to things not seen but felt” - Devon French

Photoshoots in bad weather: Cloudy days are blank canvases, don't let rain hold you back.

While planning for this photoshoot, unpredictable weather and short winter days have added to the rollercoaster of the pandemic. Waiting for good weather is always a gamble in Vancouver, but when you add in tolerance levels of households as COVID case count rise, weather becomes less of a barrier.

So instead of succumbing to the pandemic struck artist, we embraced the conditions and spent a wonderfully cathartic day creating at Kitsilano Beach. Instead of seeing the dreary days as an excuse to retreat, photoshoots on overcast or drizzling days can be extremely powerful. Clouds and mist change the skyline, blurring out the background and draws the eye to a subject in the foreground.

Softer lighting is also more evenly dispersed during these conditions which gives opportunities to create shapes against the sky.

In the shots above, Mil and Devon, wanted to capture their feelings of being apart. The first is their yearning to flow and train together again. Close, yet far - they can only mirror movements at a distance. The second - a sensation of touch, freely given and received.

“Creating art without the ability to touch my friend looks different, but it is only temporary.” Millissa Greenwood

Let the limitations push you out of your comfort zone to find new unexpected places to create.

Covid safety guidelines don't stop us from creating, it just makes the experience a little different. Officially, the indoor training facilities are closed, access to rigging is hard to find and we can't use controlled studio lighting at the moment. We can still go outside and find new places that are not so obvious to explore. Check out our list of Locations in Vancouver for photoshoots in Raincouver for the pandemic struck artist.

Discussing locations outside of our usual scenic acroyoga-esk spots, we thought of shooting on a muddy hill or in a puddle to capture the heaviness of their experience. In the end, we decided on using wet sand. On the day of the shoot, we met up and wandered along the chilly shores of kits beach under ominous grey clouds. Nestled on the beach were hundreds of logs collected and ready for placement to use for spring visitors. Whether the day brings a good photoshoot or not, the logs were an opportunity to play! There is something to be said about the magic that can happen by chance during a photoshoot. Millissa and Devon surveyed their environment, trying to come up with movements they could accomplish on an unexpected surface.

As the photographer, my challenge was to maintain a distance and to control my tendency to just get in on the action. I climbed the wood pile nearby and perched between logs with a telephoto lens (70-200mm), one of my favourites during this past year, that allowed an extension of my reach to connect with who I am shooting.

The push and pull was felt by all three of us and very eloquently depicted by the poses used by Devon and Millissa in the above photos.

Artists without audiences, perform for the lens.

A shoot for experienced artists is just another day in the office. But after weeks apart, and the additional mental fatigue of a pandemic, this shoot was a little different. The camera became the audience and it was really important to capture those moments in between poses. Just like a real performance, after the initial jitters, muscle memory takes over and that spark in the connection happens.

And although there was no real live audience, no energy to feed off of... even if that audience is just a lens, the camera gives record of a memory that something happened, and now, that audience is you.

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