An interview with top New York Photographer,

author of best-selling book ‘Dancers Among Us’.

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Jordan Matter

Eighty-two jumps later…


Read Jordan’s blog on this shoot

You were a baseball player first, then an actor. How did photography come into your life?

My grandfather was quite a well-known professional photographer; my grandmother was a painter and my father a filmmaker. So I had this visual arts stuff I my blood. In the late 90’s I was bike touring with my wife in New England and wanted to take pictures in the mountains and didn’t really know how to use a camera so I went and took a photography class. When I saw my first print come up in the developer it was a halleluiah moment for me – I knew this was something I would love.I became a professional photographer as a New Years Everyone resolution, knowing I would be waiting tables between acting jobs, which didn’t make me happy. I believe really strongly about following a passion and aggressively pursuing it, and then the world will conspire to help you somehow. If you’re an artist and want it badly enough and pursue it with vigour you will have success.

How do your sport and acting inform your work? 

Both acting and baseball inform how I shoot. I wouldn’t be the same photographer without them. From baseball I learned repetition training – If you want to do something well you just have to keep doing it over and over again. And that’s my approach with dancers – I shoot till they’re exhausted and can’t move again – I just feel it can always be better. Also extremely important is the idea of athleticism and the burst of the moment. My first Dancers Among Us shots were inspired by sports. Later it became more about the beauty and elegance and simplicity of dance and not only about the strength. The acting had me think about scenarios and telling stories using dancers to represent everyday life. I needed those two things to get to where I am.

Who have been your heroes and inspirations in your life and work?

It sounds cheesy but its true – my greatest inspiration is my family – the greatest emotional resonance for me is my wife and children. The artists whose work I really admire are Henri Cartier-Bresson especially for his story telling, and also Gregory Crewdson for his movie-set surreal pictures created purely from his imagination. As an artist my work is between those two. I work in the streets, in the moment.  All my work is the product of serendipity.

You get dancers to do some precarious and crazy things. Do you have to persuade them, or hold them back?

Dancers are amazing; they are risk takers trained to push their limits. They don’t know how to say no! They know their bodies, and the ones I like to work with will try anything at least once. For the record – I’m in my fifth year of photographing dancers and no one’s got injured! It looks crazier than it is. But then again the woman on the cover of my book for example was jumping in the rain in heels eighty two times or something!

With the popularity and publicity around Dancers Among Us, you must have met some amazing people. Who are the standouts?

Yes I’ve met a lot of people who are pretty well known and got to travel the world a lot but the first person that stuck out in my mind when you said that was a young man Evan (Ruggiero), a dancer who lost his right leg to bone cancer. The picture in my book of him is called ‘Joy’ because he was so positive and optimistic about life and dance – and he’s now a sensation as a tap dancer and an inspiration to anyone who meets him. He also represents the tenacity and drive and resilience of all dancers and all people who have a passion.

Is there a particular dancer you would love to photograph?

Yes two people come to mind, Baryshnikov, and also Misty Copeland. Every dance photographer in the world wants to photograph Misty – and I’m in that line!

What areas other than dance does your work cover?

My everyday work is portraiture and I do a lot of models, athletes and circus performers – who are a bit like dancers on steroids!

What’s coming up next in your work?

I’m working on a project called Dancers After Dark – black and white nude shots late at night illuminated by street light, no story line – just about what they can do with their bodies and beauty and light. And there’s the element of danger – the risk of something we’re not allowed to do on the streets! My hope for the project is an exhibition and a book.

Any plans to visit London?

I would love to work with dancers in London. Let me know who’s interested and I’ll come in the fall or next spring.

What TV/box set have you watched recently?

The World Cup of course with the rest of the world, and Breaking Bad which was my great obsession.

Tell us something about yourself that will surprise us

When I was a jock and played baseball and had a bad day, there was very little stuff in my apartment that didn’t get broken! | | |