CARLSBAD — One of the first photographs visitors to the Front Porch Gallery will encounter frames a man twisting in midair, upside down and supported by a single hand.
Frozen by photographer Robert K. Gullen’s lens, the subject’s legs are split apart like helicopter blades and brandishing waves of silky fabric from his costume.
The image’s intense lighting reveals every muscle of the performer, every crease of fabric.
The 18 photographs within the show, “Captured Freedom: The Emotion of Dance,” highlight Gullen’s photographic technique just as much as they are a tribute to the strength and emotion of performing dancers.
“I like to see the power and strain in the human body,” said Gullen, whose studio is in Carlsbad.
He explained that he chose to focus much of his work on dancers because, “Dancers have a grace to them that translates in their performance.”
Most of the photographs were taken between 2000 and 2003. Gullen said that whenever a work of dance caught his eye, he called the company and requested the dancers to re-perform the piece in a studio for him to shoot. In this way, Gullen could capture the dancers mid-performance, freezing them at the height of their movement in a way that cannot be done with a live performance.
“In the blink if an eye, (the performance) is gone. There, he’s captured it,” said Marlene Brake, who attended the show’s opening on Jan. 20.
“Usually, you find things that are posed…and with these, he’s really captured the action and the emotion,” said Julie Weaverling, Front Porch Gallery’s assistant director.
Gullen photographed the dancers in studios with black floors against a black backdrop, using strobe lights to illuminate their movement.
“I want to go from the deepest black to the lightest white and everything in between,” he said about his technique.
Gullen’s thought-out and deliberate technique is one of the reasons the gallery selected his work for an entire show, said Steven Nossan, the Gallery’s director.
As a local artist who had not shown these photographs before, Gullen modeled the type of artist the gallery aims to showcase, Nossan said
“We like to be an avenue for people who normally don’t get to show their work,” said Nossan.
“Captured Freedom” will be on display through March 17 at the Front Porch Gallery at 2903 Carlsbad Blvd. Admission is free, and days and times can be found on the gallery’s website at frontporchgallery.org.