Here in Durham, NC, an exciting show is in town … But not just any show. The most incredible, unprecedented theatrical production, ever – The Lion King! I saw TLK 2 years ago in Boston, and wept my brains out into my $30 obstructed view ticket. Admittedly, I didn’t think I’d be seeing it again anytime soon, with tickets going $150+ a pop. But thanks to some incredible luck, I managed to find some tickets without breaking my bank account. It was a blast being able to show my boyfriend Anthony a production of this caliber, as he is a fledgling to theater. Even after all of the hype from me, constantly, every day for a full week, he was still blown away. I’m not surprised.
The knowledge that The Lion King cast was in Durham, just a two hour drive from me, gave me a lot of ideas. I was truly interested in capturing the talent of the performers, and so I got in touch with Raymond “Ray” Baynard. He has been a dancer for The Lion King’s national Broadway tour for over two years now, and has been dancing his whole life. With twelve costume changes, intricate puppetry skills, and a myriad of dance numbers, Ray is a well-rounded, flexible (no pun intended) performer full of energy and talent.
It was wonderful meeting him, and he fell right into the role of a model despite being more of a photographer himself (he runs the Instagram for The Lion King!). It was impossible to get a bad photo of him.
Downtown Durham’s American Tobacco Campus was the setting for most of our shoot, and is a sprawling renovated cigarette factory for when Lucky Strike was producing products in NC. The towering brick lofts are abound with texture, history, faded paintings and advertisements. It’s not without its gems of greenery, though, and this was much welcomed by me.
I have admittedly never worked with a dancer before. Initially I knew I wanted him for portraiture, and saved some reference dance photos to try and capture… but I was truly blown away.
It was so awesome to see a dancer of this caliber up close and personal to photograph! I found it very fun and challenging to manually capture his movements (usually I don’t like to use high-speed continuous shutter for movement like this, it feels like a cheap move to me). I pretty much told Ray the bare basics of what I wanted him to do (such as jump with one arm out, etc) and from there I let him do his thing. After all, I am no dancer, and would much rather let the pro do what he does best while I try to get the right shot.
After we explored the Tobacco Campus for a bit, we checked out a cool alleyway I discovered only minutes before the shoot started. talk about a lucky find! I don’t know Durham at all, and am so grateful I found this unique urban jungle/ruins scene… definitely a fun space to explore movement!
And last, here’s my favorite shot below. This alleyway led to the cool caged-off ruins-spot (whatever you’d call it)… I loved everything about it, and it didn’t take much for Raymond to fall right into incredible poses and movements while we wrapped up the shoot.
What a pose! Ray was so great about doing these amazing leaps and bounds while still staying perfectly in the center of where I needed him to be. Guess it comes with the territory…
All in all this was a great experience. Ray was truly a kind person and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to photograph him in his element.
Here are some behind the scenes photos for kicks that Anthony took–who, by the way, was once again the best assistant I could’ve asked for!
This was, again, my first time photographing a dancer. I had a lot of fun with it, and I hope to grow the more I continue to shoot this type of medium.