Barbara Morgan, Martha Graham, “Satyric Festival,” 1935, printed later, gelatin-silver print, 10 1/4 x 8 3/16 in., Gift of Richard and Lois Zakia
So, while the photographs in the show excite and elicit all we love about dance and the expression of movement, one photograph—Martha Graham, "Satyric Festival"—holds a particular detail of dance that Morgan meant by this “groping” and “shaping.” Unlike photographing a fixed subject matter, such as a still life, photographing a moving dancer requires patience and constant attention to capture the perfect image once the dancer creates it. Looking closely at the image, we see the contortion of Graham’s dancing body shaping and extending itself toward an eventual pose fit for a photograph.
Does the dancer think of the camera as she moves? What is the difference between the camera lens watching her versus a set of eyes—Morgan’s eyes? Photography becomes a near match for dance, since it is as quick in capturing a moment as a dancer is in creating it. The dancer feels, through her movements, the shape she seeks to take, the desired appearance of her body. Through the sheer material of the striped dress that fits snugly around Graham’s body, we see the slight strain of her groping muscles and joints frozen in position by the camera lens. Looking up, the dancer gives Morgan a new contemporary version of The Thinker sculpture, pensive in motion and thinking through her limbs.