Caroline's quest to capture beauty of dance
For Caroline Holden a dream came true when she achieved her ambition to photograph professional ballet dancers in performance.
It was a long way from her earlier days as a print journalist. But her dream was quite some time in the making.
Caroline, whose home is in Longridge, near Preston, took a degree in Theatre Studies and Dramatic Arts at Warwick University before arriving in Preston to study for a postgraduate Diploma in Newspaper Journalism at the then Preston Polytechnic.
She had got a taste for journalism after working on her student newspaper, but admits: “It was always about the pictures for me. Back then the unions would only let us do one or the other.”
As it was “the other” occupied her for many years, first teaching media and journalism at Preston College and then writing for Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire Life magazines.
She began to take more and more portrait photographs and set up her own business, becoming a sought after wedding photographer. She was awarded a Licentiate distinction and gained an Associateship of the Royal Photographic Society.
It was only when her daughter Heather started dance classes that the mother of two discovered her vocation to photograph ballet dancers, both in class and in rehearsal.
Some 15 years on she has worked with the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Northern Ballet, the Northern Ballet School , The Hammond school, Chester and the Phoenix Dance Academy.
She said: “I photograph studio rehearsals and dress rehearsals just before the production opens to be used for press and publicity. Having my work endorsed by a company is still the most incredible feeling in the world for me ... and seeing my picture in a programme or on social media is so special.”
She even took dance classes to learn more about ballet and the perfect movements to capture. But she stressed: “Capturing movement is hard, but it’s not all about the perfect arabesque or highest grand jete, it is recording emotion and that’s when it becomes an honour to be behind the lens.”
She admits it can be a demanding task and not without its costs. She said: “I “dance” with my camera and have destroyed many a good tripod head in the process."
Highlights of Caroline’s career have included photographing rehearsals at the Royal Albert Hall, including English National Ballet’s production of Derek Deane’s Swan Lake. She has photographed dancers ranging from Carlos Acosta to Alina Cojocaru and Tamara Rojo and her work regularly appears in Dancing Times and Dance Europe magazines.
She recalled: “The first professional ballet I photographed was English National Ballet’s production of Rudolf Nureyev’s Romeo and Juliet at The Palace Theatre in Manchester. I was so excited and very shy at the same time! I went to the upper balcony to avoid the other photographers to discover this was where the artistic director and ballet staff worked from!”
Caroline, who also specialises in events photography, got permission to photograph pointe shoes being made at the Freed factory in Hackney, London.
She said: “It was so special to be there and see the shoes being made from scratch. I’ve so much respect for the makers. Afterwards I went to their flagship store in Covent Garden where the founder cobbler Freddie Freed and his wife made shoes in their basement in 1929 and revolutionised the dance shoe industry by tailoring shoes to a dancer’s individual needs.”
The performances she captures on camera may be transitory but the joy of dance is enduring for Caroline, who said: “Theatre is like a magic box for me. It most certainly is my happy place... I can just look for beauty - in a world where it is sometimes hard to find.”
As for future ambitions she hopes to one day photograph scenes from Kenneth Macmillan’s Manon ballet
• Caroline’s new website, created by Heather, is at www.carolineholden.co.uk