- Rose Eichenbaum, photojournalist
- A light bulb went off in my head
- Rose offers a rare-one-of-a-kind photographic workshop
- The Art of Photographing: Action shots, creation of fine art dance images
- Master of Movement
- The Artist Within
- Capturing Movement
Rose Eichenbaum, photojournalist, dedicated to research, documentation and investigation of artistic creativity through performance.
Eichenbaum’s photography and articles appear regularly in numerous magazines and newspapers including nationally acclaimed Dance Magazine, Pointe, Dance Spirit and others.
She is a gifted inspirational speaker and has been addressing university dance departments around the country promoting dance literacy and education..
Q. Why did you switch to photography?
Photography came quite by accident—not really a switch from dance, but in addition to. I discovered photography after my children were born. I picked up a camera to photograph them and fell in love with it.
Q. How did your professional career photographing dancers come about?.
A neighbor of mine saw me photographing my kids and asked me if I would take pictures of her daughter dancing in a concert. While taking those photos, a woman approached me and asked for my business card. She said she was a choreographer and was interested in seeing my portfolio. I didn’t have business cards or a portfolio—only pictures of my kids. Thinking fast on feet, I told her that if she gave me her card, I’d get in touch with her in a week’s time and show her my work. During that week I visited the ballet school where I had trained and photographed dancers taking classes. I came away with enough photos to fill a book. I presented them to the choreographer and she hired me on the spot. This launched my career as a professional dance photographer. I still shoot for her more than twenty years later. .
Q. How did you get hired to take pictures for magazines like Dance and Dance Spirit?.
I sent a promo card—a card with one of my dance images –a man doing a jete to the managing editor of Dance Magazine. He was impressed with the image on the card and phoned asking if I had more.
“Yes, of course,” I told him and sent in what I considered my best work at the time. Before I knew it, the magazine was using my photos and giving me assignments. .
Q. Were you also involved in writing the articles and is writing articles to accompany your photographs an important part of being able to get magazine and newspaper jobs?.
I understood that in order to have my photographs used in magazines they would need to illustrate feature stories. So I began to pitch story ideas to the editors and they liked them. One editor said, ‘That’s a good idea why don’t you write it?’
And so I tried it and found I loved writing. From then on I often did both. .
I began to view my monthly submission of articles and photos as disposable art—once the new issue was out, the old issue with all my hard work was tossed out. I felt that I had within me the capacity to create something that could serve the art form more substantially.
An assignment with Dance Magazine led to the idea for Masters of Movement. Dance Magazine’s art director gave me the job to create portraits of a few big name choreographers.
A light bulb went off in my head. What if I were to create a photographic archive of some of the great choreographers and pioneers of dance in America? I knew that by doing a project of this scope that I would be creating an important educational resource for dance but would also be satisfying my own artistic needs and challenge myself in new ways. .
Finding a publisher was a trial! Masters of Movement was rejected by just about every mainstream publisher citing that while it was an extraordinary work, “dance books don’t sell and we won’t make money on it.” I worked with two very capable literary agents but neither one could sell it. Finally, on my own, I sent the submission to Smithsonian Books and they immediately picked it up for publication. I held the first copy in my hands, six years after I began. .
Q. The Dancer Within and Masters of Movement are expensive books to produce. There’s a lot of travel and hotels and the books themselves are large, hardback books. How did you find the money to produce these books?
Smithsonian Books and Wesleyan University Press incurred the publishing costs for both of my books but the expense for creating the text and photos came out of my pocket—a ten year investment that required extensive travel, photo expense, (most of the photography was shot with film), personal sacrifice, time and money, lots of money.
I can’t even begin to calculate how much money was spent. Everything I had and everything I earned through my free lance photography business, teaching and financial support from my husband went into the creation of these books. .
Q. What was the process like getting the choreographers and dancers to agree to the interviews and photos? .
Asking the choreographers and dancers to participate in these books was often more difficult than I could have ever imagined. Generally I would just pick up the phone and call “their people.” The more prominent and famous they were, the harder it was to get them to participate. For example, it took four years to get Judith Jamison to finally say yes, five years for Paul Taylor. Patience and persistence with generous portions of wishful thinking was the only way to go. .
Q. How do you get through to someone like a Liza Minnelli or a Mitzi Gaynor?.
In the case of Liza and Mitzi—very tough people to get to, I had help. I could not have done it alone.
Q. The interviews are incredible in terms of the depth and number of insights. Both the dancers and the choreographers give a lot in the very few pages of each interview. Were the interviews much longer? Did you do a lot of editing?.
There is always editing just to bring conversational interviews to a literary level but in almost every case, I had very well thought out questions specific to each person and I went straight for the nuts and bolts. Because I had been a dancer I understood the dancer’s experience, knew the language of dance and could speak to them in a way that made them feel as if they were speaking to one of their own.
All spoke candidly about their process, their experiences etc. Their style of dance was also not a factor. However, posing for the lens was a different story. The dancers were much more concerned about appearances and more guarded about their image. Generally speaking, vanity played a role with the dancers—not so much with the choreographers. .
All of the artists featured in my books where chosen because of their contribution and devotion to dance regardless of their style or performance venue—stage or screen. I quickly learned that I was dealing with highly intelligent, articulate and committed individuals. .
Dancers are obviously photogenic but how many shots did it really take?
In both books, I was usually limited with time…just what the subjects were willing to give me. Out of necessity I learned to shoot fast and be highly attentive. I don’t usually need to shoot much. My ratio of good images is very high. With Liza Minnelli I had seven minutes to create the photo you saw in The Dancer Within. Turned out she had to catch a plane at the last minute and so I had to pull it out as quickly as I could. This sort of pressure played out many times over. .
I learned volumes from just about everyone I interviewed—whether it was something they said or just a feeling that I came away with. Pushed to the wall…I think I was most personally moved by my encounters with Anna Sokolow at the age of 90 and Jose Greco at 81, Gregory Hines, Katherine Dunham, Fernando Bujones, and Fayard Nicholas, and of course Russell Clark who died during our work together.
One of the lessons learned in creating this work was….just because someone is highly gifted or talented doesn’t always mean that they are nice people. .
Masters of Movement in particular was life changing for me because it informed me of what it means to live the artist’s life— to maintain balance of one’s personal and professional life, create with integrity and for the right reasons, to value the human spirit and work towards giving rather than receiving, to never give up on a dream and trust one’s instincts.
What I learned from these great masters of dance was enlightening and profound and changed me in ways that I am still discovering. Their words continue to inform and inspire me. .
Cultivate good people skills if you’re not one that communicates easily with others. Establishing trust with your subject is the key. Be yourself, be real, be honest, and come in having done your homework. Take the time to research who ever you’re interviewing and think through your questions so that they illicit responses that add something new to the mix. It’s a lot like digging for hidden treasure—you don’t know what you’ll find but you have to be digging in the right place.
Q. What are your tips for good photos?.
Photography is an art as well as a learned skill and in order to come away with really good photographs, one needs to work at it like any other discipline. Study photography—know its history and the basic fundamentals of lighting, composition, perspective, etc and practice as much as possible. Never rely on chance. .
Q. Any career advice for budding photographers and journalists?.
Do personal work!!!!! Find something that excites and moves you and then work to develop it with your own voice and your own unique expression. Often that means taking creative and artistic chances and risking failure but there are many inherent lessons there too.
Books by Rose Eichenbaum
- Masters of Movement: Portraits of America’s Great Choreographers
- The Dancer Within: Intimate Conversations with Great Dancers
- The Actor Within: Intimate Conversations with Great Actors