Omar Z. Robles took portraits of ‘Parkour’ groups in Chicago before focussing on dancers, who he has photographed in New York, San Juan (in Puerto Rico), Seattle, Guatemala and Havana. He is now looking towards Mexico and India, the two countries he would most like to travel to soon.
The Puerto Rican artist plays with the air with the elegance of Richard Avedon, the famous fashion photographer for ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ and ‘Vogue’ magazines. But, rather than fashion, what led Robles to photograph dancers in the streets of the different cities of the world was mime. He studied this performing art at L’École Internationale de Mimodrame de Paris Marcel Marceau and, subsequently, took a degree in Visual Arts and Communications in Puerto Rico. When he then started out working as a photojournalist, he missed the body language of mime and so he began taking self-portraits in different poses in the streets of New York before deciding to use other people as his models. “I believe that my photographs generally reflect the rawness of documentary or street photography combined with the grace and pose of the dancers,” he affirms.
Just as dancers manage to make their pirouettes look easy and not the result of years training their own bodies, Robles manages to capture the decisive moment made famous by Cartier-Bresson in the interaction between a dancer —usually mid-air— and a dog, old woman, ray of light or rain shower. “We generally meet on a street corner, we start walking and we stop when somewhere appeals to me on account of its light or colour,” the photographer says, explaining the production process for his shots. “I give the dancer some instructions, a basis for the movement, and we improvise. It’s fast work, sometimes taking advantage of a break in traffic as it stops for a red light, without any added lighting.”