Tom Kramer – a Photographer with the Soul of a Mover

By Helen Hansen French

A Decade of Dance:
a retrospective of Tom Kramer’s work
September 14-October 12, 2019
at The Studio@620
More here

. . .
The ephemerality of dance is one of the reasons it is so captivating – the beauty of the human body in motion, soaring through the air, moving at breakneck speeds or majestically commanding attention with sustained stillness and grace can at times seem surreal.

As a dance artist who has spent her life creating meaning out of movement I am astounded and inspired on a daily basis by the capacity of the human form to express what often cannot be put into words. To experience dance – as a dancer or an audience member – can be life-altering and fleeting.


Helen French – photo by Tom Kramer 2009


Capturing these fleeting alterations in photographs is a task that only a few truly excel at. Thankfully Tom Kramer is one of them. Tom is the rare photographer who not only understands the craft and technique of photography, he intimately understands the art of dance. He has an exacting and precise eye, one calibrated to the angles, light and speed needed to capture dance. He is a photographer with the soul of a mover.

The first time I worked with Tom was in the Fall of 2009. I had recently returned to St. Petersburg after spending 12 years living and dancing in New York City. Tom invited me to come,  “play around on the stage,”  while he took photographs. “Bring a few costumes, maybe some music, we will see what happens,” he said.

I must admit, I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew his wife Paula was a dancer, but I had never seen any of Tom’s photos. I had worked with enough photographers in New York City to understand the breadth of artistic values and temperaments. Some photographers see dance the way I feel dance, and some do not.


Kellie Harmon and Helen French – photo by TomKramer 2017


I showed up at the theater with costumes, music and makeup, and after a brief warm-up and light check, Tom asked me to just start moving. I made my way tentatively through the space wondering when he was going to start taking photographs. Was he waiting for me to do something virtuosic? Should I look at him? Is he looking for something specific?

With these questions running through my head I continued to dance, and Tom quietly watched. It wasn’t until I forgot that he was there, that he started to take photographs. I remember realizing he had started when I heard his voice asking me to repeat a movement phrase a few more times.

He began to make his way around the stage, shooting from different angles, but at this point I had become so involved in dancing that it was like he and I were doing a duet.



Helen French and Alex Jones perform in the BEACON Dance series



I think that might be one of the most beautiful parts of working with Tom, he becomes a type of partner in the dance. I also think that is why his photographs resonate so deeply with me and others – he has the ability to bring himself and the viewers of his photos into the dance. With equal skill and success Tom is able to capture the bold moments of a dancer’s self-assuredness as well as the complex subtleties of a nuanced performance.

Since that first photo shoot I have worked with Tom at least a dozen times, either in a planned shoot or in a performance setting. His work ethic is unflappable and his devotion to photographing dance elevates the way dance and dance artists are viewed.



You can explore Tom Kramer’s work here



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