LAUGE SORENSEN – Photographer and filmmaker based in Johannesburg

Lauge Sorensen, a native of Scandinavia, is a professional photographer and filmmaker based in Johannesburg. His primary focus is on people photography with his most frequent assignments/commissions in areas such as editorial, lifestyle, corporate and dance. Lauge’s work is frequently being featured in many of South Africa’s daily newspapers and lifestyle magazines, as well as on numerous billboards in and around Johannesburg.

(See our Ballet http Book review,  for another wonderful example of this photographers work.)

Even before arriving in South Africa, almost 3 years ago – I had a strong interest in dance photography. In fact, I can pinpoint the exact moment, when I first caught the bug. I had arranged a regular portrait shoot with a model, as a way to build my early portfolio and practice my skills. At some point during our shoot she happened to mention, that she was also a dancer – and I asked her if she could show me a dance move. As she made a small jump in front of the camera, I tried my best to capture it. In fact – just at it happened – the move didn’t appear very spectacular to me, but as the image emerged on the camera screen – I was amazed at what I saw, and I was immediately hooked. It was one of those aha-moments, I guess. There is something about freezing that tiny sliver in time – a fragment which is almost lost to the human eye. I once heard another dance photographer say, that if you actually see what you want to photograph in the camera viewfinder, – then you are already too late. You have to anticipate and “feel” the move in order to hit the exact peak moment which lasts only a split second. Fortunately, there’s a certain rhythm to dance moves which helps predict things – and dancers are absolutely amazing in terms of controlling their bodies. They are able to repeat the exact same move several times, or make minuscule changes more or less on demand. Besides being wonderfully creative people, I’ve also found that most dancers are both perfectionists and very persistent! On some occasions, we can literally spend hours trying to get a leg, a foot or a hand right. On other more rare occasions, we might get all we need in only one shot – when everything just clicks magically into place. One such moment happened to me in Havana, Cuba – when I photographed prima ballerina Viengsay Valdes at the Cuban National Ballet School. She was absolute perfection, and in only 24 frames I had her captured in a variety of looks, poses and jumps. A few of those images are now on display in the ¡Cuba! exhibit at American Museum of Natural History.

Viengsay Valdés of Ballet Nacional de Cuba in a dance studio of Escuela Nacional Cubana, Havana © Lauge Sorensen

Viengsay Valdés of Ballet Nacional de Cuba in a dance studio of Escuela Nacional Cubana, Havana © Lauge Sorensen

Making a shoot a positive and fun experience for everyone involved is always one of my key objectives. Whenever possible, I try to build a connection with the person in front of the camera. It can be just a small thing; a shared laugh, a common experience or interest. As a photographer, it’s very easy to get preoccupied with all the technical aspects; the camera settings, angles and lighting. This is something I’ve worked hard to minimize by building routines for everything, – second nature habits, that I can apply whenever the situation calls for it. For instance, when the picture I see in the camera display is not like the image I had in my mind; I already know what I need to change to fix it. When a piece of gear fails to work; I already have a few alternatives lined up. It’s a bit like learning to play an instrument, I guess. Once you are able to play the guitar without actually thinking about how to play the guitar, you can start focusing on the music. To me, such a routine is a tremendous relief, as it allows me to relax and focus most of my attention on the interaction and relationship with the talent in front of the camera as well as the overall creative aspects of what we are trying to accomplish.

 

Having a sense of humor certainly helps, if things don’t all go according to plan. And sometimes a batch of chocolate muffins or a short ice cream break will work wonders, to get everyone to relax and re-focus, and get the energy flowing. (My wife is a passionate baker, and has taught me to never underestimate the power of baked goods.)

 

While I also do corporate, advertisement and editorial jobs, the majority of my current work relates to dance and other performing arts. I’m basically trying to cater for all the media needs of today’s dance schools and dance companies – most of whom find themselves in a situation where they need a much stronger web presence, social media engagement as well as bold & creative advertisement, fundraising and a high quality record of their performances. This is true even for individual young dancers – as they need to build a compelling portfolio in order to be considered for competitions, auditions and jobs.

 

While I started out as a still photographer only, one of my early clients asked me one day “How about video, – can you do that too?”  “Absolutely!”, I confidently said, while going into complete panic mode on the inside and rushing home to immerse myself in the topic. Video was something I had totally neglected. Today, video work represents well over half of my portfolio – and I really enjoy exploring the many similarities and synergies between still photography and video. It also gives me that unique opportunity to provide my clients with a soup-to-nuts menu: headshots, dance action shots, behind the scene documentary videos, audition videos, dress rehearsal images, filming of live performances and DVD productions.

 

Students with Joburg Ballet’s Soweto development program striking a pose with the Orlando power station cooling towers in the background

What I truly enjoy is the constant need to adapt and be creative. Sometimes I photograph cute 6-year olds for a local dance school, – sometimes I photograph professional dancers with some of the major dance companies, – and each of these are challenging situations requiring separate approaches. Whenever I drive around town, I’m constantly scouting for locations and looking for new angles. Some of my clients prefer a very traditional and conservative look, while others strive to break new grounds and want a more edgy look. Some clients have very specific ideas about what they want, and some appreciate if I can offer a few suggestions and a bit of guidance. I see every assignment – big or small – as an exciting opportunity to create that “wow- moment” for my client. Getting client feedback means a lot to me, personally – and there is nothing better than providing something that exceeds expectations.

 

Currently, I’m experimenting a lot with different methods to augment the dancers’ moves – using fabrics, water, powder and other means, as a way to

© Lauge Sorensen

© Lauge Sorensen

trace the moves and create more dynamic and evocative imagery. It’s a complete wet and sticky mess at my studio these days, – and we’re having so much fun! I’ve realized, that as a professional photographer, it’s really important to set aside time for doing personal projects, as a way to develop and push the boundaries a bit – and also as a way to break the daily grind with many client engagements. I

© Lauge Sorensen

© Lauge Sorensen

usually have 3-4 ideas underway at different stages – things I really want to try out whenever time allows it and the right opportunity emerges. I think that with today’s selfie/plugin/app-society – the sheer amount of photography is absolutely overwhelming, and we are constantly bombarded with footage of varying quality. So to me, this raises the bar in terms of trying to make something that really stands out