Between his day job as a portrait and wedding photographer, Chris Rennison-Rae has also been working on a personal project for over a year. He wanted to explore the beauty, poise and strength of dance away from the safe (and dry) stage, by transporting it into the iconic and historic landscapes of his home town, Newcastle, and the beaches of the North East. The project has taken Chris from urban city landscapes on cold wet nights to moody bridges on the Quayside, and from freezing seawaters at sunrise of St Mary’s Island to the balmy summer beaches of Northumberland.
What got you into photography?
I’ve always loved taking photos, and often had friends and family saying, ‘You should really do this for a job.’ About two years ago someone said, ‘We’d really like you to do our family portraits for us – we’ll pay you!’ Until that point I’d always wondered if I could make a business out of it.
Why a dance project?
I wanted something that could take me out of my comfort zone and push the photography forward. I’m a big advocate of a bucket list and on it was to photograph a ballerina. From the first shoot, I just wanted to do more and the project idea was created. I then wanted to take it from a studio and into the surrounding landscapes, somewhere we could all walk to and all relate to, while being different enough to not be the same work that is already being done by other photographers of the area.
What inspires you?
I take inspiration from a lot of different sources and the dancers are always great to collaborate with. I normally have an idea of what I want in my head before the shoot starts. From a sunrise behind a jump to create a sunburst, to an en pointe pose to match or contrast with the surroundings, for me each shoot must bring something different and unique. I believe as a photographer, as with every walk of life, you always need to keep pushing yourself forward, to discover and grow and mature your style. The project allows me to move my boundaries of photography and continue to explore the ideas that you can’t or won’t do with a bride on a wedding day. It’s fun to experiment.
What made you want to base the project in Newcastle?
We live in a city that has amazing architecture, a fantastic coastline and iconic bridges. I felt that I just had to get out there and get into it, whether it was 4:45 in the morning for a 10–minute sunrise, later nights in Newcastle when the traffic and pedestrians had started to thin out, or in some cases beaches that had no one there to allow the use of a smoke grenade. Yes, I’ve used smoke grenades on a wedding day and the bride loved it – but it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Have you had a favourite shoot or shot?
In terms of a favourite shot, I think it depends on my own mood at the time. Recently I had a client buy one of the dance photos, and seeing it in print, I was blown away. I took the image, edited it, and seeing it printed it changed my appreciation for it. I love making sure the eyelashes are in focus, so to get a photo printed at two feet wide, with the movement, colours and emotion conveyed through the dancer, it was one of those ‘Wow’ moments.
In terms of shoots, it’s more moments of the shoot. The dancers are super critical of their bodies in shoots. I love their attention to detail which fits with mine: moving rubbish out of the way, or picking places without graffiti so it doesn’t distract from the shoot.
Rennison-Rae Photography can be found on most social media platforms and all dance project photos are available for purchase.