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Lensculture Photography Competition

January 2020, Gordon's photographs are featured in the Lensculture Portrait Competition Gallery, which shows a highly curated group of images selected by worldclass editors to showcase only the best photos submitted by photographers from all over the world. Gordon took this series in Havana where she was given the opportunity to photograph students at the Cuban National School of Ballet, one of the largest and most recognized schools of ballet in the world. The students were intense and focused, and even when they were "on break," they displayed an unusual kind of seriousness, as if not to reveal any kind of vulnerability (even if it was revealed at times in these photographs). A gallery of the photographs is at the bottom of the page.

A Lensculture reviewer offered these comments about the photographs:

"To be honest, I feel there are some really classic images in this selection. They remind me of early Magnum photographers like Cornell Capa's famous work in ballet schools and other great photographers that were so capable of making beautiful and poignant compositions. Of course, they also share a quality that reminds me of Life Magazine photo essays too. You might see if you can find a stack of those magazines and find some of the classic photo essays and how the photographers and designers thought about storytelling.

In response to your request for feedback, if it isn't clear, yes; I find the photographs very interesting. From a formal perspective you have an excellent eye. On the one hand the images belie a certain simplicity. Yet on the other hand the lines, the perspectives, and the gestures have strong Classical references. And that aesthetic is wonderfully befitting to the subject matter. My guess is that your background in painting and the plastic arts contributes to this strong sensibility of yours.

With regard to your question about improving or adding to your photographs, I have some thoughts. To begin with, there are some very strong singles in this selection. There's no doubt about that. Yet for me, I feel these images gain their greatest success when I am considering them in the context of each other. As I move through the photographs and think about them relative to the others, I am able to develop a sense of the space and the attitudes of these young people. It's fascinating how a real atmosphere and attentiveness is established through seeing them all at once. But when I see them submitted as singles, I feel they rely more on the specific compositions or the decisive moments. Which is fine. And to that effect, images 3,4, and 5 feel the strongest. (Though the water bottle in image 5 feels like it may be too much of a distraction...) But to be clear, I actually find all of the photographs very good and again feel they could be part of a wonderful and larger story.

In terms of expanding the story, I would of course include pictures of their mentors. Seeing the adults work with the children feels like an essential element to the project Also, do the parents or guardians drop them off? Are there people who observe while they are practicing? What does the studio space look like from the outside? Are there any interesting details in the studio that could help tell the larger story of this place? For example, a worn out floorboard, a sagging plie bar . . . etc.

In short Janice, you are onto something really good here. And perhaps continuing this outside of Havana will be very fruitful too. Though I have to admit that something about seeing "other" faces makes this project particularly interesting to me. Still my sense is that you would make a great project wherever it happened. I hope I get to see if and how the work evolves."

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