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A Philly Alley Mini-Session of a Mini-Ballerina

Last Fall, when my daughter and I went to the Philadelphia Dance Academy for the first time, we walked through a tiny little alley in Old City that caught my attention. Since photography is always on my mind, I thought "this would be such a great spot for pictures". I had this thought each time we walked by, how the cobbled stones, red bricks, graffiti, tunnel of light and darkness, would be a perfect setting for a photoshoot.

ballerina in philadelphia alley silhouette black and white

There's nothing I love more in photography than limiting myself to a subject and location, and exploring all the possibilities that could come out of it. Creating various pictures using one focal length, different angles, and the available natural light, is a challenging artistic exercise that can lead to beautiful and unique photographs.

A couple weeks ago was the dress rehearsal for my daughter's dance recital. So I figured it would be the perfect time to do the photoshoot I had been dreaming of. I asked her if she would be okay posing for me and she agreed without any bribing needed... at first.

When I take pictures of my kids, it's in documentary fashion. I don't stop them from what they are doing, I never say "cheese", and I rarely ask them to look at the camera (although if they chose to, I'm all for it). They either don't notice the camera, or don't care that it's there because it doesn't change my interaction with them. If we are playing, we keep on playing, I just have my camera in hand. So a posed session is not something my daughter is used to.

Since she loved being in her beautiful tutu that she had waited months to wear, she was agreeable to my request but wasn't very comfortable at first.

Her poses were a little stiff...

ballerina in a philadelphia alley

ballerina in front of graffiti

Her smiles were the "I just sucked on a lemon" kinds of smiles. She was still super cute though.

smiling portrait of ballerina

And on this one she actually said "cheeeeese".... oh no, please don't say cheese unless you want to eat some.

smiling portrait of ballerina with crown

To loosen her up, I asked her if she would be willing to perform her recital for me, and she agreed. She did so twice on her own and had fun in the process. Jackpot for both of us!

ballerina dancing in alley

dancing legs in alley

ballerina dancing in alley

ballerina and cobbled stones

I also caught "in between" shots, which turned out to be my favorites.

ballerina moody low key portrait

ballerina moody low key portrait

After her short performances, there were still a few pictures I was hoping to take but she had had it by then. That's when the bribing started: one cookie (two minutes extra), then another cookie (three more minutes) and finally some Pokemon cards (four final minutes). And voilà!

ballerina from above

confident ballerina

smiling ballerina in alley

Eventually the session lasted a little over 20 minutes, which is not long considering we were interrupted many times by pedestrians walking by. I mean, they didn't stop us, but I didn't want them appearing in the background, so we waited for them to be out of view. I never knew such a small alley could be so busy.

smiling ballerina in alley

In the end, I got most of the shots I envisioned, and I'm really happy with how they turned out. But more importantly, my daughter loves them and enjoyed herself during most of the shoot.

And beyond the tutu itself, she now has a great memento of what she looked like the first time she ever wore a real ballerina tutu.

ballerina in high noon sun

The picture above and the ones below were taken on our way to the cookie store, which unfortunately turned out to be closed. She got a cupcake from somewhere else the next day.

ballerina and tartes philadelphia
pointe on cobbled stones

To her great joy, I did give her a bunch of well deserved Pokemon cards as soon as we got home, so she was a happy dancer.

smiling ballerina from below


Check out my Instagram accounts where I post pictures daily: childhood photography @blinckphotography or landscape and street photography @filladelphie.

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