Erik Christian grew up in the Hudson Valley and attended SUNY New Paltz, so for most of his life he has been well aware of the seemingly endless stunning natural vistas “everywhere you turn.” While in college, he started exploring as many unique outdoor locations as time allowed, capturing much of the beauty of the region with his camera.
Later, Christian settled in Monticello and began building a career as a wedding and portrait photographer. His landscape work was, for the most part, put on the back burner; after all, he had a business to run and portraits of his own four children to focus on. But two years ago he suddenly had the idea for a fun photo: Why not shoot one of his ballet-crazed daughters — “they love to lounge around in their tutus,” he says — out in the woods? “We liked it so much,” Christian says about both the shoot and the resulting photos, “that we immediately started planning for the next one.” And so the Ballet Project was born.
Over several months in 2012, Christian took a series of photos in 10 different local locations, including in front of the Mid-Hudson Bridge (at night), atop a cliff at Sam’s Point Preserve, and adjacent to Diamond Lake in Montgomery. At first, only his eldest daughter, now 13, participated. But when his younger girls, ages seven and 11, “saw how much fun she was having, they wanted to join in, too,” says Christian, who also has a son who, he notes, “does not dance.”
When the photos were published on Christian’s Web site in 2013, “the initial response was great,” he says. “There was lots and lots of awe. People were really surprised that they were shot in the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, and that they weren’t photoshopped, but were actually real scenes with real people in them.”
The locations for the 2014 series, some of which are shown here, were carefully plotted out. But Christian thinks that it’s the element of surprise that makes the photos so alluring. “I was able to make many of them look like paintings — and then suddenly there is this ballerina with a dress in the middle of the scene,” he says. “People don’t expect that. It grabs them.”
While Christian usually selects the spot where his daughters will stand, he allows the girls to choose their own poses. “They’ve gotten more adventurous as time has gone on,” he says. “They really seem to have a good time. We’re creating great memories. What started out as a piece of art for my kids to have, has turned into something much more.”
Click on the photo gallery below to view images from Erik Christian’s Ballet Project. Visit www.balletproject.com for the full collection.