in a labyrinth

In A Labyrinth: The Dance of Butoh by Michael Philip Manheim


Finding my personal photographic voice meant drawing upon all that I had absorbed in my career so far, especially the lessons of photojournalism. My fascination with movement, a reflexive ability to capture a situation, concentration on essence and a compositional sense all came together for a new phase of my photographic exploration.

If you look at See-Saw Sampler, you’ll get an idea of how my Rhythm From Within evolved from photojournalistic basics. In a Labyrinth is one chapter of Rhythm From Within, focusing on the performance art that is the dance of butoh.

According to Ximena Garnica, butoh dancer, choreographer, organizer and poet, “Our dance is as layered as your images. The complexity of all the things going on within us make its way to the photographic print as if the dancer’s insides get turned outside. The result traces an imprint with layers of memories.”

These exposures join organically in the camera, not after the fact, and not through any planning of my own. And because my technique involves so many elements of chance, I can’t predict the final results. I have put much time into perfecting the technical aspects, and can now take them for granted. What I don’t take for granted are the elements for success. I carefully scout nature locations. I carefully choose subjects who can reach within and project the inner self into bodily expression. I go into a meditative state where I give up any control over the outcome. I put my trust into the process.

So I continue to be in awe of these layers of multiple images, because synergy creates them. I am the witness, responding to the dancers’ instincts and interpretations. As they draw deeper into nature, through and above emotion to create movement, going deeper into the human condition, I am privileged to share what appears to be total presence.

—Michael Philip Manheim

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