Class of 2014: New graduate Tomas Januska explores weightlessness and the act of jumping in his images of dancers
Curious about the temporary state of weightlessness we experience when jumping, Tomas Januska decided to make it the theme of his final-year project at the University of East London. Approaching dancers from companies including the Rambert and English National Ballet, he photographed them using a simple one or two flash setup.
The Lithuanian-born photographer, who took up photography in 2009, spent seven months working on the series, entitled Gravity. “I wanted my final project for my BA to capture a sense of movement, life and freedom,” he says. “People are moving less and less, so I wanted to show what they are missing out on. As the project evolved, I photographed ordinary people as well as dancers because I realised that some professional dancers are restricted by the rules of dance… photographing people who are not associated with dance or sport was the best decision I could have made because they did not know the rules of dance and consequently were able to ‘give themselves away’ in the studio.”
Each person he photographed made between 150 and 600 jumps per session, depending on their level of physical fitness and the amount of preparation they had undergone for the project, explains Januska, whose other work includes studies of skateboarders, surfers and paddle-boarders.
“Every person is different,” he comments on the way his subjects look when they are mid-jump, “but at the same time they are similar due to the emotions they are feeling. It’s as though they have returned to their childhood. The images are like psychological studies of a person mid-movement.
“The series benefited my photographic practice a lot,” he continues, “in terms of learning new technical challenges and understanding the labyrinth of human emotions. The psychological side of the process and the unpredictable nature of movement were the most positive aspects, I think, and I will be using them again in the future.”