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Spotlight on Chelsea Hoy, Dance Photographer

Updated: Jul 13, 2019

Chelsea first started Irish dancing in Denver, Colorado before moving to Chicago to attend Loyola University. Shortly after her move, she was signed by the Trinity Irish Dance Company and toured Japan as a professional dancer and promising photographer. It was in Japan that Chelsea fell in love with capturing dance movement, precision and beauty. These skills, perspective and passion continue to grow through her visual arts studies at Loyola where she is graduating from this spring.

Chelsea’s work has been featured in art shows around Chicago and in the past year, she has photographed prominent dance companies such as Visceral Dance Chicago, the Loyola University Chicago Dance Program, and the Trinity Academy of Irish Dance.

We talked to Chelsea about her dance career, her creative eye and advice for those looking to pursue dance photography.

How did you know you were done competing?

Trinity Irish Dance Company, C. Hoy Photography

“I grew up dancing in Denver, Colorado with the Wick School of Irish Dance and had always planned on competing through high school. When I made the decision to attend Loyola University Chicago, retiring from the competitive scene seemed like the natural course of action. I was grateful for the many ways that training hard and competing for 12 years had shaped me as a person, and I was ready to move on to a new chapter in my life.”

Was it an easy transition?

“During my first year of college, through somewhat of a ‘happy accident,’ I was cast as a member of the professional performing arts Trinity Irish Dance Company. While I had imagined my transition out of competing to be somewhat of an ending to my life as an active dancer, TIDC turned that ending into a new beginning.”

Visceral Dance Chicago, C. Hoy Photography

Why are you pursuing dance photography?

“My passion for photography grew during my first year at Loyola. I have always been a visual artist, but I narrowed my focus to photography after taking my first dark room course. Photography has shaped the way I see the world, acting as my way of experiencing, embracing, and appreciating the simple moments and subtle beauties of every day.

My growing passion for photography coincided with my first year as a member of the Trinity Irish Dance Company. During our 2014 tour of Japan, I began photographing dancers from side stage during the pieces that I was not in. I loved the challenge of capturing the essence of a dance piece and the precision of a movement in a single shot. It was during this tour that I fell in love with capturing dancers on stage from a dancer's perspective.

Since then, my love for dance photography has grown and diversified. In the past year, I have photographed Visceral Dance Chicago, the Loyola University Chicago Dance Program, and the Trinity Academy of Irish Dance. As I approach graduation, I am looking forward to pursing more opportunities to photograph a diverse range of dancers in the Chicago area.”

What would you recommend to young dancers who want to become dance photographers?

“Dancers have a special advantage in capturing dance photos, since we rhythmically understand the movement that we are seeing through the lens and can anticipate the exact moment when I dancer will be at the peak of their pose. My advice to people looking to pursue dance photography is to:

  • Work to fully understand the functioning of your camera. Knowing how to operate in manual mode is key to capturing quick-moving dancers in different lighting situations.

  • Get inspiration from other dance photographers. Two of my biggest dance photography inspirations are Lois Greenfield and Jordan Matter. Find photographs that really catch your eye and try to emulate part of the style that you are attracted to.

  • Don't be afraid to ask your friends to help you practice--grab a few of your dance friends and spend an afternoon capturing leaps outside or in the studio. The best way to improve your photography skills is to photograph.”

See more of Chelsea's work and follow her online!

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