Photographic Explorations of Butoh Essence

Any photographer of dance is charged with a delicate responsibility of translating for the viewer an experience of movement, transient reality, emotional magnetism, and instinctual inspiration. There is always compromise within this realm of photography, given that no efforts can ever convey the experiential impact of a dancer’s physical and energetic expressions. Rather than being an obstacle to still photography, this has in fact inspired several visual artists to interpret the more subtle qualities of Butoh through their respective techniques.
Using the poetically-named technique of Luna-graphy, Adam Lach Lunaris communicates through unsettling but earthen color palettes, deriving his only source of light from the full moon. With his long exposures, the Polish photographer captures the essence of transient reality — the figures of dancers depicted as unpredictably as the very core of Butoh movement itself. ”The possibility of depicting the invisible; the subconscious, or perhaps even a higher consciousness; this is a final destination point for a man not determined by his senses,” he says. “For him, there is no other way. The principles which govern this landscape are entirely alien to the world of our reality.”

Adam Lach Lunaris: Luna-Graphy
“I would not even call it only ‘a dance’. It is Butoh – a special kind of dialogue with your inner self…” - Adam Lach Lunaris
luna-graphy-adam-lach-lunaris-butoh adam_lunaris_cambodia_jean_daniel_fricker

Jean Daniel Fricker and Celine Angele in Cambodia ©  Adam Lach Lunaris.
You’ve spoken about your experiences of photographing Butoh dancers traveling in Cambodia. In what is perhaps a more extreme situation of dance photography (minimal communication during the shoot, the intensity of the dance style itself, and the remote, unfamiliar location), how did you find you connected with the dance on an emotional level?
Luna-graphy has a certain feature, like a kind of language, which I named “30 second’s exposure”. It is simply the way the camera is writing an image in given light conditions. Movements are saved and transformed into an image depending on the colors of the background and the person moving–white clothes or the naked body give different effects than a dancer dressed in, for example, black.
Even dance dynamic plays a major role here. When you have a concept of the final image, you have to know how to move, behave and act in order to get there. This is something I have to present and explain (teach) people in front of my camera. So with Jean Daniel [Fricker] and Celine [Angele], we definitely cooperate on the higher level of emotions. These are very subtle things and they require an unspoken connection, a kind of deeper understanding, which allows for the perfect image to be created.
You mention that luna-graphy is a method for you to capture the subconscious or maybe a higher consciousness. How has your technique allowed you to experience that, especially in the case of photographing Butoh dancers?
Please stop yourself for 30 seconds. You will realise that many things are going on inside you. Now imagine you are in front of the camera… I feel that luna-graphy conveys the spirit even though on the image, you see the body of a person. This impression is shared by most of the people who view my work. That is how luna-graphy allows me to connect with people on a higher level.
What do you feel is the connection between luna-graphy and the philosophy of Butoh?
When the full moon started, I introduced [the Butoh dancers] to the concept of luna-graphy. Once we started, we soon realized that Butoh philosophy, with its concept of discovering your inner self during the performance and crossing your inner boundaries, is in perfect harmony with luna-graphy’s long exposure. They work together perfectly, allowing a creation of a unique document captured in one image. A single luna-graphy image is a kind of short movie closed in one photographic image.
That is why I don’t think I have simply photographed Butoh. Some could probably call it this way, but personally I feel I was creating luna-graphs portraying dance, movement and performance of Jean Daniel and his group. Jean Daniel himself said that these moon images were something new, something very individual and not yet fully defined. In his opinion, only a few images were purely portraying Butoh.

Critica foto Emanuela DeCecco 30.08.11- Definitiva based on Butoh Dance images

A dance in which every single movement – even what the eye perceives as a gasp or so - it's a detail that embodies an entire world. By the obstinate search for what is essential, what remains after removing all, the game takes place in a scene where extrems cohabit: life and dead, presence and absence, the echo of an ancien tradition and today's tensions, skin, internal organs, male and female.
These photographs do not return the story of this dance, they do not explain, they do not document. They resist the temptation of revealing everything and making the gesture becoming an heroic act, isolated in a stillness that doesn’t belong to it. 

Rather these pictures say the same thing, they keep the mystery alive by using another language. The movement developed in the space is translated and stratified in the long term exposure of the camera. A dance where extremes coexists is observed by a look that proceed with a similar step. They record the here and now, the place where took place what they show, but they transform the specificity of space and time by receiving the echo of the painting’s tradition: the colors, the composition.  They extend their possibilities of description till almost dissolving it. In the tension that is generated by this process, the core that gives life to the dance becomes visible and so the intention behind it. 

The bodies - of which we cannot perceive the details -  in some cases become fading  shadows, soft matter. They are in the space - in the water or in the air does not matter - and they are crossed by these elements, they change and are changed by their   surroundings. Through these photographs we breathe with our eyes the effects of the balance produced by their peculiar form of presence. In one of them, on the background, a walking boy appears.

Emanuela DeCecco, 30.08.11

Luna-graphy in printed media - Zwierciadlo '02.2011

An article about Luna-graphy and collaboration with Jean Daniel Fricker&Celine Angele

Translation of the article about Lunagraphy in ZWIERCIADLO February 2011

The Influence of the Moon

Page 1

The Butoh dance is a way of expressing emotions, presenting the relationships with our body and the universe, exploring our subconsciousness. Two French artists: Jean Daniel Fricker and Céline Angele explore the Butoh dance in their exceptional performances. Thanks to the lunagraphy, a new way of creating images by the moonlight, we now have an exceptional record of their art.

Page 2

Description above image 1&2:

Lunagraphies, or in other words images captured by the moonlight, showing Céline Angel (1, 2) and Jean Daniel Fricker (2, 3) while performing the Butoh dance in India and Cambodia. The inventor of this original method of creating images is Adam Lach (Lunaris).

They meet at the festival in Avignon. They do not come here by accident. It is a meeting place for theatre groups which seek new means of expression different from the traditional theatre. This is where Jean Daniel Fricker, a performer who works with juggling, acrobatics and dance meets Angela Celine, an actress and a judo athlete who devoted herself to the Butoh dance after cooperating with several theatrical companies in Paris. They are joined by the common interest in Butoh. They both perform in the same play directed by Japanese choreographers. And this is how it begins: for the next three years Céline participates in workshops and shows organised by Fricker. They travel around the world together visiting Italy, Croatia and Slovenia. After a while Céline starts helping organizing workshops and performances.
At the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 Jean Daniel Fricker decides to create a theatre group. Along with Celine and five others performers they stay for three months in the southern India, in Hampi, where they work on the performance entitled ‘The Prayer’. They invite one of their friends, a Polish photographer Adam Lach, to come and stay with them. Adam has a chance to observe how this unique project develops. The final effect is amazing as the performance continues without a break for six weeks and four additional nights. It is a form of pilgrimage from one village to another. Each day a new dance begins while the residents watch the shows with surprise. Even the local children sometimes join the performance, jumping over the balls. During one evening Adam talks about a special method of capturing images by the light of the moon which he once discovered during a night walk on the beach in Krynica Morska in Poland. The lunagraphy may come to life only by the light of a full moon during three or four days in a month and provided that there are neither clouds nor any source of light apart from the moon visible on the sky. It's not the end of difficulties. When capturing an image, the author cannot predict the final outcome. Although he chooses both the scenery and the models, he has to accept that it is his intuition and even partly coincidence which will shape the image in the end. As the exposure (the time when the shutter is open and the picture is being taken) lasts for around thirty seconds, it is virtually impossible to predict
the final result.

Page 3

Description above the images:

(1) Jean Daniel Fricker (first from the left) and Céline Angel (sitting in the middle row) during their stay in Cambodia became friends with the inhabitants of surrounding villages. They organised workshops for the locals and still keep in touch with some of them. (2) Members of the Jean Daniel Fricker’s Theatre with whom he worked in India on the performance ‘The Prayer’, 2008. (3) Céline Angele at the workshop for mine and polio victims, Cambodia, 2009

Dancing in the dark
Butoh, which is called the dance of the darkness, is the search for one’s own expression free from social or cultural masks. Nothing is for show here. There is no story to be told, it is all about emotions. The dancer tries to express the relationship with the body and the universe while exploring the darkness of his subconsciousness. That is why each Butoh dance is completely different as it is a dance to one’s inner rhythm. It is not the performer who is dancing, it is him who is being danced. Instead of choreography the Butoh offers the unity of body and mind, a kind of meditation in motion. Therefore Jean Daniel and Celine have no doubts: they want to become central figures of the lunagraphy, to express all what is hidden in the darkness of the night in their performance, to dance in the moonlight. As Lunagraphy does not allow for full control of the image, it seems an ideal medium to capture the Butoh dance. The effects of the collaboration with the photographer are so interesting that the next year they all travel to Cambodia together. Adam Lach again has the opportunity to see how the dancers work on a new performance entitled ‘Ghost Stories in Cambodia’. Jean Daniel and Céline organise workshops for the local population, especially for victims of polio and landmines. The latter are souvenirs from a 30-year civil war which finished in 1998.
Butoh is not based on any dance technique. The fact that everybody can dance allows to cross the boarders between being disabled and fully fit. Jean Daniel and Celine teach their students body awareness and how to follow the body’s natural rhythm. And at night they both dance: among the ancient trees surrounding the ruins of Angkor Wat, in a river near a small Cambodian village and in the woods among the mined fields. They work on new images together with the lunagrapher. They move in the darkness relying only on their own intuition, with no arranged choreography. In harmony with the philosophy of the Butoh dance.