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Leni Riefenstahl

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As an article in this week’s issue of TIME explains, the burgeoning sport of acro—the short form of “acrobatics and tumbling”—is striving to distance itself from its cheerleading roots. Likewise, when photographer Holly Andres visited the University of Oregon acro team to shoot the young athletes at practice, she wanted to avoid the tropes of cheerleading photography. There would be no green backgrounds or vivid colors. Instead, the shoot had been planned entirely in black-and-white, the participants envisaged as frozen shapes on a stark field—an idea planned by TIME in order to match a story about a sport striving to be taken seriously.

“The night before, I was really struggling with how I was going to pull this off,” says Andres, for whom the assignment was a departure from her usual style. But, she says, the answer came to her in her sleep, when she thought of Leni Riefenstahl’s photographs of divers from the 1937 Olympics. “I was thinking about the way that she shot really low angles and exposed for the sky in such a way that the athletes looked like these graphic objects. I thought if I could just get them outside and shoot from a low angle I could probably get a more compelling shot than shooting in the gym.”

On the day of the shoot, Andres, whose work is normally highly orchestrated, couldn’t interrupt the practice to adjust composition. Nor did she have much experience with sports—as a photographer, as an athlete or even as a spectator. But her instincts proved correct. Outside on the football field, with a low angle, she was able to capture the dizzying acrobatics in striking graphic fashion. And, as a bonus, nobody fell on her. “It was pretty terrifying,” she says. “I appreciated having my camera as a buffer to look through because I think it detached me a bit from the reality. I just had to have faith that this is what they do and no one’s going to misstep.”

The bold look of the shoot continued when the team returned to the gym for the rest of their practice. Using seven strobes, Andres was able to freeze their movements against a white seamless wall and the light gray of their gym mats.

And despite her lack of sports experience, the photographer found that the acro team’s ethic fit in with her own work as a photographer of the feminine experience. “The fact that there were no male team members and that they were the ones who were throwing and hoisting their fellow team members in the air was really interesting,” she says. “Certainly it challenged some of my preexisting ideas or stereotypes about cheerleaders.”

Read the story from our current issue: Cheer Factor

Holly Andres is an American photographer. See more of her work here.

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Stacy Kranitz

The Other

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My project engages with history, representation, biography, personal narrative, and otherness in the documentary tradition. Each year in Pennsylvania, 500 people come together to reenact the Battle of the Bulge. During the reenactment, I portray Leni Riefenstahl and behave with soldiers, as she would have. I am intrigued by the complex story of a woman with a problematic set of morals. My work aims to understand people beyond the constraints of good vs evil. I have inserted myself into the Nazi reenactor photographs to subvert the viewer’s instinct to dismiss these people as different from themselves. This allows me to reflect upon atrocity, delve into my own relationship with my Jewish heritage, and contemplate the camera’s ability to re-imagine history.

Much of our conception of history is based on images. Historical images have been filtered through media and propaganda. These images become history as generations pass. Images are the dominant force that shape the public imagination. My images of the reenactment are part of the deconstruction process by which images first represent and then replace history.

The next phase of this project will explore Riefenstahl’s life between 1962-1977 when she lived with the Nuba in Sudan. I will visit the same Nuba tribes to focus on the disjunction between her fetishized images and my own exploration of the Nuba’s complex modern reality. The Nuba were victims of genocide during a recent civil war and it has deeply impacted their culture. They were forcibly relocated to camps and Islamicized. Hundreds of thousands died from warfare and starvation.

My project asks how we live in a world where genocide takes place in continuum? It reflects on the history of the documentary tradition as it poses new ways of expressing identity in relation to ‘otherness’. This project deconstructs the notion of the photograph as document, its power as a tool of propaganda, as a witness to history and a call for change.

 

Bio

Stacy Kranitz studied film and photography at New York University. Her work focuses on the ways we express aggression and violence in our daily rituals, habits and pastimes. Additional themes in her work include the relationship between music and culture, the emotional growth of children and environmental racism. She is interested in the theoretical underpinnings that bind together the evolution of the documentary tradition. Her work looks to explore important social issues while commenting on this tradition and challenging its boundaries.

Her clients include Adbusters, Dwell, Elle, ESPN, Entertainment Weekly, Forbes, Fortune, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, Metropolis, Newsweek, New York Times Magazine, People, Rolling Stone, Spin, Vice, Wall Street Journal and Wired.

She was awarded a Young Photographers Alliance Scholarship Award and also received a Story Project Grant from the California Council for the Humanities. She has shown her work at galleries in NY, CA, LA and FL.

 

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Stacy Kranitz

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