Atlanta Life and Culture

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Georgia photographer’s work gets exposure at national dance shrine

Richard Calmes’ photographs of dancers have appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a variety of Gwinnett County publications and national dance magazines, among many other media outlets.

Now, the Hiawassee photographer’s work is receiving some heightened exposure, in the recently opened exhibition “Dance Magic: The Photography of Richard Calmes,” at the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The 20-work exhibit, part of the museum’s Art in the Foyer program, will remain on view through April 2015.

The show includes some images from Calmes’ third collection of dance photography, “Lines and Leaps,” which he recently self-published. (Preview the entire 144-page hardcover, $139.50, at

Metro Atlanta performers are well-represented in the exhibit, including Alessandra Ball, Nancy Casciano, Abigrace Diprima (who graces the cover) and Maggie Ellington, all of whom honed their art at Gwinnett Ballet Theatre, and Amanda Farris of Georgia Ballet.

Dance photography is Calmes’ retirement hobby, but one that he approaches with great passion. Trained as an architect, he became intrigued by photography while serving in Vietnam in the late 1960s and bought his first of many Canon cameras at the PX.

Calmes left architecture a decade after returning home, but continued shooting pictures throughout a varied business career.

He started taking photos of dancers, both in the studio and outdoors (against the Atlanta skyline, at an automobile junkyard, in fountains, etc.), in 2005 at the request of his wife, Holley Calmes, who works in freelance dance marketing. Knowing that dance companies have tight budgets, he frequently provides his services for free, sometimes even paying his models for their time.

“Richard takes pictures for the love of it,” his wife said.

Calmes considers the dancers' bodies, honed by years of classes and rehearsals, “beautiful instruments.”

He brings a bit of his architect’s eye to the sessions, drawing stick figures typically in action poses as a starting point. He and the dancers review his images on his laptop, discuss possible changes and try out new ideas on the spot.

“Every photo has a story behind it,” Calmes said at the opening reception. “I approach my work as a collaboration between myself and the dancers, so there is always more to a photograph than just a pose.”

The National Museum of Dance & Hall of Fame was established in 1986 as the country’s only museum dedicated to the art of dance. It is located in the former Washington Bathhouse, a historic building in Saratoga Spa State Park. The institution’s archives house a growing collection of photographs, videos, costumes, documents, biographies and artifacts that honor all forms of dance throughout history.

More on the National Museum of Dance: 518-584-2225, To view more of Calmes’ work:

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The AJC Features Team spotlights arts previews, reviews, profiles, news features and breaking news on Atlanta's cultural and life scene.