Atlanta Life and Culture

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Gwinnett Ballet to mount Richard Calmes' dance photography exhibit

Gwinnett Ballet Theatre dancers figured prominently in “Dance Magic,” Richard Calmes’ photography exhibit that concluded a year’s run in April at the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Starting Saturday with a 6:30 p.m. public reception, the 20-work show comes to the dance company’s Lawrenceville studios for an open-ended run.

The Hiawassee photographer’s dance pictures have appeared in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a variety of Gwinnett County publications and national dance magazines, among many other media outlets. Prints of Calmes’ most popular images will be for sale ($25), with part of the proceeds benefitting Gwinnett Ballet Theatre.

Calmes said he titled the show “Dance Magic” in honor of “those moments where a dancer summons a lifetime of training and applies it to an incredible feat of beauty, athleticism and art in front of my camera. My challenge is always to capture that magic for all to see and appreciate.”

The show includes some images from Calmes’ third collection of dance photography, “Lines and Leaps,” which he self-published last year.

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.

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

“Every photo has a story behind it, ” Calmes said at the National Museum of Dance 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.”

Suggested donation for the Saturday reception: $10 at the door. 1800 Macleod Drive, Lawrenceville. Information: 770-237-0046. View galleries of Calmes’ images at

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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.