Denis Svartz is a professional Reportage Photographer from Lyon, France. He obtained and undertook an initial training at the école des Beaux-Arts (The Paris School of Fine Art), which has allowed him to develop his own work through noctural scenes.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and grew up in Paris, more precisely in Pigalle, a well-known place. Since my childhood, I always have been attracted by nightlife. I remember how I was amazed by all the flashing signs above the bars and clubs which I was not allowed to enter. Later in life, I started, with passion, to take pictures of architecture and ambiance at night. What I like about taking pictures is that my camera registers details that my eyes can hardly see.
Where do you live now?
I now live in Lyon, a much smaller city than Paris, but everyday life is easier.
What do you do when you are not taking pictures?
For 6 years, I’ve been learning and practicing tango. I think this dance responded to a teenage frustration when my friends danced (rock and roll) and I didn’t because I was too shy. The first time someone told me about the magic of Tango, I was hooked.
“The dark dress” – This image could be a dancer’s vision of a Milonga. First the eyes are drawn to the details. It creates a zoom effect and gives a dynamic vision.
Why did you start doing photography?
I prefer to talk about my start as a photographer of tango. I waited 3 years before starting to take photos of tango, which allowed me to learn and appreciate the proximity with each other.
Who inspires you?
I thank my teacher, Lesly Hamilton, who gave me so much. Tango was a real renewal of my approach, introducing human emotions. Since then, I regularly make use of this training.
Why do you love being a photographer?
Being a photographer allows me to have many tools, which offer a lot of possibilities. But taking pictures or dancing tango both require training over and over again in order that at least the gesture becomes natural and you can improvise.
What was your first camera?
My first camera was a Rollei 35, fully manual. I developed my black & white pictures myself; it needs a lot of time and precision.
What type of camera do you have now?
I work in digital now. I hope to soon acquire the latest model of camera that allows you to work with incredibly low lights and which makes it possible to take pictures, not only of dancers, but also of people sitting around waiting to be invited. These are usually in the dark.
“Mirada” – It is difficult to catch crossing glances. Here I manage to capture the very moment when a dancer is invited by another. People around the tables are talking but at the same time are looking for who they could glance at.
What catches your eye and compels you to take a shot?
There are so many reasons to take a shot. Some of them are conscious. Sometimes you can try to find a memory.
What is something you are still learning?
Tango brought me a lot on a personal and photographic level; it allowed me to go beyond my fear, and release all the pictures I had accumulated inside me. Since then, I try to go a bit further.
“The couple” I took this picture while I was attending the rehearsal of two great dancers: Claudia Codega and Esteban Moreno. There is an opposition between two spaces. Their posture is unusual in tango, which leaves us free to imagine that these two people embrace each other, and that is not only dancing.
What advice do you have for photographers who are just starting?
My advice is that what I learned from Tango can be adapted to photography. First: To train and reproduce the steps of the teachers. Second: To please the partner or the viewer: the pretty figure, the nice picture. Third: Finding your own dance, your own emotion within an image.
What do you think is the greatest challenge for a tango photographer?
It is a sublime dance, which is extremely photogenic. The biggest challenge is to try to overcome the “clichés” of the Tango.
What would you like to get out of the Tangofolly project?
Tangofolly is a great opportunity to showcase many photographers in the wide community of tango dancers. I hope it will help to produce new images that will be a source of inspiration for other photographers, but also for dancers.