Creator Journals: Tristan Pope on Ethos and Dance

Tristan Pope is the mastermind behind Dancers Of, a film series that took the short film festival circuit by storm last year. #shotonmoment

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Tristan Pope is the mastermind behind Dancers Of, a film series that took the short film festival circuit by storm last year. What you might not know is that all of the films are #shotonmoment.

When he began shooting the series, Tristan wanted to explore the intersection of strength and grace that dancers exemplify. The slow-motion films cover a variety of dance genres and feature some incredible talent.

Before I interviewed Tristan, I thought our interview would be about the films themselves. I assumed we’d discuss why he chose to film everything on mobile. And while we did discuss those things, an unexpected, deeper message sidetracked us: the unhealthy standards of beauty within the fashion photography world.

Years ago, Tristan was a part of that world.

“Will you elongate my neck?” “Can you airbrush my abs?” “Will you make my thighs skinnier?”

Requests like these are typically granted in the modeling world. The industry has little patience for “imperfection.” But Tristan Pope says no.

In his opinion, that means Photoshopping out the details that make a person unique, beautiful. He says his business model is “to shoot people for who they are.” So, after countless experiences with shady talent agencies and too much time spent wondering if he was somehow a part of the problem, he left.

It didn’t take long before he put his photo kit on the shelf, bought some Moment lenses, and carved a new path forward. It was then that he found the industry niche he occupies now.

In our interview, he explained, “I shoot people with natural or trained strength who are passionate about what they do, and I like to mix it with the glamour world. Because I think the glamour world needs more of it. More real people.”

What Tristan is doing now not only makes him feel better about his work, but it also helps his photo subjects. This is a win-win, he thought. I can shoot something meaningful. And because the shoots are shorter and less intensive, I can provide people with a low-cost gallery of high-quality portfolio images. What Tristan is able to accomplish in just 4 hours is enough to fill out a portfolio and even provide extra content for social media.

The merits of mobile photography don’t stop there, either. It’s also hard for dancers to find the right photographer. That’s because it’s vital that the photographer really understands dance. For instance, if the photographer were to capture and post the wrong frame of a jump, and one of the limbs was not yet fully extended… That dancer’s career might suffer. These are high stakes.

But thankfully, Tristan actually has a background in dance and a love of collaboration. With mobile photography, cooperation between photographer and model becomes more of a partnership. Tristan frequently pulls dancers to his side of the camera, showing them the frame he has planned. This allows the dancer to perfectly understand where they need to position their bodies.

What struck me most about Tristan Pope was that this is a man who lives by a code, even when it means leaving a secure paycheck to pour himself into a fledgling passion project. In his words: “Let’s face it — life is short — so why spend so much time trying to change people, when instead, you can just enjoy them and capture something special and real?”

That mentality requires a lot of courage, and I think it’s a great reminder for all creatives that what really matters is that you’re producing work you believe in.

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