"My primary motive from the first day of doing photography has been entirely based on something emotional."
Barcelona, Spain – With every form of art, talent is crucial. When discussing the art of photography, every professional photographer will emphasize not only the need to have an “eye” for it but also the importance of knowing light. Learning how to “see” light, and how to shape it are techniques that can take a photographer years to master. With this also comes the importance of knowing how to pose your subject. The professional photographer and dancer Dayron Vera has been able to master these techniques in only four years of practicing as a professional photographer. His knowledge of movement, how the body is shaped by light, and how to shape light itself, has gained him critical acclaim in the world of photography. A Profoto Global Ambassador, we recently spoke with Dayron from his studio in Barcelona and discussed his career as a dancer and professional photographer, and how he has been able to blend the two arts into a tool of self-expression.
– Can you tell us about your career as a dancer, and how you transitioned into the world of photography?
My professional career began at age 10 when I started studying ballet in Cuba. Upon graduation, I became part of the National Ballet of Cuba, where I reached the category of Principal Dancer. From there, I moved to Spain and started dancing in the company of Angel Corella.
I started in photography about four and a half years ago. I was still dancing when I bought a camera and started taking pictures of my classmates. In the beginning, it was not something that I identified with. It was when I stopped dancing that I started to take it more seriously.
I have not had formal photographic training. Everything has been self-taught. Moreover, it has been a mixture of trying, seeing errors, and correcting them, but above all, following a visual pattern that I like.
– When discussing your work, precisely what do you wish to express with your photographs, and how is the creative process to achieve it?
The truth is that my creative process is very simple. An idea can come to my head, and I contact a dancer or model, and we start testing during the course of the session. My creative process is the constant search for finding a way to represent the person in front of me, through a portrait, in a very human way.
– What is the motivation behind your work?
My primary motive from the first day of doing photography has been entirely based on something emotional. As I no longer have a dancing stage as a way to express what I feel and carry inside, photography has been the art to replace it and has become my source of expression.
– How long does it take you to plan and complete one of your photo sessions?
Everything depends on the purpose of the session. If it is a personal project, it can take hours. If we talk about a session with a commercial purpose, of course, the way it is planned will last longer since there is a client involved who will also need to be pleased.
"I personally see photography as a desire, a craving. I see photography as possibly the only way to feed my need for expression."
– Is there a photographer that you might consider as a kind of idol, and who has influenced your work and vision?
There are several photographers whom I consider idols. For example, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, Paolo Roversi, and Robert Frank. All these photographers have inspired in me a tremendous need to search for something special in the person standing in front of my camera.
– Can you think of a time when you felt discouraged as a professional photographer, and how did you manage to overcome it?
I have felt discouraged many times. We live in a world where social media networks rule, and sometimes your work is not really valued for the right reasons, but by the number of followers you may have. Maybe that’s why I do not see photography as a way of life but as a way of expressing my feelings.
– What other challenges do you feel photographers face today?
I think that if we talk about challenges, the list could be endless. I personally see photography as a desire, a craving. I see photography as possibly the only way to feed my need for expression. I am conscious that we live in a digitized world where we all have access to a form of camera. How to make your work different, and to find a signature style, may be one of the most complicated things.
"We live in a world where social media networks rule, and sometimes your work is not really valued for the right reasons, but by the number of followers you may have."
– Expanding further on the fact that almost everyone in today’s world has access to a form of camera, what do you think is the difference between a professional photographer and any other amateur photographer?
I think the most significant difference, not only in photography but practically in any form of art, is the final product, the conclusion of the work. That is, a photograph is not only what is produced by the camera, but also the process that occurs before the conception of the idea. This must culminate with the expression of the artist’s vision through editing – be it in digital format or in the darkroom. However minimal the editing may be, the vision of the artist must always be brought to fruition and an end.
– When discussing the technical tools of your art, is there a brand of camera, lenses, and strobes that you prefer and why?
I am currently a Canon user. Not for a specific reason, but it has been a continuity of the first camera that I bought years ago. At the flash level, I use Profoto as I am the ambassador for their brand in Spain.
– What is the best advice you have received as an artist in your career?
I’m really not sure if this was a piece of advice that I received or something that due to my career as a professional dancer I’ve always had in mind, and that is never to give up.
– To finalize our interview, what is the best advice you think you can offer to someone who wants to follow your professional steps as a photographer?
I am not very good at giving advice since I believe that each person’s mind is his or her own world, and therefore must learn to be aware of what he or she likes or does not like, or what they should fight for. The best thing I could say would be not to let yourself be influenced by trends or a desire to try and make quick money with photography. Do what you like and spend time perfecting it. – GM