A Precarious Pause

When the pandemic locked down the city, photographer Jami Milne found herself pondering how to pursue her two passions—portraiture and ballet—with social distancing protocols in place.

“As a photographer, I don’t know when I can again shoot the authentic intimate portraits I seek to create,” she says. “And I’ve been thinking about ballet—an art form perilously unsure when it will again be able to invite audiences to gather together.”

So as Milne teamed up with Ballet Des Moines company dancer Amelia Grubb for a photo session in her Mainframe studio, she mulled such questions as “How far away can I shoot in order to see her beauty? How intimate can it feel while I’m wearing a mask and blue latex gloves? Would she feel graceful from a distance?”

Milne sought to create images that portrayed “what it feels like to be a dancer in a precarious pause, waiting to find out what a pandemic means for an upcoming season—eager, anxious, suffocated, hopeful.”

The resulting images convey all those emotions—and more. “It was really difficult not to embrace when we saw each other,” says Milne, who over the years has been involved with Ballet Des Moines through various partnerships, including as the company’s first artist-in-residence in 2016. “But we knew the importance of being distant, and we were both dedicated to creating meaningful imagery.”

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