Movement has always been at heart of Paul Phung’s practice. For his most recent project, the London-based photographer collaborated with stylist Karlmond Tang, and dancers Joey Barton and Kennedy Junior Muntanga, to create and choreograph ‘Birth’: a dance piece that explores the tension and chaos of new beginnings.
‘Birth’ developed from Paul’s desire to capture movement, he explains: “For the past two years I’ve been working closely on different projects with various dance schools in London experimenting with movement through photography.” His interest in photographing dancers was initially piqued by a fashion editorial three years ago with Too Good, in which dancers were cast instead of models. Paul explains ‘Birth’ as the product of a long period of creative gestation that followed that editorial: it marks the beginning of an ongoing photographic series that explore movement and dance. The influence of Pina Bausch’s ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’ and Akram Khan’s ‘Vertical Road’ is evident in the highly expressive choreography and powerful form of ‘Birth’: Whilst never shown, the heavy landing of the leaping figures is felt, and despite remaining static within their frames, hands are thrown and bodies seem to twist. “Birth explores the growth and maturity of young dancers through their movements and expressions,” explains Paul. “Enacting a piece choreographed by myself and featured dancers Joey Barton and Kennedy Junior Muntanga, ‘Birth’ focuses around four male and four female dancers working both with and against each other to create a sense of dissonance, accentuating the chaos, clamor, and release which surrounds a beginning.” The piece was choreographed with photography in mind: moments were held for longer than usual to allow Paul to capture them — but never in a way that compromised the fluidity of the dance. Interestingly, the piece was not performed to an audience. At present, ‘Birth’ can only be viewed through the frame of the camera. Once the series has been completed there will be an exhibition of the work in which the dancers who are featured in Paul’s captured frames will perform to an audience.