This is What Emotion Looks Like, Written With Bodies

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Like other photo projects we’ve featured that play with perceptions of time and space, New York photographer Nir Arieli’s Tension project captures what the eye can’t see, but the heart can sense.

These images were shot in the hallways and studios of the Juilliard School, where Arieli’s cousin was studying dance. The photographer had never shot dancers before, and at first, was at a loss:

I can’t dance. I can’t in my room, nor in a club, let alone any kind of stage. Whenever I am forced to try, I stumble or freeze or drink enough to disappear. However, this time, for the first time, I found myself actively involved in dancing – even if by using someone else’s body.

— Nir Arieli

Lacking experience, context, or the choreographic vocabulary with which to communicate, Arieli nonetheless knew that dance is emotion made motion, so he’d describe a feeling to his subjects, and they’d improvise, translating words into form. So photographer became visual choreographer, with the resulting images curated, and manually layered to create the multiple-exposure effect.

“My subjects provided me with the physical intelligence. I only had vague mental images, a camera, and a long history of unused dancefloors.”