Photo ©Tim Mantoani, from  Behind the Photographs

Photo ©Tim Mantoani, from Behind the Photographs

Artist Statement

“I’ve spent the last 40 years of my photographic career investigating movement and its expressive potential. My inspiration has always been photography’s ability to stop time and reveal what the naked eye cannot see. What intrigues me is making images that confound and confuse the viewer, but that the viewer knows, or suspects, really happened.

The ostensible subject of my photographs may be motion, but the subtext is time. A dancer’s movements illustrate the passage of time, giving it a substance, materiality, and space. In my photographs, time is stopped, a split second becomes an eternity, and an ephemeral moment is solid as sculpture. My interest in photography is not to capture an image I see or even have in my mind, but to explore the potential of moments I can only begin to imagine.

I prefer to work outside the constraints of choreography, collaborating with dancers on improvised, non-repeatable, often high-risk moments. These moments are not plucked from a continuum, but exist only as isolated instants. I allow the dancers to project a fluid identity for the camera and showcase a different persona in each photo, producing images that represent dreams of our constantly shifting selves. 

I am dealing in the poetics of a visual language rather than in its literalness.  I want my images to defy rational explanation. There is no “solution” to the questions posed by my photographs- they are meant to frame contradictions, present the impossible, and find coherence within chaos. All my pictures are taken as single image, in-camera photographs. I never recombine or rearrange the figures within my images. Their veracity as documents gives the photographs their mystery, and the surrealism of the imagery comes from the fact that our brains don’t register split seconds of movement."


Lois Greenfield began her career as a photojournalist, but was drawn to the graphic potential of dance. She covered the experimental dance scene for the Village Voice from 1973 to the mid 90’s. In 1982, she decided to open a studio where she could not only control the lighting, but could also direct the dancers in her exploration of the expressive possibilities of photographed movement. Her unique approach to photographing the human form in motion has radically redefined the genre and influenced a generation of photographers.

She has created signature images for most of the contemporary dance companies, from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to American Ballet Theatre. Many of these photos have appeared in her two bestselling books- Breaking Bounds, 1992, and Airborne 1998, both published by Thames and Hudson LTD, UK and Chronicle Books US.

Her latest book, Lois Greenfield: Moving Still, from the same publishers, was released in 2015, and the accompanying exhibit has been on tour within the US and to Russia, China, and Colombia.

Commercial clients have picked up on the metaphorical potential of her vision. She has created ads and campaigns for clients including Disney, Orangina, Proctor & Gamble, Pepsi, AT&T, Sony, Hanes, Raymond Weil, and Rolex.

Since her first show at New York City’s International Center of Photography in 1992, her work has been exhibited in many museums and galleries, such as the Tel Aviv Art Museum, Israel; the Venice Biennale, Italy; the Musée de l’Elysée, Switzerland; the Erarta Contemporary Art Museum, Russia; and the Southeast Museum of Photography, Florida.

Lois has been fascinated by non-traditional forms of photographic presentation. Invited to participate in “Le Printemps de Cahors” in France, she projected her images onto a 30-foot high water screen in the Lot River. Set against the night sky, the water turned her crystal sharp photographs back into ephemeral moments, making the live experience seem like a product of the imagination.

Lois pioneered the use of live photography as an integral part of a dance performance. She collaborated from 2003 to 2007 with the Australian Dance Theatre on HELD, a dance inspired by her photography. Lois was onstage shooting the live action and her images were projected real-time as part of the performance. This award-winning dance was performed to sold-out audiences around the world, from the Sydney Opera House to Sadler’s Wells in London, the Joyce Theater in NYC to Theatre de la Ville, Paris.

In 2014/2015 Lois was an Artist in Residence at NYU/Tisch Department of Dance and New Media. In 2015, she was honored with the Dance in Focus award given by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Dance Films Association, and in 2016 she received a lifetime achievement award from The McCallum Theatre Institute in recognition of her ground-breaking contributions to the field.