Shoot of the week: Cheeks

24th February 2017

This week’s shoot is with commercial, street, hip-hop, and basically all round dancer Cheeks. I first shot Cheeks about 3 years ago at a studio in Salford, and haven’t really shot much street dance since, so it was with that in mind that I reached out to her to see if she wanted to do something.

I’m starting to look at my dance work in particular more analytically, and part of that is realizing that I don’t shoot enough. With this in mind, I’m starting to shoot more regularly, and importantly, with more purpose. For me, it’s great seeing great dance photography, but I want to be creating something meaningful, that’s truly collaborative between myself and the dancer. For that reason, I like to sit down with my dancers before shoots to chat about them, and who they are.

From talking to Cheeks, and having shot her before, I knew I wanted to do something grungy. Street dancers in front of graffiti has been done to death, and for good reason – the two things often go hand in hand, however, I wanted to do something that was more meaningful and meant more to her, so we headed to a dark alley in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. It was around there that a lot of Hollywood films are filmed – the alleys and fire escapes resemble New York, and I wanted to grab some of that Brooklyn energy, bottle it, and drip it over Cheeks’ shoot.

I always start with one or two big ideas in my mind when I approach shoots, and I like them to grow organically from there, so once we’d finished shooting in the alley, we then headed to a fire escape outside the studio that Cheeks teaches at.

With this, I wanted to capture some of that sense of place. When I was in NYC and LA last year, I started to become more and more aware of how music is shaped by the place that its written and recorded in, and so for that reason I wanted to give Cheeks some context – and place her above the city. The fire escape worked perfectly.

From there we headed to Manchester Central Library. This was one of my ideas, and spoiler alert: it didn’t work. I like the library because it’s so full of history, and now that St Peter’s Square has been redeveloped, it has a kind of dystopian future type vibe going on. The images are fine, but they don’t SAY anything interesting. They’re just nice shots of Cheeks dancing, and whilst that would have been fine 12 months ago, it ain’t cuttin’ it now.

Finally we headed to local rooftop. I wanted to recapture that ‘looking out over the city’ vibe that Cheeks excels at, so we went for it, and got some shots I was really happy with.

After I got back to the office, I was straight on the macbook to edit these and you’ll find the rest of the shots below. In terms of editing, my workflow looks like this:

Bridge => Lightroom CC => Photoshop CC => Analog Efex 2


I wanted to give them a strong film look, with dust and dirt and bits of crap on the lens, because it fitted in with the concept of the imagery. It was a little dirty, a little grimey, and I wanted to reflect that in the processing.

So I shot this all natural light, basically at a razor thin depth of field. I usually use either Profoto or Pixapro lighting systems for this kind of thing, however, I didn’t think it would suit the vibe, and I’m currently making an active effort to declutter my photography life! Also I don’t want to humph a big heavy bag off to every shoot I do!!


Hope you liked the shots, and if you have any questions, tweet me or something, or get in touch on the contact page.