Written by Communications Intern Jenna Tobbe

There are always photographers at the finish line for popular horse races like the Kentucky Derby and the Breeder’s Cup. There are also many pictures of polished ballet dancers that can diminish the pure strength and raw muscle they possess.

Photographer Sam English appreciates the final product, but wants to focus on the beauty of the process as well. This means waking up early for morning workouts at the race track, getting into the Louisville Ballet practice space while the dancers are rehearsing, and photographing what he finds there.

“I’m trying to convey the beauty, grit, hard work and satisfaction of getting to the stage, dressage ring or race track.  The process.  Everybody sees the race, competition or performance but I want to capture and share the beauty of the training and process before the finished product,” he says. This means showing the dancers as the athletes they really are, and showing a side of horse racing that’s not always viewed by the spectators in the stands.

Sam, a Louisville native, has been taking photos since 2003 but considers 2010 around the time that he became comfortable thinking of himself as a photographer.

“It was the ability to create or find an image and the immediate feedback of the digital camera that let me know if I was on the right track,” he says about what drew him to photography. “It was then, and still is, fun to grab a camera and walk down the street or around a farm and look for photographs.”

So how does someone become the photographer for the Louisville Ballet Company?

“The short answer is, I asked,” says Sam. “The longer answer is that I asked a lot, submitted a written plan and my portfolio was consistent with the ideas I proposed.  Also, my timing was good in that, Robert Curran, the new Executive Director at the time, wanted to capture photos of the company in the process of getting to the stage.  He was looking for photographs similar to what I had proposed.”

What he proposed, and what he still enjoys about his photos of the Louisville Ballet, was “a fun and challenging combination of action, documentary and portraits.” He mentioned that when the dancers are rehearsing at the Louisville Ballet space on East Main, it’s evident how dedicated they are to their craft. These photos are a particular favorite of his right now, and he’s got many concepts for future shots of the company as he continues honing his photography skills.

Sam prefers to shoot color photographs with his Nikon D750 camera because of its quality in low light. He uses Nikon 24-70 and 70-200 lenses for a range of wide angle and zoom perspectives. He prefers human or animal subjects to landscape photography. He hopes to add more shots of horses to his portfolio and possibly other animals with the use of dark backdrops and lighting that is typically used for human models.

Most importantly, Sam has an inspirational message to those of us who feel as though we’re not creative types: “People say they aren’t creative or don’t have “the eye” but they do.  Just start.  Grab a camera or your iPhone and just start.  Pick up a pencil and start drawing.  You never know what will grab your imagination.” This is exactly what he did, and now he’s able to pursue his love of photography while still working full-time in commercial real estate.

Sam’s work can be viewed at www.samenglish.com or on Instagram.

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