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Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Proves Bodies At Rest Are As Eye-Catching As Those In Motion

Michael McCarthy | November 23, 2020 | People

Director and photographer Tyler Stableford captures the grace, art and humanity of the world-class Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.

Stableford_Ballet_18.jpgKatherine Bolaños represents the enduring grace and athleticism of the dancers who comprise the world-renowned Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.

Tyler Stableford probably has hundreds of definitions of beauty, and many revolve around the human spirit. The award-winning director and photographer’s quest is to build on a personal body of work that’s much more than a collection of random pixels; he practices the graceful art of storytelling, revealing a subject’s enduring light and, ultimately, a connection to all of us.

Stableford_Ballet_5.jpgDancers Seia Rassenti and Joseph Watson. Stableford says his goal is to capture the very best of a person and give viewers a window into an artist’s skill and devotion.

“Great art happens when I have my technical and artistic skills dialed in, and then connect with subjects to explore our humanity and our vulnerability,” says Stableford, who has won an Emmy for his film work in the docu-series Turning Point (2018) and has photographed iconic images of the American West—from rock climbers to farmers to wranglers—since moving to Colorado in 1997, a year after graduating from Dartmouth. Since that time, he has become one of Canon’s prestigious Explorers of Light and has shot commercials for Apple, The North Face and Patagonia, among others. Men’s Journal named him one of the “World’s Seven Greatest Adventure Photographers.”

Stableford_Ballet_12.jpgDancers like Anna Gerberich from the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet are considered among the finest in the world.

Stableford, who’s an avid rock-climber and frequents spots in Independence Pass, Redstone and Carbondale, says his greatest frontier right now is capturing his subjects in a heartfelt and compelling way. He’s been a fan of the world-class Aspen Santa Fe Ballet for 20 years and always wondered about capturing the troupe’s art and elegance. “I’ve marveled at their performances—they’re world-class artists and performers in a small town,” he says. “They are some of the best athletes in the world, and they’re right here.” Stableford says he spent up to six months talking to the ballet’s dancers and leadership, earning their trust for a series of shoots and a short film.

Stableford_Ballet_15.jpgStableford marvels at the elegance and grace of dancers like Anthony Tiedeman and believes they’re some of the greatest athletes in the world.

Stableford_Ballet_11.jpgStableford loves how there’s a real radiance and light to each of the images, including this portrait of dancer Sadie Brown.

“This was purely a personal project,” he says. “My goal is to capture the very best of a subject and to allow viewers a window into someone’s skill and devotion.” The stills, in both color and black and white, are a testament to trust between artists; they also represent a true understanding of how magic arises when artists forget the trappings of their work—whether it’s lighting or a barre—and merely rely on the finesse of a moment. “There’s a real radiance and life to these images,” says Stableford. “I simply opened myself up, wanting to see the human heart and divinity—and to see the greatest in the universe in these dancers.”

22.jpgEach photograph in this series represents a level of trust between a dancer and Stableford, including this image of dancer Pete Leo Walker.

The director is also effusive when it comes to his love for Aspen and the valley. “People are so kind here, and they’re heartfelt, which makes for a terrific community,” says Stableford, who also volunteers as a child advocate for CASA, which makes life-changing differences for the nation’s most vulnerable children. Another Emmy nomination came his way recently for a PSA he directed for CASA. He also has produced 20 humanitarian pro bono films in the States and in Ethiopia and Guatemala. Yet, through all of the adventures and travel, home base continues to be life’s big draw. “The outdoors, the air, the light—it’s all here. I’m in my third decade in Aspen, and I feel like I’m just getting started.”

AMC1759_Final.jpgLocal Emmy-winning director and photographer Tyler Stableford spent months discussing his photo project with members of the ballet in an effort to understand their passion and earn each dancer’s trust.

Photography by: Tyler Stableford