Burlesque can be sexy, a little erotic, but almost all of the time it encompasses a whole lot of fun. Unlike other performance arts, the audience is encouraged to get involved and make a lot of noise; yell, applaud, whistle, or whatever tickles your fancy.
The word burlesque originated in 17th-century Italian theater as a type of comic interlude. The word derives from the Italian “burla,” which means a joke, ridicule or mockery, and that fits the artform perfectly.
I have been photographing the burlesque scene in New England a bunch of years, and what I find very appealing is the empowerment and strength it embodies in its artists, both male and female.
As a photographer, the burlesque scene provides exquisitely dressed women (and men) that makes for beautiful subject matter, but that comes at a price: low light!
As a seasoned pro, shooting performance art ‘keeps me honest’ because you cannot ‘mail-in’ a burlesque shoot. Many of the images in the gallery above were photographed at high ISO’s between 2500 and 6400, even shooting at aperture values of f/1.2 to f/2.8. This is driven by the need to shoot at fast shutter speeds to capture the moving subjects.
Using the best camera bodies (Canon EOS 1X) and the fastest professional lenses (Canon’s L series), I have put together a beautiful collection of burlesque performers at work. Still, the high ISOs make for poor image quality. So, it’s a trade of low image quality for captures of the burlesque art form.