New Hunter exhibit 'Power, Passion & Pose' merges ballet, photography, haute couture

Image courtesy of Ken Browar and Deborah Ory / Masha Dashkina Maddux, principal with Martha Graham Dance Company, was photographed in 2015. The photo is a dye sublimation print on aluminum, 42 by 50 inches. Dress by Maurizio Nardi. thumbnail

What started as a bedroom redesign for their young daughter has resulted in a museum-worthy exhibition and a couple of books for two New York City photographers.

Wanting to decorate their daughter's room for her birthday, husband and wife Ken Browar and Deborah Ory came up with the idea of taking a photograph of one of their friends, a ballet dancer, to create a dance theme on the walls. Ory has a background in dance and editorial photography. Browar is a fashion and beauty photographer.

The shoot went well. So well, in fact, other dancers saw the pieces and pretty much volunteered to pose for similar photos. Before long, the idea of combining costumes and couture with dance and photography for a larger project just made sense.

The result is "Power, Passion & Pose: Photographs by Ken Browar and Deborah Ory," the latest temporary exhibit at the Hunter Museum of American Art. It is here through Sept. 6. They've also created two books on the subject called "The Art of Movement" and "The Style of Movement."

What makes the photographs so special is the collaborate nature of the pieces, the athleticism of the dancers, the movement of the outfits and the level of buy-in from the dancers, who are all world-class, and the designers, who are world-renowned.

Charlotte Landreau, soloist with Martha Graham Dance Company, for example, is photographed wearing a piece by Iris van Herpen. Misty Copeland, principal with American Ballet Theatre, wears a dress by Trash-Couture. A few of the dresses are also part of the exhibit, so patrons get to see the dress hung on a rack and then full of movement, filling the entire scene.

If you go

› What: “Power, Passion & Pose: Photographs by Ken Browar and Deborah Ory”› Where: Hunter Museum of American Art, 10 Bluff View› When: Through Sept. 6› Admission: $20 general, $18 seniors, free for children and teens› Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday; noon -5 p.m. Sunday; closed Tuesday› Contact: 423-267-0968,

In almost all cases, the designers themselves either offered up one of their pieces or agreed to make one for the project. At first, the two hit roadblocks with the designers, Ory said, as they tried to go through their publicists, who didn't quite grasp the concept. Browar said when the designers themselves saw the pictures, things changed.

He has done his share of fashion shoots where every detail from makeup to lighting to pose is designed to make the outfit look great for a magazine cover or centerfold or ad campaign. This had the added emphasis of making the dancer and the outfit look amazing. Amazingly, some of the shots only took one or two takes to get the exact image that everyone was happy with.

Ory said the photographs were taken in their home studio. They spent a lot of time during planning and interviews to make the dancer feel comfortable and assure that all involved were in agreement as to what the picture could, or should, look like.

"Our studio is in our living room, so we make it very comfortable," she said.

"We found ourselves breathing when the dancer breathed," Browar said. "Plus, we were working with the very best of the very best, so they knew what they were doing."

photo Image courtesy of Ken Browar and Deborah Ory / Samuel Lee Roberts of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was photographed in 2017. The photo is a dye sublimation print on aluminum, 50 by 42 inches, with clothing by Issey Miyake.

It helped that the dancers saw the value in getting a photo of themselves in a unique pose that will last forever, Browar said.

"The life of a dancer is very short," he said, "so to get something like this for their children and grandchildren was appealing, I think."

The collection, or a version of it, has been shown in Boston and West Palm Beach, Florida, as well.

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.