Making Magic with Jordan Matter

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Renowned photographer Jordan Matter finds his inspiration through the exploration of humanity. He disregards generic shots, and strives to capture an image that has emotion, raw beauty and is utterly serendipitous. Jordan published a collection of his most pristine, unusual and inspired photos in the 2012 New York Times bestseller, Dancers Among Us. His sequence of 150 photos capture moments of dancers singing in the shower, crossing New York City Streets, enjoying ice cream and falling in love. These everyday “normal” actions are transformed into moments of magic and meaning as artists grand jete, fly and contort themselves to create amazing shapes and movements. Soon after gaining positive feedback and widespread appreciation for his collection, Dancers Among Us, Jordan continues working on more awe inspiring collections. He has created a series of incredible works including Circus Among Us, Athletes Among Us, Dancers after dark (a sequel to Dancers Among Us), and his newest, Tiny Dancers Among Us (a prequel to Dancers Among Us). His work reaches a wide spectrum of people both in and out of the circus and dance worlds and inspires everyday. Jordan’s work encourages people to find serendipity, passion and keen presence in every moment, and to appreciate life for what it throws you.

Way back in 2012, my older cousin gave me her copy of Dancers Among Us for Christmas. I had just begun training lyra earlier that year, and was completely awestruck by the moments Matter captured. I knew that, after reading Dancers Among Us back to front at least five times, I wanted to be an artist like the dancers in the book. I wanted to create beautiful shapes and have arms that, when someone sees a picture of them, they say, “Oh man, look at her arms!” After being utterly obsessed with his work, I knew that I wanted to do circus more seriously than I had been. I knew that I didn’t just want to train lyra as an alternative fitness program, but I wanted to become a performer that people want to hire and photograph. Essentially, I wanted to be good enough to be in one of Jordan Matter’s books.

Recently, Matter had his work showcased at ArtExpo New York, one of the world’s largest fine art markets. ArtExpo has been changing the way people buy and sell art by bringing the biggest artists, collectors and publishers face to face with emerging young artists. Matter used this exhibit to not only showcase his work but to sell his large, framed prints and create new, amazing pieces. I’ve been following @JordanMatter on Instagram since I received the book, and have been inspired by every picture he has taken in the last 3 years. When he announced he was doing an exposure at ArtExpo, I was immediately tagged by a friend on his post, and asked her to go to the exhibit with me. As a result of our Instagram activity, Matter actually tagged me and offered me the opportunity to be the subject of one of his photo shoots! I was ecstatic. I felt so honored and suddenly very confident in my circus career.

Later that week, my friend and I went to the last day of exhibitions at ArtExpo. Jordan said to come at 4, so we arrived fashionably late at 5, (we got lost on the way). As soon as I introduced myself, he said, ¨Okay, so I had this idea that you would be doing something amazing on that table drinking a coffee.¨ Jordan’s brain went at a crazy pace I wasn’t prepared for. He was inspired upon seeing just a table, and immediately converted an everyday object into a contortion podium. Having no idea what pose to do, I asked for some time to warm up. Jordan sent my friend and I to an empty corner of the gallery where we freaked out from complete ecstasy. Upon meeting him, it suddenly made sense to me how his photos always ended up so flawless. Matter has an amazing eye for good shots, and pushes people to their utter limits, all with a smile on his face.

After warming up for only 5 minutes, Jordan ran over and said, ¨We have to do the shot now, someone wants to buy one of the prints.¨ They lifted me up onto a table about 4 feet tall and 2 feet in diameter.  Jordan had one of his assistants and my friend hold onto the table as I went into a bridge from standing. It took me at least thirty seconds just to get into the bridge as I felt the need to go extremely slow. I shimmied my way into a chest stand and was given an empty cup of coffee to ¨drink¨ from. Shortly after seeing a young girl standing and then contorting on a table, a crowd gathered around where we were shooting. I was amazed by how long I held this pose for. There’s a constant need for good lighting and angles with photography, so Matter stood on top of a couch just to get the best shots. He also threw two strangers into the shot with me, just casually drinking waters.

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I remember an utterly exhilarating feeling while shooting. Even though we only took two different shots, I felt like a professional. Essentially, I was performing in a different light. Instead of running an act, I was performing a pose, for the crowd of spectators. When I clumsily got off the table, Jordan ran over and showed me the pictures, I was still amazed by his ability to think up this pose on such short notice. Afterwards, Jordan pulled me over to the crowd of people surrounding his prints and introduced me as ¨the star of the show¨. Being entirely shocked by the situation, I’m pretty sure all I could say was ¨….contortion?¨ I was still in complete disbelief over what had happened with the picture and that people really wanted to talk to ME about how I started contortion. At least four different groups of spectators stopped me before I could leave and asked me how long I had been stretching, how I started, and why I wanted to shoot with Jordan. I answered as eloquently as I could’ve, and am still impressed with how I handled myself considering the situation. By now, my adrenaline was crashing. We left ArtExpo, and the whole 30 minute subway ride going back to our houses I continually said, ¨Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it¨.

I waited two days before he posted the picture, and watched as it got 1000 likes. I have never been so inspired by meeting someone for only 30 minutes.  Matter’s energy, dedication and creativity are clearly reflected in his photos, and everyone looking for serendipity should look at his prints. As for me, I’ve found a renewed sense of excitement about my future as a circus artist, and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to share circus with the world.

 – Lola
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Jordan Matter on Instagram:
Jordan Matter’s website:
Dancers Among Us website:

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