Dr. Malcolm Levinkind proves that interests don’t stop at the helm of one’s profession. In addition to his day-job as a pediatric dentist, Dr. Levinkind is also known for his work as a renowned ballet photographer. His creative outlet requires a similar attention to detail, bridging the gap between the world of ballet and dentistry.
Levinkind fell into photographing ballet by chance while speaking with a friend, “He said, you’re interested in photography. Would you consider ballet photography?” Levinkind recalls. “One of the top ballet photographers is running a shoot and one of the photographers dropped out. Are you interested?” As the story goes, he took the job.
The location was set in a theatre in northern Rome, where he met a ballerina, a choreographer and another photographer. The ballerina danced and he started taking photos as instructed.
“What I noticed is that taking photos of ballerinas was similar to taking photos of the Aurora Borealis or the northern lights. However, the low levels of that type of light require a long exposure. For a ballerina, it must be a shorter exposure in order to capture the small movements,” he shared.
They thought his work was impressive and he was then given the exclusive ballet qualification of ballet paparazzo. Three months later, he was invited to take photos at a more official ballet performance. “I didn’t expect to be invited to photograph high-end ballet so quickly, I was lucky that they liked my pictures.”
He also shares that when it comes to ballet photography, dancers dance in time to the music. It’s important to know when you push the button and when the exposure will be made. Timing is crucial, since dancers don’t jump to every beat.
“If it’s classical it’s every fourth beat, if it’s nearly classical it’s every third beat. Because the shutter speed has to be short and the aperture has to be wide, there is only the sensitivity of the shutter that can be adjusted based on what I’m capturing on stage,” Levinkind explains.
For Levinkind, ballet has a unique relationship with dentistry. “Dentistry is not just about the mechanics of restoring broken teeth or sorting out the positions of teeth. It can actually be very artistic because you have to produce something that not only works well, but also looks good,” he said.
“Dentists are very visual. We are constantly taking images whether it’s with digital cameras, scanning or through x-rays,” Levinkind says. For those interested in developing creative images outside of what’s required in a clinical capacity, he recommends exploring photography online and taking courses.
“It’s not all about the equipment, it’s about getting out there and doing it,” he asserts.
Levinkind says there’s no need to buy the most expensive equipment. “As a dentist there’s this feeling that you have to buy the best equipment to get the best results, but it’s not always necessary. It’s like saying to a chef ‘you’ve got to have a great kitchen,’ but it’s not the kitchen, it’s the work of the chef.”