Joachim Giesel worked for 20 years at the Niedersächsisches Staatstheater as a stage photographer for opera, theatre and ballet. Because of his enthusiasm for ballet, Giesel created independent portraits of dancers beyond the scope of his permanent position. “Fascination grips me when I photograph at ballet rehearsals. […] I’m impressed by their discipline, the hard, physical training work and the harmony of soloists with the group” (Giesel 1989, S. 2). Between 1988 and 1989 over 50 photographs were taken, a selection of which resulted in the publication Dancer Portraits. The work was shown for the first time at the exhibition of the same name at the Theater Museum in Hanover. Giesel’s intention of this work was to show the “differences, which may not be visible on stage for the visitors, in the form of self-portraits of the dancers” (Giesel 1989, S. 2). In his portraits of dancers, the high-performance athletes appear self-confident with great feeling and intense expression.
In Joachim Giesel’s studio a ballet barre was set up and the dancers were positioned in front of a simple tarp in the background. The photographer used a Hasselblad and a Plaubel studio camera. Giesel created a special wiping technique at the edges with a home-applied developer, sponge, and dish brush that picked up the movements of the dance.
The long-exposure photographs of Sonia Santiago capture the overlapping dance movements in a rapturous shot.
Probe + Konzert (Rehearsal + Concert) in 1970 was Giesel’s first solo exhibition. In 1973, the Pub Gallery presented the solo exhibition Intermezzo, in which Giesel aesthetically staged the contrasts between a martial artist and a dancer. At the 1983 triennial Le théâtre dans l’art photographie in Novi Sad, he won first prize with Fundus, photographs of the opera’s prop and stage stores. In 1992, Giesel became European Portrait Photographer of the Year with his photograph of pantomime artist Jean Soubeyran and won the Kodak European Gold Award. In 1997, Giesel had the honor of designing the Ilford calendar, distributed worldwide, with an edition of 100,000. The 12 calendar pages feature female ballerinas photographed in various poses and interiors. Giesel joined prominent company: four years earlier, it was Peter Lindbergh whom Ilford chose for their calendar.
In 2006, four works from the series “Dancer Portraits” were included to the collection of the Sprengel Museum in Hanover.