Celebration of Portland through Fuse - Portland Dance Project

Photographer Jingzi Zhao uses the industrial landscape of the Rebuilding Center store for her FUSE – Portland Dance Portrait project. By photographing dancers in Portland landmarks, Jingzi turns these everyday spaces into something extraordinary. Jingzi collaborated with dancers Jenae Gerstmann and Dominic Eason from Meraki Duo Acrobatics to pose in the Rebuilding Center store. We asked Jingzi some questions about her work and how she decided to feature the Rebuilding Center in Fuse. 

Jenae Gerstmann and Dominic Eason at Meraki Duo Acrobatics

Jenae Gerstmann and Dominic Eason at Meraki Duo Acrobatics

What drives you to create art?

This is a million dollar question. Simply put, the desire to express ideas and tell stories is what motivates me. 

Xena Isabella Rosas Güitròn at Polaris Dance Theater

Xena Isabella Rosas Güitròn at Polaris Dance Theater

What do you love about Portland?

It wasn't love at first sight when I moved here 11 years ago. It took me a while to start to appreciate what the city has to offer. I love the outdoors, the eco-friendly lifestyle, the vibrant art scenes, and the open-mindedness of people.  Portland still fascinates me, after all these years. You can be whoever you want to be and there isn't much expectation on how one should behave or achieve, except that one should recycle and compost.

Xuan Cheng at Oregon Ballet Theater

Xuan Cheng at Oregon Ballet Theater

Why did you decide to work with dance performers?

I love dance and my work has been shifting more towards dance photography these years. Dancers are story-tellers. They evoke feelings and create dramas with their body and movement. That's the effect I wanted for the Fuse project: a dramatized version of everyday moment.  

Emily Running at Dance Wire

Emily Running at Dance Wire

What are some of the most memorable places in Portland you've photographed at? Do you have any stories about particular sites, dancers, and people interacting with your work?

They are all memorable to me. All the places we photographed at are places that people frequent, like the Rose Garden, Forest Park, a coffee shop, a brewery pub, and a vintage store. It's everyday landscape. What's special is the collaborative and creative process that the dancers and I went through at each place, figuring out ways to infuse drama and humor while evoking place. 

I think the beauty of the Fuse project is it takes dancers off the stage of theaters and puts them on the playground of everyday life where they are more accessible and connected to people. When I photographed Jenae and Dominic in the ReBuilding Center, a guy approached them during our shoot and asked for their information looking for performers for his New Year’s Eve performance. He happened to be shopping in the store and saw Jenae and Dominic in action. 

Jenae Gerstmann and Dominic Eason at Meraki Duo Acrobatics

Jenae Gerstmann and Dominic Eason at Meraki Duo Acrobatics

Why did you want to photograph at the ReBuilding Center?

This project is to create works that showcase the city and our lifestyle. The Rebuilding Center is the perfect type of local business that embodies the environmentally conscious nature of Portland. People come here to find new use of old materials. Given that Portland has been experiencing a surge in development, it is more important than ever to encourage people to recycle and reuse. Besides, as a photographer, I found the store space visually stimulating.  It's like some sort of wonderland. I had always wanted to photograph here.    

What was your favorite part about your experience at the ReBuilding Center?

People. For the shoot I visited the ReBuilding Center four times within two weeks. Every single person I met was so nice and supportive. Some went out of their way to help us on the shoot. I also appreciate the open-mindedness of the management that allowed us to photograph on a busy weekend. Without your support we wouldn't have been able to pull it off.

Jenae Gerstmann and Dominic Eason at Meraki Duo Acrobatics

Jenae Gerstmann and Dominic Eason at Meraki Duo Acrobatics

Why does community matter to you?

We are all connected. The more we are aware of what's going on around us, available to us, the better we are able to make use of the resources and have a higher chance to succeed. I hope this Fuse - Portland Dance Portrait project helps connect people and communities, enhance the awareness of and appreciation for our performing artists, local businesses and the core values that make us proud of being Portlandians. 

You can contact Jingzi Zhao and learn more about Fuse at http://www.jingziphotography.com