“Honestly, I get nervous every time I perform” Manny Naylor told me during a recent e-mail exchange.
I was tasked with photographing Manny a few months back for a story in Spree Magazine – part of a series of profiles on Buffalo’s most beautiful and fascinating people. Manny is the Associate Director of Buffalo’s LehrerDance company, an extensively touring dance troupe that has received great reviews over the past six years for their original and athletic choreography.
Even the greats get nervous – Ringo Starr pukes before shows and even Frank Sinatra once told Tony Bennett that being nervous just meant you cared about what you were doing. The more I photograph performers and artists, the more I’ve found that the nervousness Manny talked about in our e-mails is pretty universal – and for many its just part of their creative process, an element of themselves that pushes them to be better at what they do (I bet that a lot of fellow creatives out there know this feeling all too well!)
A native of Maryland, Manny has been a life-long dancer – from his start in his grandmother’s studio at the age of four and through his tenure dancing at Elon University. Manny and company founder Jon Lehrer were brought together by coincidence and synchronicity around he time of the company’s founding in 2007 – Manny was in Western New York performing in a production of Aida when a cast member invited him along to a preview performance of one of LehrerDance’s early previews and ultimately introduced him to Jon. An audition followed shortly afterwards and just two weeks later Manny moved to Buffalo where he found himself an integral part of the company he has been with since – both as a dancer and administrator responsible for a lot of the day-to-day operations and touring logistics for LehrerDance.
I was in Seattle for a few days when I first received the info from the magazine’s creative director Chastity Taber about my shoot with Manny, so I had some time to think about the approach to this image before I returned to Buffalo. It was important to me that this story be about Manny as a personality and about how he came to Buffalo, and less about the raw physicality of his dance – and in that regard ultimately it was this simple and placid black & white portrait that really worked both for me and the photo editor of the magazine.
You can see Manny in action in this excerpt from one of LehrerDance’s performances: