As the go-to photographer for the non-profit arts sector, J.J. Tiziou perhaps has seen more of Philadelphia’s cultural offerings than anybody else.For the last few years he has been working on a dance project called “How Philly Moves.” About every six months, at sites around the city, he holds an open session for anybody – professionals and amateurs, wallflowers and extroverts – to come do what the spirit moves them to do.
“When we started this project I was surprised that Philadelphia has a traditional Aztec dance company,” said Tiziou, who was further surprised to learn “we have at least four of them.”His mantra: “Everyone is photogenic.”
His challenge: Prove it.
His method: Create an environment where a person feels enough at ease to be joyful; therein lies beauty.
“It’s not the technical – pushing buttons, shutter speeds and apertures,” he says. “It is just making people comfortable. And that is really hard sometimes.”Tiziou began “How Philly Moves” with no end result in mind. After amassing thousand of photographs, he shopped the idea to SEPTA as a public art project, but was rejected.
The Mural Arts Project then picked up the concept for its largest mural to date. Tiziou’s portraits of people in motion are now plastered in gigantic proportions on the side of several parking garages at the Philadelphia International Airport.Hundreds of dancers have attended his sessions, resulting in tens of thousands of images. The more dance sessions he hosts (and he’s still doing it, even though the mural is done), the more pictures keep piling up. Because they are digital images, they can be given away with the click of a mouse – a professional photographer’s nightmare.”I want to make an image of this because it is important to me and to share those images with their community directly, but that is not a sustainable business model,” he says.
But the Web changes things every day. Tiziou raised money for the project through Kickstarter, a Web site that allows people to pitch ideas and request support to a huge Web audience:
“I was successful earning a pile of money to continue this project through appealing to my community.”
His result: digital karma.