Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Veteran performance-art photographer Cylla von Tiedemann.Gerald Vincent

“What I’ve done throughout my career is to capture points in movements,” says the veteran performance-art photographer Cylla von Tiedemann. “It seems so easy, but it takes incredible focus and quick decisions to realize where to stand and what to photograph.”

Since emigrating from Germany in the early 1980s, the Toronto-based von Tiedemann has become one of the most sought-after dance photographers in Canada. For The Globe and Mail, she describes her career, using the photographs of which she’s most proud.

Claudia Moore, 1985: In the beginning, I photographed in a controlled situation. In the studio, I developed my style, which was black and white, working very much in my light. I was taking workshops and looking at a lot of classic photographers. This photograph of Claudia Moore was the first photograph which I was happy with. I saw something in it I knew was speaking my language.

Open this photo in gallery:

Claudia by Cylla von Tiedemann

Zelma Badu-Younge, 1996: Zelma is a stunning dancer. We did not have much room, but she exploded in all directions in order to define the frame and the restrictions of the studio. The energy and the emotion and commitment and the absolute talent of her, it’s not easy to do that – to be so horizontal and so open and so free.

Open this photo in gallery:

Zelma Badu-Younge, Toronto.Cylla von Tiedemann

Toronto Dance Theatre, 2003: My talent, I think, is knowing how the production moves on stage and to bring that back in the studio. I like this picture. It looks to me like a night sky when all the planets are moving around. There’s an unpredictability, and yet there is an order.

Open this photo in gallery:

Toronto Dance Theatre.Cylla von Tiedemann

Peter Chin, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, 2009: After doing studio work for a decade, I realized I was much more interested in the collaboration between the dancer and the choreographer. I did set design and video and photography. So, out of the studio and into nature. I love this picture of Peter Chin, at a temple in Cambodia, because of the energy. It’s not a picture at rest. It’s one that needs to move on. Nothing is still in life, so nothing can be still in a photograph.

Open this photo in gallery:

Peter Chin, Angkor Wat, Cambodia.Cylla von Tiedemann

Guys and Dolls, Stratford Festival, 2017: This is a production by choreographer Donna Feore. She knows exactly how to get the best out of her dancers, which is what I’ve always tried to do when I have control of the dancers in my studio. I know there’s something to push. They have something more, and I try to get there.

Open this photo in gallery:

Members of the company in Guys and Dolls.Cylla von Tiedemann

Know of an unsung arts and culture hero who deserves wider acclaim? Send suggestions to

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe