Ink Blot Inspired Photos Explore Color and Movement with Ballet Dancers and Powder


When photographer Jana Cruder was commissioned to photograph the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, she jumped at the opportunity to do something different — something she felt would better express “the emotion and art of movement” that she witnessed when she saw them perform.

That something turned out to be copious amounts of colored corn starch.

The experiment was initially inspired by a performance of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet that she had asked to see before the shoot. “As an artist it is important to see what the dancers are capable of and how they move,” she told us over email. “I knew that would inspire so many ideas for me.”

And that it did. After seeing them ply their art, she says she was “moved by how these young artists expressed themselves and how sound and color shaped my emotion.” She was immediately inspired to orchestrate a photo shoot during which she would “paint with color while they painted with the motion of their bodies in beautiful unison.”


The transformation from general idea into concrete photo shoot was helped along by Art Director Matthew Minidis, who initially suggested that they explore the idea of Rorschach inkblots.

Matthew suggested exploring the Rorschach inkblots and the concept was born.

Researching the ink blots, I set out to emulate and re-create the beautiful exploration in symmetry only with human form and color. My self and the dancers executed several symmetrical ink blot inspired pieces and then we collaboratively allowed our imagination to flow.

Here’s a look at the beautiful results:














Of course, it wasn’t all corn starch rainbows, there were challenges as well. “Shooting with the powder proved to be a challenging mess as well as technically trying,” she explains on her blog.

Both timing the movements with the falling powder and cleaning the then darned stuff out of her equipment ended up causing some headaches, but headaches that, in the end, were well worth it.

To see more of the series, or any of Cruder’s other work, be sure to visit her website and blog, or follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

(via Laughing Squid)

Image credits: Photographs by Jana Cruder and used with permission

  • e_stone

    Not sure how this is “something different” this is a pretty big trend these days. There are even two more articles of people doing the same thing in the “similar stories” section…

    DigitalRev even did a video on how to make these shots a while back. Decent pictures, but calling this concept original is a bit of a joke.

  • Banan Tarr

    Cool concept. Not a huge fan of the lighting here tho.

  • OtterMatt

    Wow, that dude in #7 is Hasselhoffing it big time. I feel inferior…

  • Kyle Blunt

    Why are people so critical and negative?! Awesome shots! If the photog is reading this, ignore the pathetic community.

  • Banan Tarr

    It’s pathetic to offer feedback? I’d be glad for anyone here to criticize my own work, even if it’s mostly negative. Always trying to improve and I’ll take whatever feedback I can get. I’m not going to be sad if someone doesn’t like my stuff and I certainly won’t call an entire community “pathetic” for it.

  • Kyle Blunt

    Feedback as in opinions? We all know that feedback is an opinion, its not the most useful of things. If it was from a well known pro then maybe. But they are not. I don’t care what people think of my photos either as I obviously have people that do like them. Its all about personal opinions. Always has, always will. Photography is no longer creative, its always constant critique. That is the sad part.

  • Banan Tarr

    You seem jaded by something. This is a photography blog. Visited by photographers. With a comments section. Why even have a comments section if it’s just going to be pats on the back and no honest feedback?

    And you know I wouldn’t really put much stock in “well known pro” feedback. I know many extremely talented photogs who aren’t well known pros and who have work that is far more inspiring than the “well known pro” who has the time and money to promote themselves to the levels of “well known” and “pro”.

  • Kyle Blunt

    For the record, I never actually quoted anyone in my original comment but you assume it was aimed at you I am guessing. What you posted was an opinion, not feedback anyway. So that argument is out of the window. There is a huge difference between “Not a huge fan of the lighting here tho.” and constructive and helpful critiques. Also “well known pros” doesn’t mean a YouTube star with millions at all. Well known can easily mean in your area, yet you assume I meant famous ones. But hey, my comment that was never aimed at you can start a small argument. This the problem! So much anger over nothing.

  • Manuel Cordero

    The thing is that: Compositionally-wise, this photos are not very good. Lighting-wise, quite bad actually. the poses are very good but there are also some very bad poses, so, yeah. Show me something different, or something worth watching and the community wil give good feedback! There you have it.

  • Banan Tarr

    Fair enough – I could have been more specific. In the first shot, for example, the lighting is fairly unflattering to the dancers, especially the women, and I would’ve used another strobe with a softbox or a bounce flash to fill in some of that.

  • Dan

    Does anybody know where to buy this powder? I’ve looked, and it’s difficult to find a place to buy it without buying like 1000 packets in bulk. I have found recipes for it online using corn starch or flour, but I’m lazy and the at-home solutions don’t seem as vibrant.

  • Dan

    I think maybe he’s referring to the the comments that are basically “YAWN, so unoriginal.” Like, as a photographer, how am I supposed to work with that? lol

    I do think some feedback is good whether it’s people talking about the technique or possibly a disconnect between what I’m trying to do with a project and the response I’m actually getting.

  • Michael Brinkerhoff

    I always enjoy these kind of shoots, but I certainly do not want to be on the clean up team. I hear the dye is really hard to wash out.

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  • Mr Hogwallop

    I like the shots with one or two figures in them, the poofs of dust have nice shapes and colors. The group shots IMO aren’t as strong as they need a lot more dust to fill up the frame. Quite a few dust clouds blocking faces. There’s a lot of “stuff going on” with all the jumping, and arms outstretched and the dust, all a bit out of control and not in a good way. Some backlight would’ve brought in more depth and 3D shape…

  • Oskarkar

    kitschy, kitschy, kitschy

  • e_stone

    The reason people are being critical of this being so unoriginal is because the article is trying to sell this as an innovative new idea. It starts out “When photographer Jana Cruder was commissioned to photograph the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, she jumped at the opportunity to do something different.” and then the artist gives us this story on how this totally different concept came to be.

    The truth of the matter is, this idea is somewhat of a trend (dare I even say cliche) right now. Ever since color runs became popular a few years ago images like these have spread like wildfire. There are even tons of youtube videos, including one from DigitalRev showing how to create these types of images, plus multiple examples of this very concept already on this site.

    There is nothing wrong with experimenting with trends or even cliches, we all do it. But how you present your work is just as important as how your create it. If you were inspired or motivated by a current trend and did a study in the style, that’s fine but say it how it is. But if you try to bullsh!t the creative community by showing us something common and trying to pretend it was the result purely of your own genius and imagination, both your work and yourself as an artist loses all credibility.

  • OtterMatt

    I’d bet anything they just had to use the available stage lighting. Good for audiences, not great for photography.