Palmetto Pointe Project 2013 Calendar

The New Year is upon us, the celebratory holiday decorations are ready to be stored away for another year, and Christmas and Hanukkah gifts are now being put to good use. Except... what's that one thing you forgot?  A 2013 calendar! Once a standard and modest-looking seasonal gift from gas stations and insurance companies, visually appealing calendars for specific tastes and audiences really took off in the 70's, with a plethora of cute kitty photos, Tolkien art from the Brothers Hildebrandt, scenic landscapes, and just about any other image imaginable.  There's often a calendar on your bulletin board at work, another in the kitchen at home, possibly another in a study, playroom, workshop or garage. Local Columbia photographer Jason Ayer has now joined the mix, with the perfect gift for the ballerina or dance enthusiast in your life (even if that happens to be you.)

Ayer's calendar is the first product from his Palmetto Pointe Project; his images "explore South Carolina through the eyes, and feet, of dancers," caught on film and on site at scenic landmarks, historic venues, and locales showcasing our state's natural beauty. Ayer is a long-time friend of Jasper, having done countless photo shoots and publicity images for the USC Dance Program, as well as for the Coquettes, and the Cheerleading, Equestrian and Cross Country teams. (His show last year at Cool Beans was profiled here.) His interest in dance goes all the way back to the late 80's, when, full disclosure, he and I were roommates, and did shows together at Town Theatre, including musicals like 42nd St., Gypsy and My Fair Lady.  Vaguely suggested by NYC's "Ballerina Project" (to which Ayer was introduced by ballerina Kathryn Miles) the Palmetto Pointe Project takes Columbia dancers out of the studio and into striking locations that complement the creativity of both model and photographer. Each dancer collaborates with Ayer on the mood and theme of the image, with the individual performer's personality influencing much of the look and feel.  The dancers also share in the profits of any images sold in which they appear.

Ayer notes that the calendar's dimensions are 8.5"x 11", and that the individual images are "clean" artwork, so "at the end of the year, you can take it apart and have 13 pieces of artwork for your wall!"  Calendars are available at S&S Art Supply on Main Street, and online. More images and info about future projects can be found at the Palmetto Pointe Project Facebook Page.

~ August Krickel




Palmetto Pointe Project - Guest Blog

Local photographer captures spirit of ballet dancers amid Columbia’s landscape By Rebecca Krumel

(Special to What Jasper Said)

Jason Ayer is a Columbia native and creator of the Palmetto Pointe Project which will be highlighted starting this Friday at Cool Beans Coffee Shop on College Street through  October 30.  His unique and captivating photography collection showcases local dancers in unconventional settings far from the confines of the dance studio.

When asked why he chose to photograph dancers, he laughs and says, “Taking pictures of beautiful women is never a bad thing!” But, the father of two added jokingly, “If I were twenty years younger I’d do it for the women; now I do it for the art.”

Ayer’s interest in photographing dancers began as a high school student in Charleston. He did technical work for the Youth Company in Charleston, and moved back to Columbia in the 1980’s and tried his hand in theatre by performing dance and musical roles at Workshop Theater for a decade. “I did a little bit of everything--singing, dancing, and acting.” Now, Ayer is the photographer for the USC Dance Program as well as the Coquettes.

At first glance, the Palmetto Pointe Project is reminiscent of New York’s Ballerina Project which has received widespread recognition from the Wall Street Journal to the Australian ballet blog Behind Ballet. Quite popular on Facebook, The Ballerina Project is inspiring photographers nationwide, although Ayer says his aim is not to mimic the successful venture which focuses on photographing dancers amid elaborate cityscape. His artistic vision spotlights the dancer rather than the setting. “In The Ballerina Project, the landscape often overpowers the dancer,” he says. Ayer prefers to match the setting to the dancer by drawing out their personality in each image, or for a more bold approach, taking them out of their element. Ayers’ process for a  typical photo shoot involves meeting with the dancer at a location in the Columbia area, and then focusing his lens as her inner creative spirit is revealed through choreography and movement.

Ayer seeks to get the dancers involved in the creative process as much as possible. “What ends up on the canvas relies on them.” He says dance photography is about capturing the personality of the dancer, and oftentimes this is achieved by placing them in settings that may contradict their personality or challenge their creativity. Not only do the dancers drive the photo shoot with their artistry, they are given the final say on all the photographs. Ayers will not display an image that the dancer has not previously approved. “If the dancer doesn’t like it then I’m not going to use it.” The dancer also shares in the profits of any images sold in which they appear.

Ayer and his ballerina subjects are making something unique to Columbia. His photographs are site-specific and therefore nostalgic for Columbians. Palmetto Pointe Project is uniquely South Carolinian and true to the artistic setting and lives of the dancers it portrays. His slogan is, “See some familiar and not-so-familiar places in Columbia through the eyes of a dancer.” While he seeks out niches of Columbia for his backdrops, the dancers are central to the art. Each image is named for the dancer and not the place. Most of his subjects are performers with the USC Dance Company, but Ayers is interested in expanding the project to include other local dance companies as well.

Goals for the project include a website (already underway), a  calendar, and you can check out Palmetto Pointe Project on Facebook now. Friday’s opening will offer the public a chance to meet Ayers, purchase his prints, and meet the dancers featured in his new photographic works.