Remembering Weiferd. . . dance lover, tennis fanatic, artistic soul

From Weiferd's In Flight series

From Weiferd’s In Flight series. On display at the San Francisco Public Library:

During my dancing years in the Bay Area, I took class at the Alice Arts Center (now Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts), Shawl-Anderson in Berkeley, ODC, and Lines Ballet in San Francisco. It was after a ballet class at Lines one day in 2003 that a kooky man with a gap tooth smile introduced himself to me and told me about his work photographing dancers. Being skeptical, I didn’t take his offer to do a photo shoot seriously, but in the dressing room, a dancer I knew from class said, “Oh, I saw you talking to Weiferd, are you going to do a shoot with him?” Only then did I understand that this  stranger was actually a known person in the small Bay Area dance community. He loved dancers for their elegant yet powerful physiques, and I remember he especially liked beautiful arches—an arch fetish makes him an honorary dancer himself! Weiferd was more involved in the creative process of photo shoots than other photographers I’ve worked with. He enjoyed it so much, the same way dancers will improvise and create in the dance studio, or work with choreographers to communicate ideas and aesthetics. We would both have a grand time exploring forms in the various settings he chose—hanging from doors, contorted in holes in walls, around trees, on stairs, by graffiti, in water, and of course working in the studio. He was warm, affable, and had endless ideas for photo series. I ended up doing shoots with him in San Francisco, Marin, Livermore, and New York and considered him my photographer. Why would I work with anyone else?

Weiferd Watts, 1956-2010. You are celebrated still!

Weiferd Watts, 1956-2010. You are celebrated still!

Weiferd Watts Photography

Weiferd Watts Photography. On display at the San Francisco Public Library:

He studied photography at California College of Arts and Crafts, and, typical of many artists, had a day job as he pursued his craft. Photography was his love, and he loved photographing dancers. When he passed in 2010, I was floored. It was sudden, unexpected. When I heard the news, I put my emotions in limbo until the end of a performance and proceeded to bawl for an hour afterward.

Weiferd Watts Photography

Weiferd Watts Photography. On display at the San Francisco Public Library:

His central place in the dance community continued to foster unity among dancers and other individuals with whom he worked. Shortly after his passing, a librarian at the San Francisco Public Library’s Art, Music & Recreation Department learned of his role in the Bay Area dance community and contacted some of Weiferd’s models in order to organize an exhibit of his photography in the main library branch. A small group of us have been in contact over the past three years, contacting others and collecting the stories and images we created with him. It was wonderful to see the culminating exhibit open at the SFPL this September, and it will be on view until January 2, 2014. The architecture and layout of the 4th floor provides a beautiful space to imaginatively display Weiferd’s works. Weiferd’s joyous, color series In Flight captures dancers leaping above San Francisco rooftops, and these prints hang suspended in front of windows in the Music Room rotunda. His Bunkers series mixes grace with grit with dancers posed on ropes, iron, and concrete. Watered Down is a black and white series shot in his apartment shower. Short tribute stories are also mounted on the wall, close to a large display case. In addition, the library’s exhibition department was able to carefully enlarge digital file images and display them in a poster collection case. The exhibit opening was thoughtfully timed to coincide with Weiferd’s birthday, and when I visited the exhibit, the memories of working with him came back so easily. I even stretched when I got home! This tribute exhibit focuses on a selection of one scope of Weiferd’s work: Bay Area dancers. When I remember Weiferd, I remember an inspired life. I remember the dancing days, what he added to my life, and all that he gave back to dance community he loved.


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