Dec 6, 2010

plastic flowers

all year my sisters have been practicing for a dance concert. the day came, they rehearsed, the night came, they performed to a crowd of one-thousand. i disagree with a lot of what happens in these suburban dance studios. the make-up, the americana-drenched dance routines (what are we, the united states of ameristralia?), the 5 year olds in skimpy outfits performing to kesha's 'tik tok'. 
but the most frightening thing was the 1000 strong crowd of parents, bright-eyed and smiling, happily clapping along to the sound and sight of their children losing their childhood. you see a crowd this large, happy in their mindlessness, and wonder: how the hell do i change something like this?

By matt caplin with 61 comments


Oh matt...this is...I don't know... I feel strange about this post. The pictures are as always something pure beauty! I love them very much! the first one is something special, Ashlyn is really gorgeous! But then I read your words...they make me feel sad. I agree with you, i don't like when child behave like adults. There is something not-natural in such behaviour. The make up, the dance, the dressing....All people has the feeling of growing up so fast!!!!!! Why??
Anyway I really love this post! You are pure inspiration.

Oh, Matt! Your sisters are so beautiful!

Although, their beauty would not be stressed as much in these photographs without your talent.

You're amazing. Never stop.

I'm sorry, but I disagree. As a dancer from ages three 'til thirteen, I never felt more alive and myself than I did while practicing and, most especially, up on that stage.

It wasn't about becoming an adult - it was about becoming a dancer. Something that epitomizes grace, expression of self, and above all, confidence. I'm sorry that your experiences with these studios have been bad, but I found a vast amount of my childhood confidence came from this particular activity. We didn't care about the costumes, make-up, or even the lyrical content of the song. It was about coordinating our movements to a particular beat and feeling the energy and excitement that came of it. There is nothing more thrilling than perfectly executing a difficult movement, in time, with a large group of people.

It saddens me that you think something which a lot of girls love doing is disgusting. It's not as though these girls will then go on to wear stage make-up in their daily lives, or begin whoring themselves out.. if you have an issue with what they're doing, maybe suggest to your mother that your sister should go to a more wholesome dance studio.

And, just for clarification: the heavy make-up is the only kind of make-up able to be seen on a performer considering the distance between them and the audience. Getting your make-up done for a concert is a once-a-year event which we didn't even look forward to, and if anything, made me hate make-up so much that I don't wear it unless performing. I'm sure the same could be said for other dancers. Looking polished and dolled-up is literally a tradition in most disciplines of dance.

Skimpy, tight clothing is the easiest to dance in - even with full-coverage, a lycra bodysuit would be revealing - but seriously: try to do a battement tendu wearing pants and get back to me..

Funnily enough, I recently took up dance again as a means by which to regain my childlike innocence during a particularly rough period of my life. Go figure.

I agree wholeheartedly. However, the dance studio that my sisters are at, and the majority of dance studios that I have been exposed to, aren't wholesome. They don't promote any of the beauty of dance I know. I think dance and I think of Nureyev, and 'The Red Shoes'. I think of something that has had real thought and emotion put into it, something that evokes real thought and emotion. I don't think it is wrong to want to promote this. I do think it is wrong to promote crump-style dancing, to promote gaudy displays of flesh and unconsciously lascivious movements of said flesh. Sorry for appearing to attack all dance, if I did - that definitely wasn't my intention.

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You'll probably already know but Zed Nelson did a project that kind of draws on these issues, young girls growing up to fast, beauty, plastic surgery etc etc. You should check it out, it might interest you :)

I feel your photos show what you are trying to say aswell.


hey Matt
I totally agree with you. Your post reminded me of Little Miss Sunshine. I live in France and we dont have shows for children like these here and every time I see children wearing tons of make-up disgusted by their parent's behaviour. Nevertheless the pictures turned out extremely beautiful. Would you tell me what lenses you used?

you wrote exactly what i'm thinking about that. thanks a lot!

I love this post. Your so right!
(Do yu know the film "Little Miss sunshine", it`s a comedien film, but about this topic..

My level of respect for you just went up by a billion, and I'm American.


Leah F

that first picture says everything. keeping posting matt. i love you so much.

Very interesting subject. And I think our take on it all depends on how we relate to the subject in general.

While I don't have a daughter who is into dance like that my 12 year old is a very competitive soccer player. In her case the motivation and desire all come from her, yet there are those who pooh pooh child sports wringing their hands over the terrible soccer parents.

To be sure there are some of "those", but most I've encountered are just trying to give their kids a chance to really pursue something they enjoy.

So maybe it's the same way with these girls learning to be dancers. I'm sure some are pushing their daughters to grow up too fast, but I'll bet more are just looking to give their girls a fun experience.

One last thought. Jet Li in the movie Hero said something about it is through competition that we really learn about ourselves. If we teach our kids how to approach it this way they learn important lessons that help them thrive and grow. If we tell them the competition itself is the most important thing we teach them the wrong thing.

You didn't need any words to convey your feelings on the matter. Your photos do all of it for you. Lovely work.

the third photo is brilliant. a perfect image for your words, clawed witchy fingers dragging the child from a young girls face.

oh thank goodness you think that too! i saw these photos and was quite horrified to be honest, as i usually am, when I see these young kids getting drenched with make up... and I didn't know if I would have been able to hold off saying something!
At the newspaper I work for I often have to go to these eistedfodds and take pictures of the kids doing their dances and I feel a little sick watching them walking around like (this sounds horrible) but they look like little mini strippers!
Oh, and I hear that out the back of these competitions things get so so bitchy, I don't know why anyone would want to put their child through it.

You're amazing. Really, really amazing.

Wow. That is interesting Matt. As I scrolled down the photos, I was a bit uncomfortable, thinking the exact same words you wrote at the end of this post. Even the words are somehow not your normal, dreamy self. They are so serious! But wow, I'm with you on that one.
Your sisters, however, do look gorgeous in the photos. But then, even in previous photos of yours and nirrimi's, they do still look gorgeous. Perhaps it's just your photography. . . .

I disagree.

If they wanna dance,let them dance,as long as they are happy.

your sister looks gorgeous in these photos,shes wearing ballet shoes,a violet dress,a crown and pink make up...what could be less childhood?

I like to remember my dancing days,makes me feel alive

I love the little comment you've left at the end of it. It reminds me of the film 'Little Miss Sunshine'. How the little girl sees other girls and craves to be like them, and at the end of the film they all learn a valuble lesson. Your photography is amazing by the way.

it's kind of disturbing, children with make-up and stuff. if I could choose, I'd never grow up myself so maybe that's why it seems wrong?

your sisters are beautiful but, and your photographs honest and stunning.

Wow. It's amazing how you think -I have never really thought of this before.

And your photographs are lovely and honest. Awesome. :)

Check out Colby Katz. One of the images is of a 3 month old baby. Guaranteed to freak one out.

It's not dance itself, or performance, or the makeup, or necessarily the costume material that I have a problem with. It's the inappropriate selection of music/lyrics and routine that makes me uncomfortable!

I agree with the above poster who speaks about her personal experience as I had a similar one myself...

Beautiful images if a somewhat onesided experience/expression...

nice to read that text, i was looking at the pictures first and thought the exact same thing, from my own thoughts and also somehow I could sense that you were critiquing it as well, good work. X

completely agree. it is sad to see these young children loose the beauty of their childhood, and watch the parents support it.

nothing is ever just as it appears, or as it feels. who we are is based on what we have experienced, what we have been exposed to. if these children were being exposed to a passionate dance teacher who teaches proper self-expression via dance, not just one-two-shake-your-booty and remember where to step, the outcome would be different. but they aren't. they are learning a dumbed down version of dance. they are becoming comfortable with flaunting their bodies in gaudy outfits. a lot of of what they are being taught is being taught for the wrong reasons. because of the comments their parents and teachers make, these girls are being brought up under the impression that make-up is to make them prettier, to fix some otherwise unfixable flaw. i know not all dance is like this, i know not all dance schools are like this, but i also know that a lot of dance schools are, and therefore a lot of dance and dancers are becoming these plastic little things. what i have seen reeks of image-based artificial behaviour, and it isn't right. these schools teach a soulless dance.

I could not agree with you more. Kesha, really? Surely the dance studio could have taken the elements they were looking for in that song and found them in something, well, BETTER.
Is it your sister that you've recently posted on your flickr page? There is a black and white photo of a girl with beautiful freckles, and I may be mistaken but I think it's the same girl with the lipstick being drawn on here. She is breathtaking, all the more so without makeup on.

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I love the way you captured this, matt. Regardless of how anyone feels about the setting, you photograph[ed]your sisters with love and it shows. Beautiful.

totally agree.. that makes me sad too.. seems we all want our kids to grow up to early...

beautiful pictures as usual btw

I disagree with Hazel.
"I was a little mortified by what was being represented in the photos at first, but once I saw your words I was vastly relieved."

I don't believe that your words are required in this editorial piece on your views about this particular situation. I think the heads bowed and the slightly unconfortable smiles say everything they could.

I think i agree with you on this one, it makes me sad watching children get makeup put on them. Nevertheless however your shots are stunning.

brave sisters, awsome pictures. xoxo

Love your blog!
if you like mine, follow me :


I like your blog, it´s inspiring! Congrats

im glad i came about your blog and pictures. they are inspiring, thought provoking, beautiful and mysterious.

first pic - just amazing ♥

Oh my god! These photos are amazing! Your sisters face is just increadible. I'm a new reader and so into photographing and interested to know what kind of camera (and objektive) you use? amazing job! can't find the words for these pictures.

by taking these mind-boggling photographs, of course

hey great work,your blog is in my blogroll ->

Your photos are really wonderful and full of feeling. Compliments!
If you like, take a tour to see my ...

these are so beautiful and yet also so haunting and disturbing - i agree with you on the issue..

Ellen at The Raven and the Cellar Door

I love the pictures.. but mm.. idk.. kids should be kids. no make up.. no kesha? oh gosh.. it's sad how people let this happen. They look so young and they are turning these little girls into teenagers. Wrong..

I think dance is great, but I don't think Keisha for 5 year old children is. What happened to classical dance? Ballroom? And I whole heartedly disagree with children wearing make-up and having hair pieces. People blame the fashion industry but then I see things like this and wonder who's to blame. Parents need to let their kids be kids.

I couldn't have said it better myself.
I agree one hundred percent.
And i LOVE your photos.

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These are lovely pictures Matt. The editing and your sister are beautiful. What you wrote really made me think just how the younger generation mature too quickly, blame the corporate first world countries. Your comment above is really great to read. We all each have our opinions specially on this kind of matter, I do respect yours and the others who commented too.

Regarding you and Nirrimi, both of you have such great talent. Different approach on photography but the story behind each photo you each take makes me feel your passion and how truly committed you both are into photography.

I do hope my irregular photographing will evolve into something like yours.

Continue on your wonderful lives...

As a dancer, I feel excitement, always have and always will when I'm up on stage dancing my heart out. I'm not as smart and rather to tired to write a long winded disagreement against you so I will say this, I think your photos are lovely but I am with "Not for me".

"It was about coordinating our movements to a particular beat and feeling the energy and excitement that came of it." And like the user, I never felt more alive than I did while practicing, even now, though I'm into photography, I would probably give anything to go back into dance, hip-hop, ballet, jazz, tahitian, hula. But especially hip-hop. I LOVED to dance, just for the sake of dancing my heart out.

And out of all those who agree with you. Which one of those people were dancers/are dancers and love to dance?

I am not a soldier - is my opinion on war therefore wrong?

I love these photos. They are adorable. And I completely agree with you about children behaving like little adults. It's not right. Reminds me of that show I despise so much on TLC. The parents baffle me the most.

I also just went to a dance competition like this - such a different experience!

"...the united states of ameristralia."

Agreed! I get sick of leaving the US and seeing America everywhere I go :-p

hey matt, love your work
check out and (kids free to be kids).
these are both great sites working for our kids. they need a courageous man like you who sees this issue for what it is
bless you

Matt I keep coming back to these ones, you've really tapped into something with them. They are really disturbing in a lot of ways, the viewer gets the sense that you are uncomfortable around all this razzle dazzle and it gives the images a voyueristic quality which is actually very beautiful and sad. Have you taken anymore photos of the girls dancing since? Because you've captured something so special with these and if you have the time and inclination to keep going with them you could create a very powerful series. I hope you don't mind if I re-blog them and I also hope you get a chance to check out Lauren Greenfeilds work ( if you haven't already)

I like reading the things you have to say, I honestly do. You are a smart person with an insight on life that not many people have. I feel refreshed after reading your blog, like somethings sparked inside me that the world is just not a one track road on autopiolet. For that, I thank you.

I was, or am, Iro.

I realize that my response is beyond years late, or will be beyond years late. A year and a few months... all the same.

Anyway, I agree with your post, even though you aren't a soldier, you are definitely allowed to have an opinion about war and really, whatever else you'd like to have an opinion on, but, because you aren't a soldier, or literally, a dancer (who loves to dance) in this case, there are things you haven't experienced and perhaps never will. Not that it's a bad thing, of course.

We all hold opinions and I'm glad, for most 1st world countries, we are allowed to voice them, understanding everybody's side of the story is interesting indeed.

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