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An Intimate Look at an American Icon

In the forthcoming book Misty Copeland, a celebrity photographer sheds light on a celebrated ballerina

Photographer Gregg Delman, who’s captured everyone from Oscar Isaac to Katy Perry, is no stranger to the strictures of time and concept that often dictate celebrity portraiture. But when he first shot Misty Copeland in 2011, it felt different—even transformative. “There was no set concept,” Delman says. “I wanted her to have the freedom to move wherever and however she wished. It allowed us both to create more subconsciously.”

Gregg Delman’s “Misty Copeland” follows the American Ballet Theatre’s first African-American female principal dancer over the course of five years.

This was so true, in fact, that over the course of their next five years and seven shoots, Copeland herself was surprised by what she saw mirrored back to her. “I am always aware of how I appear while I’m dancing,” she says. “It’s a big part of a dancer’s responsibility, and what separates us from athletes. But it’s interesting because the first photo Gregg ever took of me, I was shocked by how soft I looked. The photo looked like a painting. There was an innocence he’d captured in my face that I’d never seen in a photo of myself.” 

Photo by Gregg Delman

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