In this story, a poignant father-daughter artistic journey takes shape, weaving together the photographic talents of Michael Pantuso and the evolution of his daughter, Viola Bella’s journey as a young model to a luminary ballerina with the Royal Ballet in London. Set against the backdrop of Borough Market in London, This photograph captures a moment of contradictions and beauty, seamlessly connecting his daughter’s path with the rich history of this marketplace… a narrative where dance and culture intersect.
By: Michael Pantuso
As the golden hues of the sun kiss the ancient bricks of Borough Market, a delicate dance unfolds amidst the historic aisles. Viola Bella Pantuso, a luminary ballerina with the Royal Ballet in London, graces the frame of my lens, and together, we embark on a journey of artistic exploration and timeless expression.
Viola Bella is not just a rising star in the world of ballet, performing this winter in the starring role as Clara in the Royal Ballet’s Nutcracker, but she is also my daughter. Her journey from a young model to a professional dancer mirrors the market’s evolution from a local greengrocer’s hub to a beacon of sustainable food and community connection.
The Borough Market, with its rich thousand-year history at the foot of London Bridge, offers a canvas vibrant with life, heritage, and the pulse of the present. Just as the market has evolved, so has Viola, her modeling and dance weaving a tapestry of stories and emotions, reflecting her comfort and innate ability to perform for the camera.
Viola’s dance is not just a physical movement; it’s a dialogue with the environment. She instinctively interacts with the architecture, amplifying shapes, angles, and spaces to create a photographic performance that resonates with the atmosphere of the historic market. It’s a spontaneous and improvised form of artistry that I like to refer to as freestyle street photography.
Our photographic journey is a confluence of planning and spontaneity. While the outfits and initial poses are pre-decided, the essence of each shot is born from the environment we explore. Viola becomes a part of the surroundings, her dance a reflection of her emotional interpretation of the space, all captured in a few precious moments.
The equipment I use hails from my days on the Pentax Account at IDEAS360º and SG360º, an old but trusted companion in our creative endeavors. But the real magic lies in Viola’s meticulous attention to detail. Each arch of the foot, extension of the hand, and tilt of the neck speaks volumes about the talent and professionalism of a ballerina.
Photographing ballerinas is a delicate art, balancing the overall beauty with the technical precision of dance. Viola wears many hats—she is the model, creative director, art director, and client, ensuring each photograph is a testament to her artistic vision and professional integrity.
Our shared moments at Borough Market are more than just a father-daughter collaboration; they are a celebration of our lives as artists. Viola with her dance, and I with visual arts, find a common ground in photography, exploring and expressing our creativity in every shot.
This experience is wonderfully and properly brilliant, especially when a barre is involved. Viola and I have experienced this synergy over and over again, each photograph a new chapter in our artistic journey. The historic Borough Market, with its ever-evolving ethos, serves as the perfect backdrop to our narrative of exploration and expression.
As Viola continues to ascend in her ballet career, our shared passion for art brings us closer, and each photograph becomes a timeless memory. The market, bustling with life and history, bears witness to our dance of visuals, and Viola Bella’s grace and elegance echo through its ancient alleys.
Our impromptu sessions are a dance between heritage and the present, a ballet of visuals capturing the essence of Viola Bella Pantuso—the ballerina, the model, and the artist. As we continue to explore and create, the Borough Market stands as a testament to our evolving narrative, a historic stage for our unfolding ballet of life and art.
As a multidisciplined graphic designer and artist, Michael Pantuso thrives at the intersection of creative thinking, artistic expression, and strategically inspired ideas. Throughout his career, Michael has managed his own design practice, partnered with the branding agency IDEAS360º, and held positions inside TBWA Worldhealth (formerly CAHG) and Discover Financial. Located in the Chicago area, Michael is focused on creating design and art for clients, collectors, and organizations that make a social impact—these include charities, not-for-profits, NGOs, educational and arts bodies, social enterprises, and for-profit businesses who want to do more good. Michael’s practice creates all the usual outputs of a branding agency—design identities, advertising, social media, print literature, websites, email, e-newsletters, photography, etc. But he does so in the context of a bigger picture—a vision for what the brand is, and, more importantly, what it can become. It’s a passion that comes from a desire to make things better. Michael’s art is an extension of this passion, but it’s revealed and expressed in a more visceral way. One example of this can be seen in his “Mechanical Integration” work, where he explores nature and humanity through a series of fine art illustrations that integrate natural life forms with the inner workings of mechanical components. Part of this collection was recently celebrated as a solo exhibition which began in Paris, France, followed by a tour of Europe that concluded in early 2020. Much of that work now remains in galleries and private collections.