His experience with ballet, limited to sitting through "The Nutcracker" as a child, meant he had no idea that she was one of the world's most celebrated talents.
She would go on to make history in 2015, when she became the prestigious American Ballet Theatre's first black female principal dancer.
Yet the minute he saw her, he knew he had to work with her, and called her agent to arrange a photo shoot. They've been collaborators ever since, working together over a dozen times.
"While only 5'2", she fills a room like symphony orchestra music," Delman writes of Copeland. "Her beauty is matched by her enthusiasm, elegance, polish, and dedication to her art. With every step she epitomizes grace."
In "Misty Copeland," his debut book published by Rizzoli, Delman has brought together his favorite photos from the first three years of their relationship.
A rare gift
Wearing her own clothes, with subtle makeup and hair styled by herself, Copeland poses, dances and stretches for the camera, seemingly at ease.
"A photographer who understands how to memorialize a moment in a dancer's journey has a gift, and it is a gift to work with them," Copeland writes in the book's foreword.
"Gregg Delman has been a unique audience, yet a subtly creative participant, both inviting and warm; he has that rare gift of capturing movement."
Check out the gallery above to see Gregg Delman's most beautiful photos of Misty Copeland.
"Misty Copeland" by Gregg Delman, published by Rizzoli, is out now.