Friday, 26 March 2010

To Direct or Not?

Why not? It's a mini performance, and the photographer may be shooting to a brief.
Here's an example of one received recently:

"She should appear confident, aware and intelligent, challenging, authentic, engaging, innovative, dynamic, distinguished, knowledgeable, esteemed and entrepreneurial in spirit".

It doesn't refer to the shoot with Omid Djalili, shown below, where the brief was, well, brief. "Get some nice shots of 'im."

This wasn't directed, and I'd very rarely ask anyone to put a hand to their face, but sometimes there's no harm with going with the flow.

To young and inexperienced photographers, directing a 'star' can seem a bit overwhelming. But plough on I say, it's your shoot, you'll be judged on the pictures, and sometimes your subject needs a bit of direction.

How Many?

"You're bound to get at least one good one, if you shoot that many frames." Some of us have heard this once, and some of us have heard it more than once. During a photoshoot with a British airline chief recently, he asked why on earth I took so many frames of him. I could have said because you don't look like Brad Pitt (which would have been honest and true, if not a little unkind). No doubt he would have taken it on the chin.

But it is true, and it informs us about something of the nature of being photogenic. Brad Pitt looks great in photographs, and you don't need to take many frames to end up with a great set of shots of him. The same is true of many people, but actors are especially adept at looking good in photographs. So they should be, given that they use their faces to express their work. They know what works well on camera. They probably know what works well with the lighting set up being used. If you've ever sat way up in the gods, and not been able to make out an actor's expressions, then you are missing a whole chunk of the performance.

Combine this professional use of the face with what is often 'good looks' and you have a winning combination in front of the camera. Take someone who may not be so good looking, and who hasn't learnt to exploit their faces to their full potential, and you will soon see that more frames equals a better chance of getting a good shot. Combine that with the vast number of muscles in the human face, with their multiple permutations, and you'll discover that variations in expressions are limitless. The challenge is often to try and get something unexpected from the professional, and something great from the non professional. Much fun can be had in doing both, regardless of success. It was Brian Dennehy I saw (or who I didn't really see) from the gods in Death of a Salesman. A wasted opportunity if ever there was one.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Mark Rylance

Last night, Mark Rylance won Best Actor (Olivier Awards) for his role in Jerusalem. Jez Butterworth's play, not short at a hefty three hours, is on in London's west end. Also starring is Mackenzie Crook. The play is set in woodland; Crook owns a wood himself, so was well cast for the role.

Many people struggle with theatre productions, but most consider this is a must see performance by Rylance. Much is made of the strongly "Middle English" audience, who sympathise with the main character's disdain for the little englander bureaucratic administration prevalent here.
Hooray! At last someone is shining the spotlight on some of the ghastly officious people annoying us all to distraction with their approach to our green and pleasant land.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Goodbye Winter

Hopefully not tempting fate to say farewell to this gorgeous winter. The highlight for me has to be Katrina and PW's wedding in Battersea Park. Half way through a guest even demanded that the cup cakes should immediately be photographed (what special occasion would be without cup cakes these days?). What's a photographer to do other than jump to it? So here's Battersea Park, KJP & PW, and the cakes.


You are not a terrorist, or Polish, but you are a wonderful assistant, and we all wish you a very happy birthday. X.