Last week I got to try out something new with this project. I had been thinking of trying to expand out the long exposure photography idea into other sorts of public gatherings or events apart from gigs, and one of the ideas that occurred to me was theatre. I heard that Blow photo magazine were looking for photographers to take shots at the Absolut Fringe festival so I suggested trying out some of my long exposure photography at a few of the shows.
So, last Friday I went along to a play called My Word Is My Bond, written by Jo Holmwood and presented by the Arroo Abú theatre company. It took place in Smock Alley Boys School which is an interesting and unusual venue: it has a relatively small floor area, but a huge high ceiling with a walkway circling around the walls all the way up to the top. The old, exposed stone walls make it a really atmospheric space. The night I was there was the first preview and therefore the first night of the play with paying punters. It’s a small space and I was conscious of trying to take the photographs in such a way that it would not be distracting to the audience or the performers. So, I set the camera up on the first level of the walkway, where no-one was going to be looking at it.
I wondered beforehand about what length exposures I should try and use for this. Photographing music provides an easy answer to this in that the length of the song dictates the length of the exposure. Theatre is obviously different in that it is not divided into such small bite-size chunks. It is often divided into acts and/or scenes though, so an obvious thing to do would be to allow them to dictate the length of the exposure. I was concerned though that these would be too long, and that if the performers were moving around a lot, they wouldn’t register on the photograph at all. I spoke to Jo before the play started and she told me that it was divided into three acts of roughly twenty minutes each, so I decided to make three photographs, each the length of an act. As it happened, it would not have been possible to close the shutter, switch the film and open it again in the middle of an act anyway, as it would have been too noisy and distracting.
The photo at the top is the result. It’s of the first act of the play which lasts about 20 minutes so it’s a very long exposure. The play is about a writers group and the first act consists of the seven members sitting around a table reading, critiquing and then, when it really get’s going, parodying each others work. Luckily for the purposes of the photograph there is not much movement, so all seven actors can be seen quite clearly. Theatre is not likely to have the same regularity of movement that music performance has, but in this case the fact that they are sitting on chairs makes it work.
For the duration of the Fringe festival Blow are publishing online PDF magazines featuring photographs from the various shows. I was delighted that the above shot was included in the first edition of this. The image above is the front cover – give it a click to browse through all the photography from the first few days of Absolut Fringe.