freelance life

0 Commentsby   |  10.04.10  |  Weblog

One of my favourite aspects of the freelance life is never knowing where I will find myself next, especially as I find it hard to say no to any paid work in case I have to go get a proper job. So this month, I have photographed the preparation of strange and beautiful tomatoes by one of London’s finest chefs (lit by two tiny halogen lamps in a dark kitchen), shot a young lad under Brighton Pier and in the rolling hills beyond for a book jacket and spent two weeks following rising BBC star, Genevieve Barr as she knocks a bunch of disabled actors into shape at a drama workshop. Each job had its merits, the common thread being the opportunity to work with new people and face the challenge of getting good, publishable pictures that tell the story well, no matter what the conditions.

Out of Focus’ became the title of the production for Genevieve, a deaf, very pretty actress and former Olympic rounders champion. It was a brave project to assemble a dozen young performers with disabilities ranging from deafness to cerebral palsy. ‘We need to be seen and judged on our merits like everyone else,’ she told me. Her mission was to showcase everyone’s individual talents for the omnipotent casting directors who would see the final performances. I turned up on day 3 to find them workshopping scenes and team building in the back room of a pub near Dalston.

As ever I used my Nikon D3 with its full frame sensor. I sometimes wonder if I will ever need another camera, the images are so clean and vibrant always rendering life better than it looks to the naked eye. As the light was quite low (and I refuse to use flash unless it’s for a black cat in a coal cellar at night), I told the D3 to use auto ISO and chose my trusty 105mm f/2 Nikkor prime lens which lets me fill the frame with a face at twice the distance of a 50mm standard. A zoom lens in fast moving situations can mean an extra choice to make while the action sails by.

I had volunteered to document the production and provide PR, portraits and reportage for the group, partly because my son was in there but also because I know it will difficult, emotionally and photographically. When I arrived, they were making a sandwich, but not in any way I had seen before (and I shoot a lot of food). First one actor would lie on the floor and proclaim, ‘I m a piece of bread.’ Another would climb on top of them and say, ‘I am a piece of cheese,’ and so on until the whole sandwich said, ‘we are a cheese, pickle, gherkin and tomato sandwich!’ I spent much of the day lying on the floor, standing on a table or trying not to get dizzy in the midst of a swirling circle of actors as I snapped away constantly searching for the decisive moment when a gesture or expression transforms an image from good to great. 836 uncompressed RAW files take up a lot of memory card!

It was a moving experience to watch these young men and women come together as strangers, stand up and be seen with their disabilities on show and perform their production live before the public all in a space of two weeks. As I sat waiting for the curtain on the first night, I had enough stage fright for all of them. The director projected a slideshow of 50 or so images for the waiting audience. It stopped, the lights went up, the cast appeared in costume on the stage. And there was me without my camera!

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