We have officially made it to 2016! I thought this would be an opportune time to cast a casual over-the-shoulder glance back at 2015 and collect some of the high points like metaphorical butterflies in this 'ere digital jam jar (this is admittedly for my benefit as much as anything, as so much awesome has happened I think even a haphazard record will be nice to have).
The intention is for this to be something of a self-indulgent hazy montage of happenings, approximately grouped into appropriate sections. Some of these goings on will be photography based/linked, some will just be stuff that's happened on a cultural kind of leaning...some may tick both/more boxes (ooh, I hear you say).
Lets kick this thing of with the cultural area that's seen the most dramatic (sorry) upswing in activity in 2015, that being theatre. I've always had an interest in theatre, and have thought of it as a hugely important art form that has endless potential to transport audiences to incredible places. In the last few years my involvement with theatre and performing arts had really taken a back seat, not for any conscious reason, just out of habit; this changed significantly in 2015 when I was fortunate enough to get involved with the 14/48 theatre festival. Through photographing 14/48 festivals in Leicester, Wolverhampton and London, I've met more talented, empassioned and downright lovely people than you could shake even the biggest stick at; I've taken photographs that I'm incredibly proud of as well as learning a huge amount about performance photography, and been taken so far out of my usual comfort zone that I had to buy a sat-nav to find my way back (turns out comfort zones are overrated anyway). Along with the photography side of things, I've also witnessed the creation of some of the funniest, most affecting, honest and creative pieces of theatre you could hope for, all of which was only achievable because of the dedication, commitment and occasional lunacy of those involved. 14/48 I salute you, you've pretty much changed my life.
As a direct result of my inlvolvement with 14/48, and the development of my photography skill set into Matt Cawrey: Stealth Performance Photographer™ I've had the opportunity to work with other performance projects, including Leicester's Story City Festival, which presented a range of performance pieces in venues around the city. The quality of all the work on show was stupidly high, if I had to pick an overall highlight it would have to Scufflebox Theatre's Hamlet Cafe, which was an inventive, intense and immersive re-telling with amazing performances from the full cast. Hamlet was portrayed with an wonderfully human volatility by Edward Spence, who we'll come back to shortly... Other projects have included Spark Arts splendid A Boy and a Bear in a Boat; Priya Mistry's sharing of her Musical Mental Health Cabaret, a piece I very much look forward to seeing more of in 2016; and Chorus Theatre's fast-paced and joyful potted re-telling of Gulliver's Travels.
Gulliver's TravelsDress Rehearsal of Chorus Theatre's production of Gulliver's Travels, Fearon Hall, Loughborough.
As mentioned earlier, some of my involvement with theatre has led to me doing more than just photography...highlighting the dangers of casual email exchanges, and not reading things fully (in this case the bit saying "acting experience preferred"!), I inadvertently volunteered as a rehearsal assistant for the Theatre Anonymous version of Up n Under. As this project involves the cast rehearsing independently from each other, assistants are needed to read in for the other parts, so when I rolled up all enthusiastic to take some photos and ended up reading through scenes I was a bit taken aback! I knew most of the actors already so that wasn't too odd, however reading in with the aforementioned Edward Spence was a jolly surreal experience!! In spite of my "assistance" the whole project came to stunning conclusion, producing a genuine one-off piece of theatre that wowed the assembled audience.
Performance NightTeam Photo
Along with some of the Story City shows, I've seen some fantastic theatre as a paying punter. The three shows I've managed to catch at The Curve were outstanding, Richard III (unflinchingly confrontational and yet impressively nuanced, and wonderfully staged); Sister Act (tremendous heart warming fun with amazing performances from a local "amateur" group); A Streetcar Named Desire (amazing performances, almost unbearable intensity, so good I saw it twice!), it would be an understatement to say that I'm excited to see more work at this splendid theatre. I was invited down to Eastleigh to photograph the final dress rehearsal for The Point Youth Theatre's production of Beauty and the Beast, this was a visually stunning piece of work, performed by a passionate cast of talented young actors (although be warned, if you're photographing youth theatre you'll need your two Weetabix as they don't half shift!!). The ACT Night at the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton that I managed to get to showcased some really interesting work in progress theatre, hopefully I can get to more of these in 2016 as it'll be great to see how these and other pieces develop through this invaluable platform. The ACT Showcase in December gave me the chance to catch work by friends I've made through 14/48 including the beyond words brilliance of Kirsty Mealing's "Cat Got My Tongue, I Hope It Comes Back" and Matt Beames fascinatingly engaging "Stone".
The ACT Collection8th December 2015
There's been more awesome stuff, but for fear of this becoming a list of "everything what I did in my spare time" I'll wind it up here. If you've read all of this, fair play to you, there will be a test and prizes in due course!
You'll be super pleased to hear that I'm going to write blogs on 2015's music and dance goings on...but I'll leave it a couple of days before posting those.
Any comments gratefully received (they would be, honest!) If you're planning on making amazing stuff in 2016 then I applaud you, if you're not; why not?!
As we career to wards the end of 2015 at an alarming rate, I though it'd be a good time to reflect a bit on what, for me, has been an unexpectedly awesome year (at this point it's only fair to point out that I've borrowed this idea from Scott Choucino!) to that end, here's a selection of the shots from 2015 that stand out for me.
(Hover over images for photo details)
AllusondrugsHandmade Festival, May 2015
Bo Ningen, Handmade Festival, May 2015
Bursts of Light, 14/48 Leicester, May 2015
Three Pop Out, 14/48 Wolverhampton, June 2015
Day One RehearsalsThe world's fastest theatre festival, held at The Lost Theatre on the 7th & 8th August 2015
14/48 London, August 2015
Jack Stinton Dance Company"Theory" Dress Rehearsal
Rehearsal, Leicester Print Workshop, November 2015 14/48 Leicester, November 2015
Pre-Rehearsal, 14/48 Leicester, November 2015
14/48 Leicester, November 2015
Fuelled Dance TheatreTech rehearsal and performance shots from In Good Company's "Scratch That Itch: Winter Warmer" at Derby Theatre 29th November 2015
Cat Got My Tongue, I Hope it Comes Back; Kirsty Mealing, The ACT Collection8th December 2015<br/> The Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton
Flexus Dance Collective: Next StepsThe Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton
Flexus Dance Collective: Next StepsThe Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton
Beauty and The Beast, December 2015Point Youth Theatre @ The Point Theatre, Eastleigh
Beauty and The Beast, December 2015Point Youth Theatre @ The Point Theatre, Eastleigh
Portrait of Jo, Outwoods Loughborough, December 2015
So that's me pretty much all in for 2015, thank you to everyone that's helped me achieve so much this year, and here's hoping for plenty more awesomeness in 2016!
Good morning/afternoon/evening (pls delete as appropriate), you have found yourself at the bit of the internet where I foolishly attempt to attract attention through the medium of words. I am both humbled and grateful that you have read this far into my ramblings, if you are moved to read further I fear I cannot promise great prose or high-wire literary theatrics, but I will do my best to keep you as mildly entertained as maybe a BBC lifestyle piece, or even a casual Buzzfeed article about something that probably didn't really need writing about.
If you've read my previous blogs (yes these were supposed to be weekly, it was a fine idea in principle) you'll know the form, if not then I will mainly be reflecting on recent photographic-based endeavours as I continue on a relatively formless quest to take pictures of things.
I think, what with it nearly being Christmas and with my bloggings being at best sporadic, I will do a bit of a "what the hell happened in 2015" kind of post... So at the start of the year I was a frustrated amateur wildlife photographer trying to manoeuvre my way back into live music photography with varying degrees of success; as we come to the end of 2015 I have had the good fortune, through a series of occurrences, to have worked with amazing people doing amazing things amazingly (mainly in theatres). I'd always had an interest in theatre and performance art, but purely as a punter, so when the chance to photograph 14/48 Leicester came up in May I thought I should give it a go, but without knowing whether I'd take to it. As it turns out I did take to it, and then pretty much became addicted to it! This has been manifest by my "stalking" of said speed theatre festival through it's three Leicester events, as well as the new events in London and Wolverhampton. I've previously eulogised at length about what a wonderful thing it is to be part of so I won't go overboard here...but it is amazing to see such talented, driven, impassioned people doing something that they love, and each person pushing themselves to the limit to produce ace work. The feedback I've received from everyone involved has been a huge boost to me, and really given me the confidence to take on projects that would have been utterly terrifying twelve months ago (now they're just averagely terrifying!).
Working with 14/48 has introduced me to whole new areas of performance art that I wouldn't have found out about otherwise, since my last blog post I've been involved in photographing several dance and performance art based events, this is an area that I've wanted to get into for sometime and has proved to be hugely rewarding (not to mention pretty damn tricky!). It's been great to have access to rehearsals as well as final performances as I find it fascinating to be able to document the behind the scenes goings on, and also getting to know the performers who have all been a joy to work with.
This past week has found me braving the journey to Wolverhampton on two nights for events at the Arena Theatre, Tuesday's Arena Theatre Collective's (ACT) showcase evening, and Wednesday's Flexus Dance Collective's "Next Steps". Both events were equally outstanding in terms of the quality of work on stage, the ACT night also gave me an opportunity to catch up with some familiar faces from 14/48. All the pieces shown were work in progress for both nights, but I was blown away by the high standards across the board, with a really diverse range of material on show. Hopefully I'll get to work with the artists involved on these, and other works, into next year; to document their development and undoubtedly see them reaching the larger audiences they all deserve.
So all in all, 2015's been flipping awesome, it's thrown open a massively exciting new area of photography that it's a real privilege to be working in, it's reignited my passion for photography (as this had gone well off the boil), and introduced me to a whole network of amazing, passionate, lovely people who have gone out of their way to encourage me and convince me that this is something that I should persevere with (self-criticism is essential, but at times not entirely productive!). And I guess the thing I'll take away the most is that it's always worth trying new stuff, I think I'd got kind of stuck with consuming the same mass produced cultural outpourings when there's all this grass routes talent happening that really needs support to survive and thrive. I've experienced so many awesome events in small towns around the midlands that can be overlooked so easily. Hopefully my photography can play a part in pushing this work out to a wider audience.
I fear this may have gone a bit rambling/preachy, sorry about that! Here's to an exciting 2016, the world's a terrible place but maybe by doing little amazing things we can make it a bit better x
I haven't blogged for ages...sorry 'bout that, it's mainly down to a perfect storm of a lack of imagination and shortage of a workable subject matter.
However, this has been rectified (and then some) by my involvement with the 14/48 Leicester/Theatre Anonymous production of John Godber's Up 'n' Under. A quick bit of background on the workings of Theatre Anonymous: basically all the actors for a selected play rehearse individually with a director, only coming together on the night of the performance with their identities revealed as their characters enter the fray. For this production of Godber's Rugby Legue themed play the 7 actors were all veterans of the 14/48 festival; the director Shawn Belyea had flown over from Seattle to steer this ill advised project.
My original intention was to pop along to a few rehearsals and take some photos that didn't give away the cast but could be used to market the event. Having signed up for this there was a further call for rehearsal assistants; at this point I may not have read the details as fully as I'd thought, as I missed the bit that said it was preferable if the assistants had acting experience... So I merrily (well I don't really do anything "merrily" but you get the idea) rolled up for the first evening rehearsal assistant session. Upon arrival, following some high security procedures to ensure that secrecy was maintained, I was ushered into a meeting room with two actors and Shawn. It soon became apparent that I would be required to read in for some of the absent characters, thankfully there wasn't sufficient time to dwell on the fact that this filled me with abject terror, and my urge to promptly leg it was stifled by a desire to not look like a complete pillock in front of people I have the utmost respect for (although I'm fairly sure I proceeded to do just that...)
Across the rehearsal sessions that followed I actually started to quite enjoy the whole process (although I shan't be looking to move onto acting any time soon). It forced me to face several significant challenges, these included: speaking in public (in a shoddy Northern accent, with actual real actors), entering a sports hall containing sports paraphernalia without a note from my mum, and reading the lines for 5 out of the 6 characters on stage (I'm pretty sure I developed a borderline multiple personality disorder). The people I was working with were without fail absolutely splendid throughout, and everybody was determined that the performance would be a fantastic portrayal of the play; taking full advantage of the merits of the unorthodox way in which it was put together.
And so it came down to the performance on the 5th October, there were palpable nerves in the bar beforehand with the cast completely unknown to the audience and each other. I'm fairly sure at this point the gravity of the task they had undertaken really started to register, hell I was nervous and I'd only got to sit and watch the thing!! As we filed into the auditorium and everyone took their seats, furtive glances were cast around to try and read the faces of those present for signs that they were about to undertake such a high risk theatrical production...and then they were off. As each actor rose to take their part the audience responded with the fevered cheers that you would expect from sports crowd at a Saturday afternoon rugby match. The seamless way in which the cast delivered such a naturalistic performance was remarkable, the interplay between the characters was fantastic throughout. From start to end the pace was maintained, with any slip ups seamlessly worked into the dialogue, taking the audience along for the ride; the cheer that went up when the Wheatsheaf team scored their first try was like nothing I've experienced in a theatre before! The cast took their bows to a rapturous ovation from the crowd, and I nipped up on stage to grab a couple of "team photos" before they all headed off to celebrate a remarkably triumphant show.
The whole experience left me wondering what it was that made the spectacle so amazing, yes the performances were excellent and the direction spot on, but you would expect that from most theatrical performances. Also my personal involvement definitely made it a bit more special, but it just seemed to resonate that bit more with the audience as a whole. I think, for me, the real magic of this piece; and the Theatre Anonymous concept as a a whole, is that it creates a true one-off experience. This play can only be performed in this form once, as once the actors know each other that part of the chemistry is lost. So all that tension, energy and effort can all be channelled into something that there are no second chances with, every beat must be made to count, and this isn't just a matter of theatrical accuracy, but ensuring that real heart, soul and passion are put into this one single outing. For the audience too, there's no chance to catch this again if you missed something, and everybody present knew that we were the only people that would ever see this particular incarnation of this play.
In a cultural landscape that increasingly panders to a short attention span, and everything is saved on "catch-up" and recorded to be revisited at a later date, I think it's hugely important that these genuine one-off experiences are available as it encourages everyone involved to give their full attention to what's happening and really value the experience.
Thanks for reading this rambling assemblage of half thought out ideas, hopefully it doesn't come across as too pretentious, but I think art and culture are pretty important, and generally I think about stuff too much!
NB. Yes, I'm a photographer, I document stuff so that it can be revisited later...I guess this is a bit double standards of me, but never mind eh :)
Good evening. My resolution to maintain weekly blog updates has slipped a little (it would be an exaggeration to say I've been inundated with pleas for this to be rectified, but we'll persevere anyway). So here is the latest update on recent goings on...
The opportunity has arisen for me to put on an exhibition of 14/48 photos at the Leicester home of the theatre festival - The Y Theatre (www.leicesterymca.co.uk/y-theatre.php), as it was my last exhibition at The Y that led to me getting involved with 14/48, and all the throughly exciting happening's since, this seemed like a jolly good idea. Having spent some time trying to decide what format would best suit the space, and how many pictures to get printed etc. I have set about selecting the 20 images that will make up this exhibition, a fairly simple sounding process I'm sure you'll agree. However the process so far has driven me to whole new levels of crazy! Across the four events I've photographed so far this year I've managed to amass a hell of a lot of photos that I'm really happy with. Trying to pare this down to 20 and still get across the spirit of the event, include as many participants as possible and also exhibit shots that will appeal to people not already involved with the festival has proved rather a mammoth challenge. I have successfully organised a couple of test prints so that's a good start, and my selection is down to 25...
Whilst it's been a bit nuts going though the back catalogue of images, I have been reassured by how happy I still am with the shots. I've never really enjoyed revisiting photos that I've taken, often finding that I just spot mistakes and things that I would have liked to have done differently. However the 14/48 shots stood up really well to my own slightly obsessive scrutiny! As much as anything this is testament to the source material and the truly herculean effort put in by all involved to make the events such a huge success. As it stands I'm not sure which direction the final exhibition will take, but if I can even come close to capturing and expressing the splendid atmosphere and sheer mind-bending quality of the performances then that'll do for me. Below are a couple of my current faves from the extensive reviewing sessions
In other exciting news, I went along to Fearon Hall in Loughborough (conveniently located close to my house) to photograph the dress rehearsal of Chorus Theatre's (www.chorustheatre.co.uk) production of Gulliver's Travels. It would be fair to say that putting on re-telling of this epic tale with a cast of three over less than one and a half hours was ambitious, and I wasn't sure what to expect. But I have to say it was a genuinely inventive, fast-paced, engaging and witty production that made excellent use of the considerable talent of the three performers along with some inspired props (a purple fur coat, a squeaky lamb chop, a plastic bunch of flowers...I could go on, and on). Anybody watching the ensuing performances will have been swept along on Gulliver's incredible journey to far-flung lands, portrayed using a wide range of theatrical techniques.
This is the third time this year I've been to a show aimed primarily at a younger audience, the previous being Enter Edem's Origins (www.enteredem.co.uk) and Spark Arts' A Boy and a Bear in a Boat (http://thesparkarts.co.uk) and I've been blown away by all three. The fact that exciting, engaging theatre for children, of such a high standard, is being produced can only be a good thing. In an era where so much entertainment for children comes fully formed: computer games, films, tv etc. theatre really has a unique place in offering works that encourage the use of imagination and take audiences on wonderful flights of fancy, as well as helping to bring literature to life on stage. I'd recommend checking out works by any of these groups if you get the opportunity.
That bout rounds out recent events, I shall endeavour to do some more good stuff so that I can write about it! Here's some pics from Gulliver's travels, there's more in the performance gallery
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Recent PostsWhat went down in 2015 Pt 1: Theatre 20 for 2015 A New Hope Theatre Anonymous and the magic of the true one off Making an exhibition of myself The 14/48 London Post (slightly later than anticipated...) 14/48 - Insights of a lurking photographer A Boy and a Bear in a Boat (and me) Photographic transformation Common Blue Damselfly