I’d be interested to know if this sounds familiar to anyone…
I bloody love theatre. Watching it, performing in it, talking about it, directing it… just being near it in any way makes me very happy. With over ten years as a member of Playbox (a youth theatre company with weekly workshops and its own incredible theatre) and parts in countless productions as I grew up, including performing at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, theatre has always been a huge part of my life. A combination of my parents taking me and my sister to see Shakespeare at the RSC as we grew up (acting out the plot lines with our teddy bears beforehand); a father who was usually involved in the local am dram production; a mother who sings professionally; a sister who studied a masters in acting; and calling Playbox a second home for many years, have given me a deep rooted passion for all things theatrical.
So it took me far too long to twig that perhaps photographing it would be something I enjoyed too. In fact I only stumbled into the realisation after volunteering to photograph the productions put on by the drama society I joined at university, just because I happened to own a half decent camera. A few years of being their go-to photographer has seen me go from clumsily framed, underexposed shots taken shyly from the back of the auditorium during dress rehearsal, to shots taken whilst standing on a front row seat trying to get just the right framing while switching camera settings to take advantage of the lighting changes. And promptly falling flat on my back as I overbalanced the fold down chair. And loving it.
Because of course I was going to love it. Yes, I get a twinge of jealousy every so often for the performers immersed in their characters, as a small part of me wishes I could join them on stage. But that makes me all the more determined to capture their best moments. To do my best to encapsulate the emotion being conveyed, the heat of the stage lights, the adrenalin of the performers, the smell of hairspray and make up; all the things that form a moment on stage. (That smell of hairspray is potent by the way; I had a vivid flashback to waiting backstage in the Playbox dressing rooms for a show I was in years ago just because I got a whiff of a friend’s styling spray the other day.) Because, although considered and directed and rehearsed, those moments will be different for each performance. That’s part of the joy of theatre, its unpredictability and rawness, its ability to continually create unique moments. Stop me or I’ll go on forever…
My point is, I couldn’t see what was right in front of me and nearly missed finding something I cannot get enough of doing. I’d decided I wasn’t interested in pursuing a career on stage, so promptly boxed it up and pigeon holed it as a hobby. Even when I found myself in a theatre with my camera in hand having happily volunteered yet again to snap the tech rehearsal of the latest drama society production, I’d convinced myself this was still ‘just a hobby’. It took a fair amount of poking and prodding from friends and family to make me consider the possibility that it could, and should, be more. And a good deal more prodding to get me to dream a little bigger and actively pursue more stage photography work. So here I am, wearing my heart on my sleeve, dreaming of yet bigger stages and brighter lights to fill my camera lens.
Now, I wonder, does this strike any chords? Try replacing ‘theatre’ and my waffles about the stage with something you find yourself doing frequently, something you genuinely enjoy, something you wouldn’t think twice about squeezing into an already busy diary. Now that its out from under your nose, let yourself look at it properly and consider the possibilities. And I’d recommend listening to those people in your life who annoyingly point out how much you seem to enjoy it, how often you do it, how maybe you should look into making more of it… they might just be on to something.
To read about how I fell into photography in a rather similar way click here. To see more of my theatre and production photography click here. For more info on HSU Theatre and their upcoming productions click here and to find out about Black Box Productions click here.