11 Dec 2009

Bristol Old Vic

The Bristol Old Vic have commissioned me to create images for a play scheduled for next March. 'Juliet and her Romeo' is Tom Morris's first production as new director of Britain's longest running theatre. Tom's adaptation of "Shakespeare's text with some cuts," is performed by octogenarians and set in a care-home. The images should be unapologetic, beautiful and celebrate love's ability to transcend age - not buried in digital-botox.

Sîan Phillips CBE

Tom has cast iconic Welsh actress Sian Phillips CBE as his Juliet. Sian's distinctive features and extraordinary presence command the frame. Her lover is to be played by the wickedly charming Michael Byrne - a surprising role model who made me want to sprint to seventy. Sian and Michael regaled me with stories of them with legends such as Olivier, Jacobi, Richardson and Guinness. With 141 years of experience between them they are hyperlinks to stage and cinema history. One anomaly struck me as out-of-sync; neither had seen Romeo and Juliet performed on stage!

Michael Byrne

  This was pre-pre-production and to make the exercise more of a challenge this would be the first time the principal actors had met. I had two and a half hours to shoot in a production office donated by Jerwood Studios. The intimate 4x3 metre space, complete with desks and chairs would have to make do. Fortunately there were no assistants, wardrobe or props. I maneuvered between a web of cables and stands, careful not to spark a domino-effect. The session opened with Sîan. She was well accustomed to the lens. Once I'd found a niche in her repertoire of reflexive poses I moved swiftly on. Michael was photo-putty; playful, provocative and consummately versatile.
 Today would have been my fathers birthday - he'd have enjoyed the company.

(selection of outtakes)

 In the days of photo-chemistry I operated within the confines of the characteristics of manufacturer's film and papers. Once the shutter was pressed the process came to an end, save a few arbitrary adjustments made by the printer. The photographic community's appetite for manipulation was whet with the advent of (Ilford) Multi-Grade. They embraced it's ability to allow the manipulation of not only exposure but also contrast. The photographer (or printer) could be further imbued in the image by the shake of a mask or wave of a dodging wand.

A liquid crystal now radiates where a halide crystal once burned and the physical imprint continues through the photographer's stylus. The connection is strengthened and expanded exponentially through the myriad tones, colours and hues at the disposal of today's photographer. The digital palette marks the departure from the one-click traditionalist.

After more than a decade in my Adobe cell I have developed a synergy integral to the creating of my images. Intervention by the most skillful pixel surgeon only derails expression and severs the creative link.

No one else can do this for me - I won't to apportion credit for my vision.