The other day I had the opportunity to photograph the comedian Russell Howard live in front of a particularly tiny audience. He’s currently preparing for his next major tour, Wonderbox, and has been testing out new material at small, informal gigs here in his home town of Bristol. It’s slightly different when an established and famous comedian tells you you may not find what he has to say next funny (but he’ll give it a go), or when he’s heckled by his own brother from the audience as he tells a story about him, but the atmosphere was fantastic and it was great to be given a glimpse into the creative process of entertaining and making people laugh!
As you can see the venue was small. Barely 160 in the audience – a far cry from the thousands Russell more normally performs to these days.
The gig was organised and compered by the excellent Mark Olver who, as well as gigging all over the country in his own right, runs regular events here in Bristol.
Mark always likes to ask who his audience are; boys, girls, students, non-students, single or taken – but on this occasion he had a particularly crowning moment – asking the audience if there were any deaf people in!
The moment Mark Olver realised that asking, “Are there are any deaf people in?”, might. not. work!
Finally in the supporting slot was Steve Hall, long time collaborator with Russell. Less animated than the other two – but beautifully unpolitically correct. Definitely an act I’m going to be looking out for the next time he comes to Bristol!
So after finally starting a blog it didn’t take me very long to get bogged down in work and completely fail to make any new posts for quite a few months! Needless to say things have been pretty busy (always a good thing when you’re self-employed!) but it’s about time I caught up with myself and shared some of the things I’ve been working on.
Before Christmas I was asked by two different organisations to provide headshots of all their staff.The first was Policy Press – a small publishing house, affiliated with the University of Bristol, which specialises in Social Science titles. This job held particular meaning for me as Policy Press happen to have been one of my earliest clients when I started out full-time nearly 5 years ago. One of my first major jobs was to provide headshots of their whole team as it was then, so it was fantastic to be asked back to photograph their now expanded personnel.
Policy Press wanted to keep the photos simple and unfussy – so I went for my tried and tested, plain white background with a single studio light in an umbrella providing the lighting. The joy of this setup is it’s so minimal I could bring everything to them, set it up quickly out of the way in their break room and then just steal each member of staff in turn for a couple of minutes to take their portrait with almost no disruption to their work and day whatsoever. It also meant that when a couple of the staff weren’t able to make the shoot on the day it was extremely easy to duplicate the setup in my own space at a later date and the resulting photos came out identically to the rest of the set – you’d never know they were taken weeks and a couple of miles apart!
The second organisation was the University of Bristol Students’ Union. As you’ll know if you’ve read many of my other blog posts they’re a regular client so it was a pleasure to work with them once again. They wanted headshots that gave a little more sense of location than the plain background I’d shot against for Policy Press. After a little scouting round the Union building we found a meeting room with a partially-frosted glass wall looking over a central seating area that was ideal for the task.
My initial plan had been to take the photos with the seating area visible but out of focus in the background through the glass (think along the lines of the BBC News desk and the office behind) but when it came to the actual shoot it turned out the glass was sufficiently tinted that there was nowhere near enough light coming through for that to work in the way that I wanted. However, a photographer’s job is nothing if not about problem solving and I was quickly able to come up with a new plan – bouncing a studio light off the frosted part of the glass formed a neat highlight behind my subjects and negated the fact that it was quite a bit darker beyond. And the results – see for yourself.