Category Archives: Recent Work

Recent Work | Russell Howard Live

Comedian Russell Howard performs new material at a tiny charity gig.

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!

Comedian Russell Howard performs new material at a tiny charity gig.Comedian Russell Howard performs new material at a charity gig.

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.

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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.

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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!

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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!JamieCorbinPhotography_Russell_Howard_5 JamieCorbinPhotography_Russell_Howard_4

Recent Work | Corporate Headshots

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Recent Work | UBU Sabbatical Officers

I’ve been involved with the University of Bristol Students’ Union (UBU) for nearly 8 years – initially as a student at the university then on and off for the last 4 years providing my services as a photographer. Which I think must make UBU my oldest and most longstanding client!

Anyway, a month or so ago I was asked to provide a set of publicity portraits of the new incoming Sabbatical Officers – a group of 6 students or recent graduates, voted for by the rest of the student body, who take a year out to run various aspects of student representation full time within the Union.

The brief was simple – a head and shoulders studio shot of each officer on a plain white background, then another portrait for each in a different locations around the university campus. Then a few group photos of all 6 together with differing levels of formality. There was no need to compose the shots for any specific layout or leave space for type, the only real constraint was time – the 6 had only started their jobs a week before and were fairly flat out getting everything moving. We had just 2 hours to shoot both individual portraits for all 6 and the group photos.

Rob Griffiths - UBU President

Rob Griffiths – UBU President

First up were the studio photos – they were likely to take the longest to set up, as I had to assemble the backdrop and lighting, but once everything was in place they’d be the quickest to shoot as nothing would really change between each subject and they could nip in one after the other in quick succession.

The lighting itself was dead simple – a narrow roll of white paper and a single flash in an umbrella directly in front and above the subject – I’ve actually got this set up so minimal the entire kit can be easily packed up and carried on my back along with the rest of my camera gear! (Fantastic as it means I can cycle to local jobs rather than having to deal with any other forms of transport – ideal in Bristol.)

Imogen Palmer - Vice President Activities

Imogen Palmer – Vice President Activities

A lot of people hate having their photo taken and, when there’s not really time to spend a while getting your subjects warmed up to the camera, I find that a good trick with a group like this is to pick on the most confident first. They’re the easiest to get a good photo from and you can then show the others so they realise they’re going to look great and it’s really not the terrifying ordeal they might think its going to be! In this case Rob, the new President, was the obvious target. After seeing him grinning out from the back of the camera the others had no problems jumping in for their photos.

Once we were done with the studio it was on to the location portraits. For each of the Sabs I’d tried to find locations that were both recognisable as within the University and reflected something about their role – some were definitely more tenuously linked than others, but I think for the most part I managed!

UBU President Rob Griffiths - outside the Students' Union building

Again Rob was first up. This time because, as UBU President, I wanted to photograph him with the Union building itself as a backdrop and that meant we had to travel no further than just outside the front entrance.

Ellie Williams - Vice President Community

Ellie Williams – Vice President Community

Next was Ellie Williams, VP Community, who I placed with the distinctive Victoria Rooms fountains and the Triangle beyond to give a connection with the city itself. (It’s actually a backdrop I’ve used before for a portrait that was part of a campaign with Bristol Entrepreneurs – I might have to dig those out for a future blog post from the archives!)

CW from top left: Alessandra Berti - VP Welfare & Equality, Hannah Pollak - VP Sport & Health, Tom Flynn - VP Education, Imogen Palmer - VP Activities

CW from top left: Alessandra Berti – VP Welfare & Equality, Hannah Pollak – VP Sport & Health, Tom Flynn – VP Education, Imogen Palmer – VP Activities

Hannah’s role as VP Sport & Health made the University Gym an obvious location for her and as VP Education it made sense to have Tom Flynn outside the Wills Memorial Building – the University’s oldest and most well known structure. Alessandra I photographed in front of an art installation of mirrors in Royal Fort Gardens – it’s an easily recognisable landmark within the campus and I liked the play on ‘reflection’ with her position of VP Welfare & Equality where one of her remits is to oversee the accountability of Union and student policies. (I did say some of the location connections were pretty tenuous!) With Imogen I have to admit I simply couldn’t think of another recognisable location within the University grounds that said ‘Activities’ – so instead we took advantage of another good angle in Royal Fort Gardens and just used that!

Group photo of the 2013/14 UBU Sabbatical Officers

Finally on our way back to the Union I took several group photos in various locations – of which my favourite is the one above. Again in front of the Victoria Rooms – but facing in the opposite direction to the individual shot of Ellie I’d taken earlier.

I also couldn’t resist setting up this final shot with Rob appearing to be telling the others off for climbing the statue. I’m not sure it’s likely to be used by UBU – but the Sabs enjoyed taking it and if nothing else I think it sums them up as a group pretty well!

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Edit: For the next year you’ll be able to see some of the studio photos as they were used on the UBU website here: http://www.ubu.org.uk/officers/

Recent Work | UoB Drama – Gradfest 2013

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Joe Newton in Stephanie Glide & Harriet Long’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Children’.

Last week I photographed the University of Bristol’s Gradfest – a festival over 3 days produced by the graduating students of the Drama department to showcase their Independent Studies. These are projects that make up about a quarter of their final year mark and allow them to utilise and display the range of skills they’ve learnt throughout their degree.

Bristol’s Drama degree concentrates heavily on the history and technical skills surrounding the production of theatre, film and television – as well as performance skills – which leads to a huge diversity in the Independent Studies. Some are live performances, where students might focus on aspects of writing, direction, production or design, some produce short films, both live action and animated, and others create installations examining a specific theme in detail. This year there were 4 short films, 11 staged productions and a single installation. If you’re interested in this year’s productions you can find more information on the Gradfest 2013 website.

In the past I’ve produced stills for some of the short films made within the department – but this year I just took photos for the installation and 8 of the staged performances. The initial plan was to take photos of all the productions over a 3 hour period – giving me about 10 minutes on each with 5-10 to pack up my kit and dash to the next. The performances were each 20 minutes long and the vast majority I knew nothing about until I arrived for their slot. So for most I didn’t even have anything planned and there wasn’t time to just do a run through and shoot as they went – so it was a case of coming up with ideas within the first couple of minutes then jumping straight in. Frantic doesn’t even come close! But it was a great opportunity to see what I could produce in a very small amount of time and with so many productions it meant I could play with several different approaches! Fortunately many of the students also already had a vague idea of what they wanted from the images so I usually had a starting point to spring from.

In the end I did spend slightly longer on three of the projects. A couple of the stage performances were heavily set-reliant but didn’t get access to their spaces until days 2 and 3 of the festival (I shot the rest the day before the festival started) so I ended up coming back and photographing them once they’d got into the space. I also ended up going back to the installation at the end of the first 3 hours shoot so that I could do more. There was so much detail for me to play with I thought it worth the extra time.

Anyway, enough rambling – onto the photos!

 

Looking Backwards
– by Jess Reid and Fleur Wheatley

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The first was Looking Backwards – a promenade performance with a cast of 3 giving verbatim (taken directly from real life interviews) accounts of childhood fears. For this production the images I made were staged moments from the actual performance tweaked to give a bit more of a portrait feel.

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As the shoots were all so quick I stuck to using the ambient lighting rather than doing anything myself with strobes. The shot above was in such a dark corner that we actually ended up using a cheap torch, used as a prop in the performance, as a face light!

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Seedbed Reenacted
– by Ryan Lech

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Seedbed Reenacted is the first production I’ve ever had to produce images for where the cast (in this case the sole performer was Ryan himself) are completely unseen for the entire performance! Ryan spent the whole time hidden from view under the audience’s seating – not an easy thing to photograph! But we quickly came up with the idea of taking a couple of promo style shots of him staring out from underneath the rostra – and these were the results.

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No Song, No Supper
– by Debz Machin

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We didn’t have access to the set for this production but the costumes were so strong it wasn’t really a problem. We found a rehearsal room with plenty of natural light and shot this series of character portraits against a convenient white wall.

 

A Recurring Letter
– by Heather Gibson and Rachel Pryce

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Left: Antonia Tootill in ‘A Recurring Letter’. Right: ‘Girl reading a Letter at an Open Window’ by Jan Vermeer (1657).

The aim of this play was to recreate the 17th century painting Girl reading a Letter at an Open Window by Jan Vermeer. The production utilised a static video camera pointed at the stage and hooked up to a large display to show the final image to the audience live – I simply recreated that image as a still. You can see the original and the recreation side by side above for comparison. While the vertical scale was probably somewhat out in the reproduction I thought they did impressively well to get the entire thing so close.

 

Our Land
– by Ragevan Vasan
JamieCorbinPhotography_UoB_Gradfest_2013_8 For his monologue Our Land, about his mother’s travels between Sri Lanka and London, Ragevan simply wanted a series of clean and punchy B+W rehearsal images. He ran a few short segments which he felt had the most interesting action and expressions while I shot throughout.
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Character Assassination
– by Ollie Jones-Evans

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Ollie plays 3 separate characters in his monologue Character Assassination and he differentiated between each by rapidly removing layers of clothing on stage. We decided he should run a few segments of the play that included each character and a couple of changes while I shot. I caught a few nice moments and expressions and the resulting photos are solid – but this is the one production I wish I had done something different as I don’t feel they really stand out and do Ollie justice. In hindsight I suspect that this is where some properly lit portraits that really emphasised the different characters could have made all the difference.

 

What Are You to Me?
– By Steph Jack, Jenny Davies and Sophia Pervilhac

JamieCorbinPhotography_UoB_Gradfest_2013_12Steph, Jenny and Sophia’s installation examined the idea of memories and how we document, archive and link them together. The whole thing was spread out over 2 rooms and divided into different sections – all of which were interactive in some way. Some were designed to be touched, objects you could pick up and play with, others were visual or auditory and finally there were things to be smelt and tasted. If you’re interested you can see more details on the installation’s website.
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If That’s All There Is My Friends, Then Let’s Keep Dancing
– by Ruth Fussell and Lucy Cranshaw

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This performance and the next are the pair I went back to photograph in full once they had access to their space. The first was a study of dance styles and social climate during the time of boom to bust in early 20th century America.

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The set itself was minimal but there was a lot of interaction with the images projected onto a screen on stage – the cast using them both as a backdrop and also to create silhouettes to cut between scenes. My aim was to produce photos that showed the range and variety that combination allowed despite the apparent simplicity of the set.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Children
– by Stephanie Glide and Harriet Long

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The final performance I shot was a reinterpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream aimed at children aged 8+. As a result the set and props were by far the most complex and the action was extremely fast paced! Tricky in low light and hard to keep up with – but great for bold, action-filled production images.

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You can see the rest of my photos in this Flickr set.

Recent Work | Kristen

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The other day I had a quick shoot with Kristen. She’s thinking about getting into modelling and wanted to have a few photos taken so she can start putting together a portfolio.

Now – I’m not a fashion photographer! As a portrait photographer I do pay vague attention to the fashion world and surprisingly (despite appearances – you’ll usually find me in a scruffy pair of jeans and a T if I can get away with it!) tend to have a fairly good idea of current trends. But when I make an image I’m far more interested in the people in my photos than the clothes they’re wearing and to be a fashion photographer you have to LOVE fashion – and I love people – that’s why I’m a people photographer!

However for Kristen, who’s just starting out and yet to really work out what area of modelling she wants to get into, a few clean and simple portraits were a perfect way to get the ball rolling and show people what she really looks like. Time was tight, we only had an hour and particularly when you’re new to being photographed it always takes time to warm up and really get into it, but Kristen was great and we went through a few looks in quick succession. These were the results!

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