Sunday, January 8, 2012

And now a word from our photographer

I've never worked 14/48.  I've wanted to for years and years, but my schedule never seemed to allow it.  In addition to being a photographer, I'm also Technical Director at Annex, work for a major tech company as a programmer, maintain my own bicycles and motorcycles, write, teach stage firearm safety, recently started designing microcontroller projects, along with an eclectic variety of other projects and pursuits.  Free time is a fleeting thing in my life.  Thus, it was something of a shock when Andy emailed me on short notice, and asked if I was free.  Actually, what he said was, "I know you're probably not available, but do you know any other photographers..."

The shock was, the first weekend of 14/48 dovetailed (almost) perfectly with my schedule, and we quickly worked out that I would shoot the whole weekend, minus the 10:30 Friday show, when I had another commitment. I was excited: this was, finally, my opportunity!  After years of quietly cursing each time the schedule came out, it finally worked out.  I'm gonna say it again, because clearly I can't repeat the word enough: finally.

I had expected to get the virgin treatment, but my badge simply said, Ian Johnston, Staff.  Still, 14/48 has a way of eating you up that I've heard of many times, and finally experienced myself.  It's true, but it's wonderful.  One of my scant few Facebook updates during 14/48 was, "Of course I should have realized: sleep is for people who aren't doing 14/48," moments before hopping back to it.

The role of photographer at 14/48, at least as I decided to play it, is one of perpetual benign voyeurism.  Constantly roaming the halls of ACT, looking for beautiful moments, or dramatic moments, or inspiring moments.  I would flit from room to room, watching the rehearsal process unfold.  I would hover over the random draws, photographing people's reactions as they saw the play they'd be directing, or acting in, or designing for.  I narrowly missed catching one of the designers as she raised her fists in the air, triumphantly exclaiming, "I get to make BOOBS!"  I did manage to catch a shockingly beautiful photo of Samie Detzer gazing straight into the lens in her lighthouse-keeper drag, with the bright Saturday light of the Buster's room window streaming around her.  Her comment when I showed her the picture (something I only did a few times this weekend): "I look tired."

There are so many beautiful scenes happening during 14/48, it's essentially impossible to describe.  I caught a few of them, so I got yer 1000 words right here and all, but there are many more I couldn't quite capture, or didn't have the camera ready for, or simply didn't see because I wasn't in the room.  Every human emotion was on display, from some of the finest actors I've ever seen perform.  The light, despite being in odd little corners of ACT's sprawling and labyrinthine space, was sometimes so good I wanted to cry.  One of the major secrets to a good photograph or movie is good light.  It's hard to make, and can be hard to recognize, but when it goes right... Man.

I counted up the shots today, and I pressed that shutter button 8,442 times (conveniently, an even and unplanned multiple of 14).  I spent about 17 hours there each day, plus two hours on Thursday for the initial meeting.  For the stats nerds in the house, that's 234.5 shots per hour, or almost 4 shots per minute.  Of course, I wasn't mechanically pressing the shutter button every 15 seconds.  Some of the shots ended up receiving 5 exposures in a second, and I sometimes went hours without taking a picture (there are only so many pictures you can take of the same group rehearsing a 10 minute show before it starts to feel repetitive, although I suspect some would consider my definition of so many pictures to be a bit overboard).

I'm sorry I didn't get myself into 14/48 sooner, but I'm glad it finally happened.  I always figured I would come in as a designer, but when an opportunity falls into your lap, you don't poo-poo it for being an opportunity you didn't expect.  The experience of a photographer, as it turns out, is very wide.  I got to see every part of the process, with the exception of the writing, which doesn't happen on-site (maybe next time I do this, I can work with a writer to completely distract them from their process and take pictures as they write).  As a designer, I would be more involved, but have a much more narrow experience.  At some point, sure, I'd like to design.  But for now, I'm going to count my blessings that I got in to document the whole thing, and at some point, I'm going to tackle that freakin' mountain of photos.  Holy crap, but 8,442 photos is a lot to contemplate.


Unknown said...

Ian, very cool. Thank you for writing this about your experiences.

And Sammie's so full of shit and being such a typical chick. She looks gorgeous here. It's a timeless shot.

Paul Mullin said...

Sorry, the above comment is from me, Paul Mullin. I do not do the anonymous on line thing. At least, not on purpose.

And I apologize for misspelling Samie's name.

Ian Johnston said...

I liked her comment, in a way -- it sums up 14/48 so succinctly. I am presented with a thing of beauty, which others acknowledge, and although I may also see the beauty in it... goddamn am I tired.

Arts Thaddeus said...

What happened to the video link from Shhh?