Photography blogs are boring and make me want to go on a terrible spree. Welcome to the antidote.
What else evokes the coming of springtime more than the sight of a man removing his trousers down a sidestreet whilst another man, seemingly dressed like casual Jesus, stands nearby with a camera? Nothing, that’s what. Bloody nothing. This was the eyeful an unfortunate passer by got as she peered curiously into the alley where Steakley Bakewell was changing into his ring gear. It’s a tricky one to explain: “It’s alright, I’m taking promotional photographs of two wrestlers called The Bakewell Boys. They’re sort of Northern Luchadores. Yes I’m saying real words, what do you mean?”.
I was tasked with taking the Bakewells out and about and creating some promo images. They wrestle for Lucha Britannia, who I have blogged about previously (do a click with your mouse thing). Seeing as they are the comic relief in what is already a completely madbox, mentoids nut-show (in the nicest possible way), I decided to explore a less obvious route than the standard goofy dickabout shots, or at least mix it up a little.
The theme I had in my head was ‘ silliness in seriousness ‘. It was important that they played some of the shots as straight as possible, without any faux-serious mugging. I asked them to go for the feel of an on-location fashion or rock star shoot. There is something brilliant about taking archetypal comic characters and getting to them to play it straight: I was particularly pleased when we found the word “ANUS” in 6 foot letters graffiti’d onto the wall of a car park and I got them to pose as seriously as possible in front of it.
The structure of the shoot could be loosely categorised as a ‘ free-form pissabout ‘: one where you have an idea of the feel of the shots you want and you go wandering to see what you can find. It’s a proper adventure, exploring for backgrounds and settings whilst different ideas pop into your head.
What I love is that there’s always this moment where you’ve been shooting for a while and your portrait subject just does something unprompted, you capture it and it looks brilliant. Those shots that go as planned are great, too, of course, but the unexpected opportunities that naturally arise are like little sprinkly bits of magic photo dust (that is the technical term). The skill in getting those ‘downtime’ shots (that’s right: I’m claiming I have some skill) is to always be observant and keep an eye on what your subjects are doing. Basically, in that space of time that you’re shooting, you need to be obsessed with your subject.
During a portrait session I think you need to read into everything, see something interesting in whatever is happening. In the age of DSLRs, we don’t have a finite roll of film to think about, so firing off a shot when you see something potentially interesting forming in front of you is totally risk-free. Now don’t get all shitty with me, filmophiles, I know film has its own advantages and is brilliant and beautiful, but there are luxuries you are afforded when you shoot digital that are definitely advantageous on certain shoots.
These newly dubbed ‘ free-form pissabouts ‘ are my favourite shoots by a long, long way. It’s a great joy of editorial style photography to just improvise and work with what you find as you go. I love it to death and it’s so exciting when it goes right. Photo sessions like these are the reason I continue to love what I do, because they are ridiculous and I am ridiculous.
The full set is on my Flickr – here (click it up, clickface).