Meet the cast of “The Fourth Wall,” one of this summer’s productions by the New Vintage Ensemble. The fourth wall, for those of you who may not be familiar with the phrase, is a performance term for the space between the performance and the viewers. If a set has three physical walls, then the the fourth wall is what separates the actors from the “real world,” a fourth wall that is usually ignored, but is sometimes broken to good dramatic or comedic effect.
When I met with director Kimmie Leff and her cast last week for the promotional photo shoot, we had already decided to shoot the photos in a play off the idea of a fourth wall. So when we began with the group promotional photos, we arranged the case in a series of setups that included an actual wall.
Facing the wall, peering around the wall, against the wall – that last one is a little cliche, perhaps, but it’s repeated time and time again because it does work. With these photos, when the cast is done with the show, they could start a band and have their first album cover!
The real highlight of this shoot, however, is the actor headshots. As a quick aside, headshots can be a bit formulaic sometimes; a lot of productions just want a nice, clean portrait of their actors against a while or colored backdrop. Crisp and classic, and always a good look.
But sometimes you get to play and do something a bit more fun…
This is what happens when you run into the fourth wall face-first!
As much as I’d love to take credit for this concept, it was Director Kimmie Leff’s idea, and it played out perfectly. We were able to find a glass door for the actors to smush their faces against, and we had a lot of fun in the process. It’s a fresh, creative take on the idea of headshots, and I love it.
“The Fourth Wall” will open for a one-day engagement at The Cooperage Project in Honesdale, PA, on 10 July.
“My college roommate was an owl, and now I’m dating him.”
It’s a twisted take on “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,”, and so begins the New Vintage Ensemble’s latest production, “The Trouble with Sketch Shows,” an original piece written, directed, and performed by members of the Ensemble as part of their 2016 season.
In the hijinks that follow, we meet a self-absorbed newscaster who never actually gets to her program, a school cook, a spelling bee nerd, an Indiana Jones escapade gone wrong, and a truly disgruntled senior citizen, among others.
I was invited to cover one of NVE’s dress rehearsals in order to provide promotional and archival images for the ensemble – it’s pretty cool to get a look at a show before the general public, and I don’t think NVE will have any trouble filling seats for this one.
My favorite part of this whole process is the originality – every skit in the show came from the minds of people I know, people I’ve hung out with, had brunch with, had drinks with, never knowing that this kind of twisted genius was lurking inside. I am hugely impressed by their individual contributions, and by the quality of the New Vintage Ensemble’s original works overall.
“The Trouble with Sketch Shows” opens tonight, with two performances Friday night and one on Saturday at the Scranton Cultural Center.
This is Keith, a local web developer and friend of mine. He’s spent one night a week for the past couple of months meeting to teach me HTML/CSS coding, so when he asked if I’d be willing to do some portraits for him, I couldn’t have been happier.
Keith is a bit of a character, and he wanted his photos to convey that – nothing stuffy. Something different. Something fun. So we setup the studio and grabbed a few shots.
You might recognize him from my NetDriven Christmas photos the past two years [LINK], as he appeared in several of those shots as well, and I’m pretty sure he recycled a few of those poses for his portrait session.
We may do another set in the near future, with more of a business-casual feel. But in the meantime, this is a good reminder that portraits don’t have to be serious. We don’t all have to look like a power-suit on the cover of Forbes. Sometimes, it’s fun to just have fun.
This is Mandy, my lovely, brilliant, talented wife. Mandy hates having her photo taken and is visibly uncomfortable in front of the camera, despite excelling as an actor. After eight years together, I know better than to ask her to model for me, and she rarely volunteers.
But this spring, Mandy asked me to shoot some new portraits for her, for professional use. And so began the day-long agony of a photo shoot that seemed doomed from the start.
The funny thing is, most people are a lot like Mandy. No exaggeration, almost every single time I shoot portraits for a client, the client – who hired me in the first place! – will begin by telling me how much they dislike having their photo taken, and how bad they are at being photographed. For real, if I had a dollar for every time someone says that to me, I wouldn’t need to keep working as a photographer.
Such statements are rubbish, of course. The vast majority of people are actually just fine at having their photo taken, and many people even get into it, hamming it up a little, once the get comfortable. And that’s the key, right there – comfort. When I start a photo shoot with someone, I know that the first entire pose, the first 20-30 photos, are all throw aways. Their only purpose is to let the subject become comfortable in front of the camera so they can act naturally.
Unfortunately, Mandy isn’t a part of that vast majority, and after several hours of shooting in the studio, she still wasn’t happy with the photos. She was becoming frustrated and soured on the idea, and it was harder and harder to even try and help her relax.
So we switched it up. Sometimes the studio just isn’t the right setting. It may be too confining or too sterile, or it may be too intimidating to the subject. So we threw some gear in a bag and took the show on the road, to Marywood University, where she was both a student and is now an adjunct professor. It was her home turf, and there’s a definite sense of comfort that comes from being in a setting where you are familiar and in control.
She ended up like the Marywood photos better than the studio shots overall, although we ultimately agreed on a few of each as her final selection. Including the one below, which she doesn’t like, but I love.
I love shooting portraits, but not everyone loves being a model/subject. It’s my goal to make sure my subjects become comfortable with the process so we can make some great photos, and I offer up Mandy as proof that it’s possible.
The New Vintage Ensemble’s production of Hamlet took to the stage this past January and played to full houses for each of its two series of weekend performances. Well-acted, engaging, and visually stunning, the show was everything that the Ensemble had hoped it would be, and was a great kickoff to their year as the artists-in-residence at the Scranton Cultural Center.
NVE was kind enough to invite me to their final dress rehearsal to capture some images directly from the show itself. Dress rehearsals are ideal for this, as there usually isn’t anyone in the audience, and as a photographer I have free reign of the theater and am able to move around at will to best capture the action, all without having to worry about disrupting the experience for paying customers.
So without further ado, here’s a selection of images from the show, highlighting all the depth, moodiness, and tragedy that is Hamlet:
NVE is preparing for the rest of their 2016 season, with a variety of shows spread between June and December. Be sure to check out their website and events pages for more information!
A flashback to autumn, when it was still warm before the snow began flying. I met up with Kimmy down in the Back Mountain for a senior portrait session, where she simply rocked the camera like a pro!
We began with a couple of setups around her home – she wanted all outdoor shots – including some great shots of her sitting in a rope swing under a maple tree.
There are moments like this where a photographer couldn’t ask for more – and a full Hollywood design team couldn’t create a better setup. A maple tree aflame with fall color, the lawn behind thick with leaves, an overcast day with perfect, soft light – it doesn’t get any better than this! (Although we did have to run and stop Kimmy’s dad from using the lawnmower to clean up the leaves until we’d finished our shoot!)
From there, we make a short drive down to The Lands at Hillside Farms and took advantage of the beautiful grounds there for a few more setups. We stopped in the barn and grabbed the hay bale shot above, then worked our way along the creek and finally ended up inside the greenhouse for a few last, bright portraits.
There are folks who step in front of the camera and need a lot of coaching to feel – and look – comfortable for portraits. And that’s fine, it’s part of the job and I’m always more than happy to help them get just the right pose, just the right expression. It’s a fun challenge for both of us to overcome. But then there are others like Kimmy, who step in front of the camera like the own it, and I spend the whole session yelling, “Don’t move, that’s perfect!” They make my job easy.
Here’s to you, Kimmy – may your senior year be great!