Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Photo Shoot

By Paul Gordon Emerson

OK, so if you're going to promote concerts, sell tickets and get buzz, you need photographs. Dance companies take pictures of dancers doing insane or elegant or elegantly insane things to get people to go "oooh, I gotta see that." The question is, how insane?

Till now insane was defined this way: August 17, 2007 - Take two highly trained professionals, one house (supplied by Teri and Larry, who had no idea what being on the Board would end up meaning), four one gallon buckets supplied by your local hardware story, one hose spitting water add one extremely expensive camera with a high level of intolerance to things like, oh, water. Go into the back yard of said Board Members house on a steamy Sunday (when most people are eating in their back yard). Get your Director of Marketing and Board treasurer so stand on opposite sides of one or both of said dancers -- either on a chair, a stair, a ladder or some other reasonably unsafe platform). Fill buckets with water. Yell "go." Throw water. Hard. Take photos as dancers get drenched. Watch as, out of the frame, said Marketing Director and Board Treasurer get similarly soaked (not part of the plan but definitely at least as much fun). End result: great and unexpected photos. 

Fast forward to May 1, 2008. In the best traditions of "one-upping" think about the best image for the show "Warmer: Carbon," the follow-on show to the first Global Warming concert (for which the aforementioned water shot was taken). Well, carbon is black. And dirty. And an image about the impact of carbon emissions, which of course is tough since co2 is invisible, has to convey that. OK, so how? Idea found while waiting in the lobby of a hotel: black silica sand like the stuff you used to find in commercial ash trays. Go online. Find said "sand." Order, oh, 300 pounds of it. Have it delivered to the studios at Strathmore. Wait for the emails to come in from the front desk --- "ummm, there's a delivery of, well, sand, at the front desk and its, you know INSANELY heavy. Did you order this and, if so, why? And, if you did, could you please get it off the front desk so we can do work?"

The idea -- pour the sand from a high place on a dancer (better word: victim) and capture all that dramatic bouncing and stuff. Now, when one thinks of sand one thinks of beach sand. But this stuff is more like mica, so it shines. Very cool stuff. Probably insanely toxic, but hey, its art, right? 

Now, the sand really should stick on the dancer (who will now be known as Alice, cause she was crazy enough to say "yes" to the request, which came during her vacation). Hmmm. What should be use for that? Well, oil or something, of course. Nah. We went with vaseline. You know, something that is impossible to get off after you're done. 

This is one of those things you can only do outdoors. Except it was raining Thursday. Hard. While that would have been great for "Warmer," for carbon, not so much. So, you cancel the shoot, right? And reschedule, right? Nah. We moved it indoors. Into the studio. Where we rehearse. 

Cover the entire room with black paper. Put up an elegant screen for lighting, which takes 30 minutes to set-up and which, after its done, you decide not to use at all. Bring in Alice, cover her in vaseline till she looks like a science experiment. Put Betsy -- that Marketing Director I was talking about earlier -- and Dina, our Marketing Associate, on expensive black chairs. Hand them big containers filled with really heavy sand. Have Alice make a crazy set of shapes while all that sand is being poured on her from over her head. Yell "go" (I have a tough job here -- really. Yelling go is exhausting). Take pictures. Of someone being covered in sand --- you know, with all the dust kicking up everywhere around everyone. 

Then clean the whole thing up in about 30 minutes so you can have class. 

Never dull. 

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