stormont parliament buildings belfast

Bless me father…

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..its been 4 weeks since my last blog post.
What can I say, I’ve been busy!
Firstly, the world cup has been on. I’d love to say its been a classic but it hasnt. England overachieved (again). Honestly guys, you arent as good as you think you are.
The French self destructed and went out in the first round – sorry have to snigger at that one.
At the time of writing, we have just had the quarter finals and finally the tournament has sprung to life, teams actually trying to win games instead of not losing them. Argentina were taught a lesson in football by Germany, Brazil outplayed, Paraguay only just beaten by a lacklustre Spanish side.

Three countries corner - brazil argentina paraguay

I remember standing on three countries corner in January (Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay) and thinking in the last couple of weeks that all three places would be going completely daft and surely at least one of those would make the final. Nope.
At the minute its very hard to see past Germany. No worries about dodgy offsides, ball going over the line cameras, vuvuzelas…
… nope scoring 4 goals a game will sort it out for you. (thats probably the kiss of death for them).So what else have I been up to – oh yes, bought a boat, more on that in a later post (if I havent drowned).

Its been a busy time with ‘normal’ photo work as opposed to stock photography. Ive been involved in a number of dance photography projects as well as general tourism PR photography for one of the local tourist agencies – maybe more on that in a later post.
The Dance projects are interesting. One was to document all the work that a particular organisation does, from teaching to performances to providing working and conference facilities. It was a long project with a lot of quite interesting aspects but again more on this later as the photos are still embargoed until the new projects launch.

Once again I had the opportunity to work with local company Maiden Voyage. They are currently producing two portable dance productions to incorporate into various aspects of the community and the upcoming cultural life of the City.
The pieces are designed to be portable so that they can be performed anywhere and everywhere in limited space and on the fly as well as incorporated into larger productions and street or internal displays.
This provides a challenge both to the production teams and in terms of PR photography given the vagaries of the Northern Ireland weather. The crew just love it when the drizzle starts and I shout for them to continue as it puts a nice sheen on the roadway!
The first piece is entitled ‘Bubblegum’ and choreographed by Omar Gordon with dancers Ryan O’Neill and Fania Grigoriou. The piece is inspired by the idea of sharing our space and embracing the differences. As this was the first piece to be completed the venue choices for the photography had to really be something linked to the cultural aspects of the city.
The official description is ‘Set in an intricate self-made world of barriers and conceived with the idea of sharing a space and embracing our differences, BUBBLEGUM is an exploration of mania’s, idiosyncrasies and two comic characters attraction to each other.’ Thats pretty much the brief.
Maiden Voyage is based in the Cathedral Arts Quarter of the City so the first set of photos was to be in and around there coupled with a later set featuring the River Lagan which everyone from Belfast would recognise.
Sounds like a plan…
Of course to ensure clean backgrounds, quiet streets, good light and uninterrupted staging of a couple of run throughs of the piece, we would really need to be ready to go for about 8am on a Sunday morning. Sorry, we thought you said meet at 8am sunday. Yes I did, see you there.
As with everything tied up with deadlines, the weather was the key and we had an hour of good weather window to get the shots. As Id never seen the complete piece before we did a run through then I ran around like a maniac getting the angles for the PR photos. Even at this ungodly hour of a sunday morning there were some brave tourist souls who didnt realise that Belfast doesnt open to after midday on a Sunday! I hate staging Dance photos, I avoid it at all costs so for me its a case of running through the piece once, marking my spots then maybe one or two more runthroughs before isolating small sections for repeats. I let the dancers get on with it, they are the experts and minimal intervention from me except the odd stop and repeat that bit sort of thing. Its also important to get the choreographers input, listening to what they are trying to achieve and blending that with the options available in an essentially uncontrolled environment (that big yellow for sale sign wasnt there yesterday) and also producing images that can be used for PR purposes, that have impact, meaning and appeal visually to a range of audiences, not just those involved with Dance.
I can set a dozen images down and I know which ones the dancers, choreographers will like, the ones I like, the ones that are good for PR, the ones that will get published and the ones that will stick in peoples minds. Rarely do all of those intersect.
The final two shots selected try to accommodate all that, one in Hill Street and one on raised ground at the Lagan with the Harland and Wolff shipyards in the background.

Maiden Voyage - Dance Exposed - Bubblegum - Belfast

Maiden Voyage - Dance Exposed - Bubblegum - Belfast

The second piece ‘Dream a Little Dream’ choreographed by Suzannah McCreight with dancers Ryan O’Neill and Jen Thornton was a different prospect, both technically and aestetically. The official description of the piece ‘Tired of everyday life, a couple embark on a red carpet fantasy as they try out a celebrity existence invoking an era of old Hollywood glamour.’ For someone who also specialised in red carpet photos, how hard could it be?
Well tell that to the Northern Ireland weather.
We initially wanted to contrast the first shots with the idea of the pieces being extremely portable so we came up with a few ideas for primarily big sky outdoor locations. Our first choice was McArts fort on the top of Cavehill with the city spread out below, another early morning shot and second choice as the likes of Stormont with a final idea of some truly red carpet shots at dusk some evening with the city lights twinkling in the background. We had a deadline for the photos so just had to wait for a weather window.

Cave Hill - McArts fort Belfast

Stormont parliament buildings - Belfast

But no.
That left us with some more river dusk shots but the only weather window was at the same time as the local maritime festival so that was a no-goer as well.
Back to the drawing board and we decided for this set of PR pictures to focus in on the red carpet aspect of the piece and shoot it again in Cathedral Quarter but this time surrounded by the modern architecture and clean buildings and lines of the urban renewal section of the quarter. This contrasts with the old cobbled streets of Hill Street and the river which the city grew up around.
On reflection it suited the piece more to have this as the background given that the couple in the piece were trying to get away from everyday life and develop a new modern existence with a stylised view of an old era.
As a consequence of having to wait for weather windows we ended up putting on the first public performances of the piece. It was Sunday afternoon by the time the weather cleared for a Monday deadline. At first passers by asked if someone famous was coming along due to the red carpets and the photographer and videographers with multi light setups but everyone that passed by stopped to watch at least one of the run-throughs. Playing havoc with window reflections, but hey, how hard can this photography thing really be?

Maiden Voyage - Dance Exposed - Dream a Little Dream - Belfast

Maiden Voyage - Dance Exposed - Dream a Little Dream - Belfast
more Belfast photos here
more Ireland photos here

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