4 April 2012

Way back in November 2011 we shot the images for our 2012 theatre season brochure with Young Fashion Photographer of the Year 2011, Amberly Valentine. In between dangling cameras from the heavens and reigning in Henry V, I caught up with Amberly to hear more about the shoot.

I think it was an obvious project for me because my work is narrative based. And I’ve always had a love of Shakespeare. I put forward mood boards and ideas that I thought would work with the setting and then pulled out key concepts from the plays (Henry V, Richard III,  The Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night). The art directors came back to me with details of the areas that they wanted to represent visually and from there I worked out the lighting and style of shooting. It was a collaborative process.

Twelfth Night (c) Amberly Valentine

Twelfth Night (c) Amberly Valentine

There have been some technical challenges. One day we had the camera mounted on an overhead rig that went through a trapdoor 40 feet above the stage. I then shot the action happening on stage remotely from a computer located in the attic. A lot of the images are composed of several shots superimposed onto one so we’ve been shooting individual layers which will then all be compressed together. Overall it’s been quite an easy process really because everybody’s so friendly and open here.

My favourite part has got to be on Wednesday when we shot Henry V (lead image).  We called in lots of extras who we dressed in armour. They were all brandishing swords and charging about the stage. We turned around from setting up the lights and the extra playing Henry V was out in the crowds taking pictures with people. He was definitely acting the part of a king!

Richard III (c) Amberly Valentine

Richard III (c) Amberly Valentine

Theatrical Fashion 

This shoot was  similar to an editorial fashion photography shoot, given the strong narrative themes.We regularly base our concepts on written works such as Shakespeare, or we might be inspired by a quote or a short speech. Quite often my team and I will write an actual story to go with the shoot, giving the models characters that they can get into. We also frequently work with theatres on the concepts. Sometimes we’ll bring in pieces from the National Theatre archives, or work with hair and makeup artists from the theatre.

In these images there is more of an emphasis on the character’s actions or behaviour whereas in fashion there’s more of an emphasis on the aesthetic. But really, other than that they are quite similar.

 

The Taming of the Shrew (c) Amberly Valentine

The Taming of the Shrew (c) Amberly Valentine

A  dream-like vision  

My favourite Shakespeare play has always been A Midsummer Night’s Dream, purely for the visual aspect of it. I love the idea of it being in a forest, the lighting, the language in it and the flowers; you can really see how that would all work. It’s such a visual play. Fairytales and folk tales and memories from my childhood have been a huge influence on me. I really connect with the faded, glamorous, romantic feel of the photography of Tim Walker and Eugenio Recuenco. I’ve always, always wanted to do a fashion film with A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  There are so many fantastic plays by Shakespeare but that one from a visual point of view has always been the one I’ve been drawn to.

Amberly graduated from The London College of Fashion (MA Fashion Photography) in 2012 Her work has featured in Vogue Italia.com, Elle Belgium and Papercut. She cites Tim Walker, Paolo Roversi and Annie Liebovitz amongst her influences.  For more see her website http://www.amberlyvalentine.com/

by Sian-Estelle Petty