Lion’s share

On stage with the cast of The Lion King

NPhoto - - Front Page -

Most the­atre pho­tog­ra­phy shows the per­for­mance as it is seen on stage. Typ­i­cally a pho­tog­ra­pher is given a seat way back in the stalls dur­ing a dress re­hearsal, and the per­form­ers aren’t even aware they’re there. It is a faith­ful re­pro­duc­tion of the pro­duc­tion, with no changes to the stag­ing or light­ing.

The Lion King mu­si­cal has been run­ning at Lon­don’s Lyceum The­atre for 17 years, and is based on the story and the songs of the Dis­ney an­i­mated clas­sic, first re­leased in 1994. So when I was asked to shoot some new pub­lic­ity shots for the award­win­ning show, I wanted to come up with a fresh ap­proach to the pho­tog­ra­phy.

Im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence

I work full time as a pho­tog­ra­pher and graphic artist for Dewyn­ters, one of the best-known pub­li­cists in the West End. After watch­ing the show again, I drew some scamps – quick sketches of the scenes that I wanted to cap­ture that I could then use to ex­plain my con­cept to my col­leagues and The Lion King team.

My idea was to shoot com­pos­ite shots that en­abled the viewer to get right in there and be im­mersed in the en­vi­ron­ment – to break the ‘fourth wall’ as it’s known in the­atri­cal cir­cles. Each scene would be care­fully set up for me, so wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily be ex­actly what you saw on stage – but would still ac­cu­rately rep­re­sent the feel of the show, and stay faith­ful to the cre­ative vi­sion of di­rec­tor Julie Tay­mor and her team. I wanted to give a sense of the epic scale and colour of the show which has been seen by over 13 mil­lion the­atre­go­ers.

After talk­ing to the cre­ative team, we went into the specifics of what we’d need. It was a huge col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort in­volv­ing not just the ac­tors, but make-up, light­ing, wardrobe, stage hands... the whole Lyceum team. We shot six dif­fer­ent im­ages over two days, with each one tak­ing about an hour to set up, test and shoot, from start to fin­ish.

I used my Nikon D800, which I have been us­ing for about four years… the im­age qual­ity is su­perb and I’ve used shots from it for 48-sheet bill­board posters. All the pictures were taken with my 24-70mm f/2.8, which al­lowed me to be close to the ac­tion and to use a slightly wide-an­gle view.

The Lion King has the best open­ing scene of any show I know. The Cir­cle of Life uses the music of El­ton John to show the newly-born Simba being in­tro­duced as the heir ap­par­ent to the an­i­mal king­dom. That mo­ment stays with you for­ever, so when I was asked to do this job, there was no way I wasn’t go­ing to shoot this scene.

Layer by layer

As with most of the shots, we built the scene up a layer at a time. We built Pride Rock, and then added in the an­i­mals who were go­ing to be close to the cam­era, and then re­fined ev­ery­one’s po­si­tions un­til we had the shot. We then pho­tographed each of the char­ac­ters in­di­vid­u­ally, so the po­si­tion and size of each of the ac­tors could be mi­croad­justed in Pho­to­shop to get ex­actly the right bal­ance for the fi­nal pub­lic­ity shot.

Stage light­ing is tra­di­tion­ally set up so that it looks good from the back of the au­di­to­rium – so that ev­ery­one in the the­atre can see ex­actly what is go­ing on. For this shoot I sup­ple­mented this us­ing Elinchrom flash heads, fired with wire­less trig­gers, to add drama to the light­ing. Every­thing was con­sid­ered, whether it was to add a shaft of light here, or a bit of flare there.

Hope­fully the fin­ished shots cap­ture the breath­tak­ing feel­ing you get when you first see The Lion King for real.

I wanted to give a sense of the epic scale and colour of the show which has been seen by over 13 mil­lion the­atre­go­ers

Matt was given about an hour for each of the six pub­lic­ity shots he took of the The Lion King The stage light­ing was sup­ple­mented with Elinchrom flash heads to add drama to the light­ing Many of the fi­nal shots were com­pos­ites, com­bin­ing shots of in­di­vid­ual dancers to cre­ate the per­fect whole

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.