Eliza Soroga at Performance Space, New Crossed Out

Performance Photography at New Crossed Out

This is an interesting one for me, because I was photographing the performances at New Crossed Out - this month at Performance Space in Hackney Wick - and Eliza was doing this durational piece throughout the evening. However, she was doing it in the dark with only a low powered torch balanced on the floor and pointing up at the photograph you can see here above her head.

-bad-example-01-(Ivor Houlker)This (on the left) is how things looked from attempting to photograph the scene during the performance itself. This is at f/2.0 and ISO 1600. As you can see, the picture isn't bad, but everything - even that bicycle wheel, is lit better than the performer. I didn't even see that there was a card with writing on below at this point. Fortunately I had a flash and triggers with me, so at the end of the night I was able to photograph Eliza again. I put the flash down straight in front of the torch on the ground, grabbed the torch to use as an AF assist beam, and took just two shots with a 28mm lens, 1/160, f/6.3, ISO 100, I think the flash was at half power - I wanted to make sure the photo, Eliza, and the name card were all in focus.

Straight out of cameraThis is what I got in camera (on the right). I would probably not have lit it like this, except that I was trying to imitate the light intended by the performer, however it had a very different spread and beam to the torch. I could got closer by zooming the flash head, but then I couldn't be sure of hitting the writing on the card, so I decided to just get everything and then bring it back to a similar look to the original in photoshop. As you can see, I've drawn the attention back to the three elements of the performance, as well as getting rid of some distracting elements like the red column. I think I managed to imitate the intention of the performer, although it doesn't look exactly like it did on the night by any means. I think it works as a better record of the piece than the blurry/grainy mess I would have otherwise got.

However, this does raise an interesting point about performance photography, and the documentation of a live event. I have sometimes photographed performances after they're over, and set up my own lights for the photos - which has taught me a lot about lighting; when photographing as well as when creating performance work myself. I do think that the principles of photography would make an excellent education for anyone working on creating their own visual performance work. It can make the difference between an otherwise static durational piece being compelling or completely unnoticed.

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