on reflection - The House of Mirrors and Hearts promo images

Recently I've been asked on several occasions to photograph some brilliant people, it's been a lovely few weeks. 10 days ago the cast of a brand new musical dropped by to make some promo images for "The House of Mirrors and Hearts" by Eamonn O'Dwyer and Rob Gilbert.

"Keeping secrets is a kind of art…
When Anna’s husband is killed in a tragic accident at their home, her family’s life is changed forever. Seven years pass and, torn apart by grief, Anna has drunk herself numb.
Her daughters, Lily and Laura, exist in a world of secrets and lies. They spend their days in bitter silence and suspicion, until Nathan, a new lodger studying the works of a forgotten poet, forces them to confront their past. Tensions within the family build, threatening to shatter this already broken household once and for all.
A timeless, atmospheric and intoxicating musical, The House of Mirrors and Hearts is a contemporary British story about a dysfunctional family haunted by their past."

I could try and explain the physics behind these reflective images but it might get tangled up, maybe I should just say that all of these were created in camera. A few people have asked if we comped them together in photoshop.... I wish I had that kind of photoshop ability!!

"The House of Mirrors and Hearts" will be at the Arcola Theatre from July 2nd, starring Grace Rowe, Gillian Kirkpatrick, Graham Bickley, Jamie Muscato and Molly Maguire.

"and though she be but little, she is fierce." - midsummer with Evelyn.

I met Evelyn a month or so ago when I made production images for Carrie at the Southwark Playhouse.

After I saw the show for a second time I messaged and asked if she'd like to make some photos together, happily she said yes. The reason I asked Evelyn was because, as well as being gorgeous, she has a disarming stillness that I knew I wanted to photograph. She has an ability to just look; she's not posing, she's not composing herself, she's just being, and I knew we could make some lovely images.

The sun refused to make an appearance yesterday so I popped to Balloons of London in South Bermondsey and bought her a handful of replacement sunshine and then we headed to my favourite garden at the top of Hampstead Heath. I take myself to north London quite regularly just to sit in this beautiful garden, it's so quiet and peaceful.
Every time I visit I take stacks of symmetrical photos of the structure and every time I wish there was a beautiful person in the middle of all those photos. So that's what we did....

I'm so happy with these images, they're just pictures for the sake of making pictures and they're exactly what I had in my head every time I visit my favourite secret garden. They're symmetrical and reflective. Everything just came together, the colours, the clear muted light, everything.

As we walked back down the hill, the heavens opened and we got pretty much drenched, perfect timing!

Perfect for midsummer's eve. Blimey, just realised how that phrase works on several levels for these photos.

One weekend in Tinseltown : the Improvathon photos.

The 8th London 50hr Improvathon : this year set in modern day Hollywood, during the centenary celebrations of Sleepless Studios, run by Ted Wood.

What to say about the Improvathon…. it is the single most insane, creative, exhausting, exhilarating, emotional, uplifting thing I get involved in all year. We are "locked" in a theatre together for 50hrs straight and this story unfolds which makes you laugh and cry, sometimes both at the same time.

I've said it before, and I know I'll say it again, but these people are the funniest, cleverest, most talented people I know and I love that I get to be a tiny part of it. Photographing improv is the thing that makes my heart sing and the photos I'm most proud of.

This brilliance happens once and never again.... Until a whole new story next time!

First and Last.

I thought I'd run some kind of project through this year's improvathon, so first hour polaroids and last hour portraits....

....most people had two, Adam had three - one in director mode and one in character.

It was a nice experiment, I think the adrenaline of the last hour made lovely smiley photos, where most look more awake that at the start.

Conversations with a fellow photographer : part 2

So, here's the other part of the Sunday afternoon with Libby in Blackheath.

The harder part to explain, how it feels to have your photo taken when you're a very reluctant photo subject....


I LOVE how red my hair looks in this shot.

I found this stupidly difficult, harder than it should be to just stand still and have someone take my photo.

I hate photos of me so much - I always look like the gurning idiot with the lazy eye on the edge of group photos. My friends happily post all the photos of me looking like an idiot, probably because there's so few of me looking normal. So every time Libby pointed the camera at me I tensed up and overly considered what my face was probably looking like. I don't like smiling because I think my eyes screw up and look old, but when I don't smile I have a tiny mouth and I look stern and weird. I hate my chin, I have a huge forehead.

Every one of those thoughts was going through my brain constantly. I was trying to compose my face, and I couldn't relax. I was thinking what I looked like through the camera? how was someone else seeing me? how was I being framed? would I just look the same as always? 

These thoughts are kind of exhausting.

To smile....

....or not to smile?!

Libby must have had to throw away 100s of me talking and glaring and frowning and just looking like a nutter. But I think it's really good to understand what it's like to be on the other side of the camera, so I tried really hard to just listen to Libby's sensible, calming advice that my brain was desperately trying to ignore.

I tried not to second guess what my already confused face was looking like, I let myself laugh and try not apologise for it....

Smile Claire....

Out of all of the photos, I think this is my most favourite, it looks like the version of me that I actually like...

....and whilst I normally fight against looking like my Mum - doesn't every girl hate being told she looks like her mother?!! - I don't think I've ever looked more like her than in this pic on the right.

But I like it, it's like a photo from Mum & Dad's wedding when she was 23, and at nearly 38 I don't really mind looking like my mum in her early 20s. :-)


In conclusion.....

Did I enjoy having my photo taken?

Yes and no. I'd like to do it again, to see if I learnt.

Do I like the result?

Yes.... mostly, and the problems are with me, not the photos.

Was it a good idea?

Totally, even just for the chatter and the learning and the meeting of a lovely person.  

All photos in this post are created by Libby Christensen. Check her out, she's brilliant.

Conversations with a fellow photographer : part 1

So I feel this might be a slightly different blog post, mainly because it'll be more words than pictures - that doesn't often happen.

But first, a picture…..

That's Libby, she's a pretty fabulous photographer (mostly portraits and weddings)… you can check out her work at libbychristensen.co.uk or find her on Facebook.
We've been talking online for a while now, having many friends in common and many of the same connections.

As anyone who knows me will confirm, I hate having my photo taken.
I hate 95% of photos taken of me and I barely tolerate the other 5%.

With that in mind I decided to ask Libby a few months back whether she would take my photo. Because you know what, I wanted to see what someone whose images I really respect would do when challenged with an awful and very reluctant subject, me. Also I knew we shoot on similar kit, I like her colour choices, she's fond of super-shallow depth of field, I thought it would be almost like having the photo that I would take of myself….. Libby seemed up for a challenge and threw it back at me also…..

So finally on Sunday afternoon we convened in sunny Blackheath and found ourself a secluded cut-through between the main roads to dance around and take photos. Of course before the cameras even came out of the bags we ended up talking for about an hour, about people we know, photographers we like, camera kit, how to take a decent actor's headshot (something I can't do!) etc etc etc.

But then the project in hand was to make images and I must admit it was harder than most photos I end up taking…. not because Libby was a tricky subject, but because I found myself second-guessing every image. I found myself taking the photo I wanted but then wondering how it would look to another photographer. I know how critical I am of my images, maybe another photographer would be that critical also…. As such I ended up taking photos that were quite diverse, it's amazing how different Libby looks from one shot to the next…. 

This is the kind of shot that I usually like, it's direct and (almost) symmetrical. But it's a little cold possibly?

Much sunnier and friendlier.

I reckon the following image is the best of both worlds… sort of...

One of the things that we discussed, that I think I'm employing even now to this blog post is how when you're making photos of someone who understands exactly why you're doing what you do, it's hard to get away with any bullshit, you can't get away with tricks that you might usually use to get a smile or a certain expression, you can't get away with an image that's just ok!
And I'm still not certain whether I won that battle…. I like these images, but ultimately is it about me liking the images, usually it is - usually I think to myself "Well Claire, you'll always be your harshest critic so if you like the shots then it makes them ok, other people will like them" …. on this my brain has constantly been jumping to "Oh hell, what if she hates them" ... I even re-edited the shots I chose for this post …. that's a hard lesson to understand and one that has to be learnt how to deal with.

And at some point soon there will be some images of me, and although I was going to discuss the experience of being photographed here, I think I will leave it for another post, with some of those images.


You ain't seen nothing yet : Carrie production shots.

"Pray for your Salvation….

Carrie is back like you've never seen her before.

Twenty-seven years after first wreaking havoc, the world's most talked about Broadway musical is coming to London. Academy Award winning Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore (Fame), and original screenplay writer Lawrence D. Cohen, have transformed Stephen King's unlikely Cinderella story into an infectiously modern musical that has gripped audiences from Australia to America with its timeless story and thrilling score."

CARRIE is running until Saturday 30th May in The Large at Southwark Playhouse (77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD)

This show is amazing.
Chock-full of superb performances, crazy surprises and music that will stick with you as you stumble, bloodied and elated like a prize fighter, back into the street.

And just look at that design, who wouldn't love photographing that.
Such a joy to have been asked to make images for this production.

Click to see them full-size.


Kim Criswell
Olly Dobson
David Habbin
Evelyn Hoskins
Jodie Jacobs
Dex Lee
Bobbie Little
Emily McGougan
Molly McGuire
Sarah McNicholas
Greg Miller-Burns
Eddie Myles
Patrick Sullivan
Gabriella Williams

Carrie: The Musical - the London Premiere.

Music by Michael Gore, Lyrics by Dean Pitchford and Book by Lawrence D. Cohen.
Based on the novel by Stephen King.
Presented by Paul Taylor-Mills Ltd. by arrangement with Bill Kenwright Ltd. and licensed by arrangement with R&H Theatricals Europe.
Casting is by Will Burton.

Director & Choreographer : Gary Lloyd
Designer : Tim McQuillen-Wright
Musical Director : Mark Crossland
Lighting Designer : Tim Oliver
Sound Design : Dan Samson
Special Effects : Jeremy Chernick

These images must not be used without written permission.

Portia Coughlan : part of the Old Red Lion season

"Portia Coughlan lives in a monstrous Limbo, haunted by a yearning for her spectral twin brother lying at the bottom of the Belmont river, unable to find any love for her wealthy husband and children, seeking solace in soulless affairs, deeply afraid of what she might do…"

From 28th April – 23rd May 2015 at The Old Red Lion Theatre, Islington, Aria Entertainment presents the ferocious, haunting and beautiful Irish tale by Marina Carr writer of 'By The Bog of Cats', 'The Mai' and 'Ullaloo'.

On a geeky photography thing... I shot this entire show with a 50mm prime, stood on the stage with the performers.

I wish I could shoot all shows like this.

Portia Coughlan - Susan Stanley
Raphael Coughlan - Ben Mulhern
Damus Halion - Alan Devally
Fintan Goolan - Conan Sweeny
Stacia Diyle - Karen Cogan
Blaize Scully - Anne Kent
Maggie May Doorley - Veronica Quilligan
Senchil Doorley - James Holmes
Marianne Scully - Susan Cummins
Sly Scully - Christopher Dunne
Gabriel Scully - Keith Ramsa

Director - Bronagh Lagan
Set and Costume Designer - Nick Corrall
Lighting Designer - Derek Anderson
Music and Sound - Eamonn O'Dwyer

The Verb To Love : part of the Old Red Lion Season

"Simon is lost, abandoned by James, his partner of twenty-three years. He is alone for the first time, but then he finds Ben, the Great Love of his life, a young man seventeen years his junior, and finds himself rejuvenated and fulfilled in a way he never knew possible. They share the complications of falling in love, undergoing upheavals, and experiencing change, until it all falls apart; but does it?

The Verb, ‘To Love’ explores, in an intimate sung-through musical, the complications of changing relationships, and the power of different kinds of love; ‘The verb ‘to love’’ has so many meanings…’"

From Wednesday 29th April-Saturday 23rd May at The Old Red Lion Theatre, Islington, Aria Entertainment Ltd presents, THE VERB, TO LOVE; a new musical by Andy Collyer.

This show is an extraordinary performance by Martin Neely and Gareth Bretherton.
They don't stop, there's no room for a break.
Martin is singing constantly and Gareth scores the entire show from the piano.

The Verb, ‘To Love’ is the world premiere of this new musical

Simon -Martin Neely
Ben - Gareth Bretherton

Director -Jonathan O'Boyle
Costume and Set Designer -Nik Corrall
Lighting Designer - Derek Anderson

One frame : grandad x2

I never met my Mum's dad. But I know it's where I get my photography obsession from.

He used to turn the kitchen into a dark room and he made this double exposure self-portrait long before I was born.

Yep, I reckon I'd have liked my grandad a whole lot.



I don't do sadness - Spring Awakening production shots.

Photographing this cast has reminded me how many wonderful elements there are to this show... It's a treat to watch people of the right age play these roles, and a cast as good as this doesn't hold back. Alex Howarth's wonderfully inventive direction, combined with the design talents of Ben M Rogers (set & lighting) and Anna Saunders (costume), has created a fabulous show....

'Cuz you know I don't do sadness,
Not even a little bit.
Just don't need it in my life.
Don't want any part of it.
I don't do sadness.
Hey, I've done my time
Lookin' back on it all.
Man, it blows my mind.
I don't do sadness,
So been there.
Don't do sadness,
Just don't care.

Society of Strange...

....I'd like to explain the Society of Strange, but that would be difficult. It's probably safe to say that these are some of the cleverest people I know, and I don't really understand some of what they say!!

Check out their website and be amazed...

We made these images before and during their show at Theatre 503 a fortnight ago...

...and my favourite shot in quite a long while. The Society of Strange are Adam, Alex & Andrew....

'cause everything is beautiful at the ballet - class with the R&J team

Behind the scenes of Romeo & Juliet at the Peacock Theatre.

These are welcoming, smiley, super-talented people and it was such a treat to be allowed to photograph one of their daily classes, an hour full of laughter and lots of leaping. 
It was kind of dark to begin with and then dealing with major lens flare (yes I know I normally actively seek them out!) once the big lights were put on, but this wasn't about lighting or polished performance photos, it was all about people and finding shapes wherever they presented themselves. It was loads of fun just being ignored as I wandered around with my camera and they got on with their day.

As you can see I got a bit obsessed with anonymous feet and people stretching, and then when class was finished Preston & Ryan (romeo & tybalt!) did some crazy leaps for the camera, just for fun, helping me out with the hardest thing to photograph.

Thanks again to the Romeo & Juliet cast for letting me into your world. x