#iwitness and Visual Storytelling

4:44 pm on the dot.

Musings on a Monday afternoon…
#iwitness. I’ve been a witness with a camera, professionally, for decades.

In just a few weeks we launch into Music Circus Season 2017. I’ve been company photographer there since 2005 and these intensive summers have been some of the proudest and most fun of my entire photography life.

My first show in 2005 was Beauty and the Beast. At intermission I just remember the sweat on my face and finally getting to catch my breath. I was breathless and stunned at what had just happened in front of me! I had no idea what it was going to be like, though I’d seem many shows there as a patron. It’s not the same when you’re trying to capture the action of 20-30+ people on a small round stage all singing and dancing and leaping with a 360 degree perspective. With theatre-in-the-round, which Music Circus is, there’s not a bad seat in the house!

As I look at this picture, shot several years ago as a publicity still for Music Circus, a California Musical Theatre production, of Bye Bye Birdie, I’m sometimes in awe of my own good fortune to photograph some of the coolest things ever!

Nathaniel Hackmann as Conrad Birdie in Bye Bye Birdie, produced by Music Circus, 2015. Photo © Charr Crail.

For example, I get to photograph art in the form of theatre. Sometimes it’s live and happening NOW. Other times it’s a set up and the performance is put on just for me while I aim my camera and snap the shutter. I LOVE it. And the second I choose the moment to click that shutter I’ve captured something never to be seen or experienced in quite the same way ever again. That’s the extraordinary beauty and profound delight of theatre. No two performances are ever exactly the same.

Visual Storytelling.  It may sound weird but it’s a lot like photographing live sports too. I’m looking for peak action and storytelling moments. For example, in any sport, football or baseball or basketball— you watch for the action, the touchdown, the homer, the slam dunk– you go where the ball goes. And even more than that— to do it well— you gotta anticipate the play to know where the ball is going to go. And then there’s emotion— who wins, who loses and how they react either way. Storytelling. That’s what we can do with our cameras.

So I guess theatre and football aren’t so different!

It’s pretty much the same in live theatre too — the movement, the emotion, the interaction, the peak moments,  the story outcome. What are the characters saying? Feeling? Experiencing? Get in touch with their emotions, watch their subtle body language and stay in tandem, your lens following along with them as they move across the stage. You may not know just where they’re going but you can anticipate loads by paying attention to their body language, their words and inflections, the emotional state and the storyline.

Oh, the things I’ve seen.  The art, the humanity, the creativity.

If I leave you with anything in particular it’s this. As a photographer you’re not just taking a picture— you’re capturing an experience you’ve witnessed.  How you capture it is dependent on far more than the obvious technical aspects of a camera.  The visual story you tell is happening inside you first– in your head, your heart, observations and your choices on when to click the shutter.  It’s your own interpretation of life and visual storytelling skills driving this show– The Photograph– one single shot of a moment you witnessed, now frozen in time, all because of you.

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2 Responses to #iwitness and Visual Storytelling

  1. Sharman says:

    Extraordinary shot –I think your final paragraph also relates to writing a song.
    Thanks.

  2. charr says:

    Thank you so much Sharman! I think you’re absolutely right, songwriting is so much about the storytelling– just using a different set of tools like voice and instruments. It still comes from the head, the heart, who we are and what we’ve seen– then the choices we make as creatives, which brings it all together. Very cool!

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