17 February, 2011

Claudine Quinn - Festival Photographer 2010

A member of Alonzo King Lines Ballet Company
at the Camera Obscura, Edinburgh

For five weeks photography graduate Claudine Quinn was given free rein with her roving lens to get behind the scenes and under the skin of the Festival. The results are currently on show in an exhibition of Claudine's photographs at The Hub in Edinburgh. We caught up with Claudine to give us her impressions of her time framing the Festival.

Can you describe the experience of being the Festival Photographer in 2010?
I'm not certain the role could be summed up as just one experience as any single Festival day could encompass five, six or many more different types of photography in just as many locations. The role required lots of quick thinking and definitely a ‘know no limits’ attitude and as the Festival is virtually a round-the-clock endeavour. Sleep was happily sacrificed.

Much like a James Bond mission, I'd receive a break down of the day's events in the morning by checking in with the Festival press office. We'd then work out a plan as to how I might cover as many of the activities as possible. The day would whizz past charging between venues, kicking off, say, with a full orchestra rehearsal followed by a theatre company's press call then any number of behind the scenes snaps of activities like the installation of the stage lights for a production, a sneaky gander around a venue's wardrobe rooms or nabbing some candid shots of off-duty performers. Evenings were brimming with social soirees as I documented patrons of the Festival meeting artists, audiences enjoying themselves at various venues with things often rounding off with an artists’ post-show events where we could almost relax a little!

Members of the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland in
the Usher Hall before the Festival opening concert

How does it compare with other subjects you’ve shot in the past?
The great thing about the position was the diversity of activities that needed to be captured. I like to be really busy and it's quite important to feel excited about what you're photographing so the Festival provided a perfect environment where you could work like crazy but also get a real sense of satisfaction from a day's adventure with the camera. There's also something very inspiring and creatively invigorating when you have a chance to meet and photograph artists at the peak of their profession. I'd imagine it's very rare to find a photo job that allows such complete immersion in the world of live performance in order to develop an insider view. At times, I felt rather spoiled as so many of the venues have such beautiful and intricate architecture and interior design it was tricky to take a bad photo.

Can you tell us about any real surprises during your time photographing the Festival?
I think the biggest overall surprise was how much fun I had throughout the Festival as it had never crossed my mind when bracing myself for a month of hard work and potential photo-drama that it would actually be something so enjoyable too!

A member of the cast of Porgy and Bess backstage at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

In terms of photo surprises, I was quite entertained to find the timpani, horns and players as well as a bevy of tenors and sopranos compacted together in a bit of staircase off stage at the Usher Hall in order to create the effect of distant voices for the audience. It was rather surreal. I was also constantly intrigued by the labyrinth backstage areas of all the theatres particularly the wardrobe departments and I got a real kick out of seeing things like accidentally laundered stage-dollar bills abandoned next to nicely pressed costumes.

One of the most panic inducing surprises was when one of the lead female dancers with Alonzo King Lines Ballet nearly took off across the rooftops of Edinburgh with a large golfing umbrella as she danced atop the Camera Obscura in gale force conditions. The dancer survived unscathed but the photo, tragically, hasn't made it to the final selection.

Backstage during Caledonia at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh

Is there any one image that summed up the Festival for you? Can you pick a favourite image from the ones in the exhibition?
It's really tricky to identify one single picture that can sum up the whole festival as there's just so much that goes on during the month. My own personal favourite is an image taken onstage during the intermission of Caledonia at the King's Theatre depicting the set design of a large door and lots of hanging foliage.

Why did you choose this one?
Every time I see this particular shot, I get a very clear flashback to the moment when it was taken; stage crew milling about with props, set pieces swinging here and there, dry ice being pumped all around me and the hum of the cheerful audience eating ice-creams and chatting just beyond the curtain. For me it's got a real sense of drama and suspense with dynamic angles and lurking shadows evoking an exotic otherworldly magic often conjured up through live performance. The gigantic over-sized door and the stage's enormous rigging also remind me of the sheer scale of the Festival and the feeling of being both overwhelmed and inspired all at the same time.

A cast member from Porgy and Bess is readied before a performance

What was the best thing about your summer as Festival Photographer?
Meeting so many fantastic people, observing the inner workings and hidden spaces of places I'd never seen and may never have a chance to see again and having the opportunity to develop a really diverse portfolio of images that I have a real affinity with.

What was the secret of your constant energy?
A chronic enthusiasm to improve my photography, an emergency stash of muesli bars in my camera bag and feeding off the good humour and bounce of other Festival people who love what they do!

Claudine’s photographs can be seen in The Hub exhibition space, daily. Admission is free. A selection of her images can also be found on our Flickr page. The Festival Photographer and the exhibition are supported by The Morton Charitable Trust.

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