Tightropes and Launderettes



After several false starts we have booked the 17th October to try and do a shoot with Alana Jones, a tightrope artist. The idea was simple, or so I thought. I always wondered what the view was like looking down on the wire artists. I put the idea to Alana who was excited by the prospect mainly because it is a perspective you don’t see often but it comes with a lot of practical issues if you want to do it in camera.

The shoot was to take place in the car park to the rear of the Roundhouse and involved a rigger a cherry picker and 4 tonnes of water. Because I wanted Alana lying on a wire and to get a real sense of the ground beneath her we were restricted to the height she could go. Luckily it was high enough to be above people heads and with some help from the cherry picker and the perspective that the lens gave us we were able to achieve a greater sense of height.

Why didn’t we just shoot Alana in a studio?

I asked myself the same question as the wind blew her nightdress in all directions and the temperature dropped. But the idea of the project is to try as much as possible to use the skills of the circus and if we simply cut her out then it destroys the thrill and circus is the antithesis of CGI. It also has limits and by doing it for real it sets limits to what we can imagine. If we cut her out in a studio then it gives you too much freedom to decide where you put her after, maybe 200 meters in the air? maybe over a pool of sharks?  This way it keeps the ideas in keeping with the “everyday” theme and  means we cant proceed by having some shots 100% photoshopped and others none at all..

In the end it worked out and the raw files we shot on the day drew gasps of approval from all concerned.  Thanks once again to everyone involved. To see the final images you will have to wait another couple of weeks. The next day we entered the world of launderettes.

Lula Loop is the stage name of Jess who is a contortionist. Not only is she very good but she is also open to new ideas and didn’t hesitate when I asked if she could fit inside a washing machine. Of course was the answer but we did have to find one that had a slightly larger door opening than the standard 12 inches. I must have visited 30 launderettes in London before i could find one that had a contactable manager and the right look as well as a machine with the right size door.

CoinOP on Brixton Hill was a revelation and Katy the manager was happy for us to take over one end and just shoot whilst her regular customers kept coming in and it being Brixton didn’t bat an eyelid at the sight of a woman emerging from a washing machine. A lovely silk dress provided by Neil Plush gave us some great texture and the makeup of Juliana Sergot gave Jess an other worldly complexion.

With all the time in the world we achieved pretty much everything in camera so here is the result as it stands right now.

Only two long and exhausting days into the week I still had a shoot with Damiano and Alice who had a come over from Brussels to do another shoot with me.

The previous 2 weeks had been spent trying to find a London hotel that would give us a room to use for an idea tries to incorporate some of the darker elements of contemporary circus. Compagnia Rasoterra , are a couple who use some quite brutal physical acrobatics in their act. It has undertones of sexual violence but not explicit. I too wanted something that would be ambiguous enacted ina hotel room but conveying a sense of social class as well as aspects of their relationship.

Again Neil Plush was great in providing us with the outfits and also Theresa Johanssen who at the last minute agreed to help us out with hair and makeup. Damiano and Alice were amazing as ever and never tire of coming up with ideas and improvising their skills to suit the situation.

We were meant to have all night but the hotel sadly cut this short at the last minute so we had very little time so we failed to get many behind the scenes pictures but this little sequence should show where we were heading.

The following day before heading back to Brussels I had scouted an estate in south London for which we used for a simple set up that counter balanced the darker territory of the day before. It was pure fun and apart from not realising we needed permission to shoot on an abandoned estate it was a fitting end to a great week of shoots.

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