Behind the Scenes

Behind the scenes of our photoshoot with Eric Ankrim

On January 15, I drove to the Village Theatre in Issaquah to photograph Eric Ankrim, who will star in their upcoming production of the Gypsy King. In the play, Eric plays two characters: the misfit Frederick and scheming prince Alfonse. Previously I’d seen Eric on YouTube as his rapping persona, Paul Brogan, so I figured he might be up for something more than a basic portrait in the theatre’s balcony. When I arrived to the shoot, he was already on the same page as me, thinking of ways to capture both characters in one shot.

Working on the stage, the seats in background, we tested the possibility of shooting both characters separately to splice together in post production. While this might have been the easy way, I immediately proposed that in the hour we had together, we should try and get both characters in a single take. I am by no means a master of extended exposures but I do love learning by trial and error. I am constantly encouraging the photographer’s we hire for City Arts to try new things so I took my own advice.

Though we hoped the backdrop of the seats might be more interesting than a blank wall, a rehearsal crew for another production started to take over the theatre. We had only begun choreographing the movement before we set off for a new location.

In the hallways and lobby of the Village Theatre, we found a few blank walls. Though natural light was pouring in from the large windows of the theatre lobby and creating uneven casts, we pressed ahead with several variations on camera settings and exposure lengths. (I was using my new Lumix GF1 with 20mm f1.7 lens, which is a part of the exciting new Micro Four Thirds system.) Ranging from five to thirty seconds, I counted off the time as Eric worked on holding his poses. Eric atarted from Alfonse on the left and then stepped into his Frederick on the right — sometimes this would happen quickly, sometimes it would be a very gradual shift.

As we began to notice the ghosting between the characters, we chose to use this to our advantage and capture Eric in a neutral-facing state. Once we moved to the final location — a black fabric wall used for hanging posters — we determined a twenty-second exposure worked best. With Eric now standing on an old bench, he placed his feet on the positions they would remain, pivoting, throughout the shot. I counted to three, Eric lifted his arm and froze, I pressed the shutter, he held for eight seconds, shifted to the middle for four seconds, and then moved to the final freeze for the last eight seconds.

The image that runs in the February Eastside issue, and what you see above, was our final take. And the video below is a replication of the process in real time. The photograph took on some surprising qualities — I particularly like how the wall’s texture shows through — and succeeds in showing Eric in three states. I’m sure photography buffs could have provided some obvious and helpful pointers, but we weren’t searching for perfection. The process of learning two new characters, or trying something new with a photograph, is about redefining what you understand.

Now go create some definitions of your own.

For now,
André Mora