My passion for photography began almost by chance. One day my mother showed me her old Zenit. I was totally fascinated by that dusty, antiquated object, so I decided to experiment with it. I never thought that one day I would become a professional photographer.
After secondary school, I began my greatest professional challenge: I moved to Milan to study photography. I realised that photographing in a photographic studio, with models or objects, wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to tell stories with my pictures. I started to take photographs of what I consider the most interesting theatre of our time: people in the streets.
I’ve always thought that a good photographer should be able to transform moments of everyday life into beautiful or interesting scenes. Once I graduated, I joined “Accademia Teatro Alla Scala” in Milan, where I specialized in stage photography, and then, after a year of experience in the Milanese theatre scene, I moved to London.
Someone said “a picture is worth a thousand words”. In an age where the image is paramount, this short phrase takes on an enormous value. Nowadays images have a hegemonic role. Every article in newspapers or magazines is accompanied by one or more pictures. In the words of the great photographer Berenice Abbott “the pictures has almost replaced the word as a means of communication”.
The role of “stage photography” is to promote a specific show, an opera, a concert, a ballet and so on, by publishing and distributing pictures of the performance. These photos are published in journals, newspapers, websites and used to create posters and other promotional materials.
People often ask me about the level of creativity in my job. Being a stage photographer means to reproduce images as similar as possible to the real scene. But it’s also true that the photographer’s ability and personal point of view forms an essential part of the image they create. As a photographer, I decide which kind of frame to give to my photos and the moments to immortalise. To understand the latter, it is very important to know the story or the choreography that you are going to photograph. Sometimes, the quality of the photographer’s work is not related to the quality of the documented product. There are bad pictures of wonderful performances or vice versa.
I usually divide the performance into three phases: backstage, dress rehearsal and “the first”.
As a lover of reportage, I consider the backstage one of the most interesting moments. The pre-show is a big mixture of emotions. Behind the scenes, the actors brush up on their scripts, or the dancers do their stretching. This is also the moment of make-up artists, costume designers, audio engineers and light designers. All these elements form the potential for incredible photographic documentary.
The dress rehearsal is the best occasion to take pictures of the show. It’s that moment where the photographer can “freely” move around, taking photographs from different angles.
Taking pictures with the audience in attendance is always a challenge. In this case, the quality of the photographs is linked to the position for shooting assigned by the theatre, and it’s also very important for the photographer to work as quietly as possible out of respect for the public. For this reason, many productions prefer not to have photos taken during the actual show.
What I really love about being a stage photographer is that every project is a new experience. Following a production, to see the creative process behind a performance, is always fascinating. I’ve been very lucky to work with brilliant directors, actors, choreographers and dancers. In my job, I aim to create images that give credit to what they do. To immortalise a memory in one “click”, to freeze the moment, it’s what makes photography special.
Lidia Crisafulli is a stage photographer based in London.
Image by Lidia Crisafulli.