Mulletproof poet.

Posted by on Oct 8, 2015 in Blog | No Comments

As today is National Poetry Day, I’m just gonna leave this here…
Last week I had the pleasure of photographing Andrew “Mulletproof Poet” Graves’ one man show, “God Save The Teen”, in Leicester’s pub theatre, Upstairs At The Western.

A man on stage, dressed in black, is highlighted by a light from behind.
Mulletproof Poet in silhouette.

I’ve photographed Andrew before, both onstage at the Y in Leicester, as part of Word! and in the studio. But Upstairs… is different for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, as with any stage, I don’t get to control the lighting, so I pretty much get what I’m given* The stage Upstairs is tiny, (my studio is bigger) It’s black, it has few lights, and that makes it hard to work in.

Knowing all of this, I took a Ranger Quadra with a gridded reflector, with the intention of skim-lighting or back-lighting Andrew, to add a bit of modelling to what would otherwise be very flat frontal or hard overhead lighting. I also knew that, uncorrected, the different colours of the tungsten  spotlights and the flash meant that I could alter the balance between them to some extent in post-processing using colour channels, given that I intend to process the pictures out as black and white.

Mulletproof poet as a Rock'n'roll star.
Mulletproof poet as a Rock’n’roll star.

To my surprise, I found that I also had a reasonable chance of making something interesting in a colour photograph too.

A man in dark clothes in a dark room with folded arms, looks off into the distance. his angular profile is highlighted by a strong light from behind.
Informal on-stage portrait with mixed lighting.

Anyway, Andrew is a performer. He feels the emotion of his words and speaks from the heart. Unlike another of my recent sitters, Rob Gee who I also recently photographed at The Western, he doesn’t bounce about quite so much, so he was easier to light with a 30 degree grid from the back of the stage.

The Ranger Quadra performed admirably in this situation; on a Manfrotto Nano Stand, it was unobtrusive enough to not be a hazard in a cramped environment (it was parked in the doorway between the sound and lighting booth and the stage for an hour, and nobody tripped over it or swore at me) and powerful enough to fire a couple of times a second, again and again, and balance with the stage spotlights. Doing this with a Speedlight would have been a very different proposition indeed.

A black and white photo of a man in dark clothes on a dark stage. He is back-lit and appears to be begging to the heavens.
A back-lit Mulletproof poet during rehearsal for the one man show “God Save The Teen”.

Afterwards, I bought a pint, stayed for the show and was able to quickly process out and tweet a couple of pictures from the final rehearsal.

A man in dark clothes looks moodily at the camera over crossed arms. It is a low key, dark and desaturated colour portrait.
Mr Graves normally gets compared to The Modfather, Paul Weller, but I couldn’t decide who he looked more like here: Eddy Merckx or Brian Ferry.

The show, about growing up in a crap town with few prospects in 1980s Britain, is an emotional trip down memory lane for anyone in their 40s who grew up here. You often see reviews of shows advertising that “You’ll laugh and cry…” Well, I have no problem admitting it. I did. Both.

Truly worthy of your attention. ladies and gentleman, I give you The Mulletproof Poet!

A man with an angular face and big hands appears to be praying in the dark.
Andrew Graves re-lives the horror of the bullying school bus rides, aged 10, in his home town.

*I cheated. It’s the only way.

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