Carpenter of Light

on October 03, 2023

PhotoLive Expo are not just the trade hall and a coffee machine - all day there are devoted photo experts delivering talks and workshops in rooms surrounding the hall. This year I was lucky enough to attend an early one.

My hat is off to Stephen Heath for his account of theatre photography here and in other professional settings. His optical journeys were fascinating - right from his time in the British Army looking through night scopes to his present coverage of many genres - particularly stage work.

He detailed the time spent as a stage carpenter that let him work on fabulous films - work where he wasn’t allowed to take his own pictures. Then time here in
Perth with WAPA…that led to a desire to document the backstage life of the theatre workers. Then lowlight capture of bush walking - and rounds of commercial, wedding, and portrait shooting.

But the theatre…Oh, my goodness, has he ever had it either good or bad. Lighting seems to either be all over or not there at all, and the shooting positions
available seem to have been anywhere but in the best places - but he still had to perform. He was caught outside a theatre when the fire doors shut on him - in the middle of a shoot. He was caught at the back of a theatre full of critics - with a noisy shutter. He was committed to hours of preparation for one hero shot. But he succeeded. We could but applaud. And since he was under the gun for PhotoLive to fit a two-hour talk into 30 minutes, and did it, we could see that there was little that the fast pace of theatre or wedding work could do to stop him.

I think he is grateful daily to the camera designers that keep on upping the ISO limits for modern cameras. I know my little reporter camera was on the edge of the envelope when the lights went down in the Silver Room.

Text by Richard Stein