With the debate over marriage equality still hanging in the air in Australia, it's hardly surprising that the campaign continues on stage; because of course, it's been going on quite a while, as Alex Harding's 1988 musical Only Heaven Knows suggests - and it's not just 30 years, it's much longer than that...
I wrote a few months ago about the first Lord Of The Rings premiere at the Embassy Theatre in Wellington, and I'm sure I'll be looking at the Two Towers one again in December; but this image, as much for what it represents to me as anything else, has made it into my First XV list - celebrating fifteen years of my career, photographing the arts.
I'd photographed the previous two premieres by the time of the third one, and seen the crowds on the street (and in the media pen) grow exponentially each time; but I think, perhaps because I was still fairly new to the industry, I was still a bit shy, a bit hesitant about being elbow-to-elbow with the world's press in a tiny fenced area.
Don't get me wrong, I planned ahead and got there early, to make sure I got a good spot! But this time was different...
Last time I was over at Darlinghurst Theatre Company, it was for a surrealist door-slamming farce; this time, it was a bit less farcical - but doors were slammed nonetheless...
Jeanette Cronin (who I photographed last year in The Shadow Box at the Old Fitz, also directed by Kim Hardwick) is this time both writer and co-star in I Love You Now - not so much a farce as a series of overlapping stories about modern love, lust, relationships and death, all played out in a single hotel room. Punctuated with live music, and tango...!
I realised recently that I had an anniversary coming up - not one of the obvious ones, but a quiet anniversary that I'd likely to be the only person to notice.
At the end of May 2002, I took the decision to give up my other work - I was doing about three different jobs at the time, working with a lighting company in theatre and events, helping the local film office, and doing a bit of consulting as a former box office manager as well - to concentrate completely on my photography career, which was starting to occupy more of my time.
Fifteen years later, I'm still at it - so to celebrate, I thought I'd look back and pick one image from each year along the way. And let's not underestimate how hard that is, to go through an entire year's work and choose just ONE image - but sometimes tough choices are needed...
I was back at Darlinghurst Theatre Company recently for their production of Hysteria, by English playwright Terry Johnson. It's a tough one to sum up quickly, but let's just call it a door-slamming French farce starring Freud & Dali, and leave it at that for the moment!
After my last entry into the Photographing The Arts series of essays, about how to create depth in a production image on stage, I was watching myself work and once again analysing the decisions I make on the fly - how I choose my point of view, both in terms of camera position and lens choice; and it reminded me of something I learned early on as a photographer, from a workshop by Freeman Patterson.
The trick to photography is to translate a three-dimensional space onto a two-dimensional page, on the fly. And make it compelling...
I've worked with the good folks at Critical Stages a couple of times recently, and I was happy to hear from them again late last year about a new tour of Stones In His Pockets - a marvellous, funny Irish script I'd seen performed some years ago in New Zealand.
We did a studio shoot for the poster & promotional images, and then a couple of months later (due to a last-minute cast change) we did it again; then recently I was out at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta for the dress rehearsal, and something about the way the stage was set up got me thinking while I was editing the images.
I knew there'd be something different about this show, from that description alone.
"This is the tale of Jonah, Sophie, and a fox called Scruffilitis. It’s a true story, and it’s a love story. A quirky, dysfunctional, voyeuristic love story, but a love story all the same."
I don't usually take much convincing to photograph theatre, as it's one of my favourite things to work on - but when I started talking to director Luke Rogers from Stories Like These about working on this production, a couple of things caught my interest. The fox, for one - and the stage itself for another...
I know a lot of things happened in 2016, and many of them weren't that fabulous (to say the least); but when I went back into my archives, I started to realise there'd been some really great things that happened, too - so here's a few that I was involved in along the way, along with some images that might not have been seen elsewhere...
When I moved to Wellington in the late nineties, a lot was happening. When the announcement came that Peter Jackson would be filming the Lord Of The Rings all over New Zealand, he started right in our neighbourhood of Seatoun, where I was living at the time.
By the end of filming, some 300 days later, I would have been an Elf, an Orc, a Gondorian and a Rohan - most of them dead, if I'm honest. By the time the first film came out, I was also a photographer...
The Hayes Theatre here in Sydney is a smaller space in musical theatre terms, but one where some super-talented people have been working hard for the past few years to mount shows that might not otherwise get seen here.
But beyond that, they're also part of the community - and so the artists who perform there work together to help in the best way they can, by putting on a show to raise funds for the Wayside Chapel in nearby Potts Point.
And so, Carols by Cabaret was back again this year - and I offered to help the producers in the best way I know how, by photographing the show...
Earlier this year, I was working with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra on their Last Night Of The Proms concert at the Sydney Opera House - and now that they've announced the Queen's Birthday concert again for 2017, I thought I'd put together a few images from the night!
The guest soloist was Greta Bradman (and yes, she's The Don's granddaughter) along with the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs; but of course, audience participation is as much the part of a show like this as anything that's happening on stage...between the confetti cannons, the streamers, and of course the many sing-alongs, it's an all-action sort of event...
Images of Sydney Symphony Orchestra: Last Night of the Proms 2016 featuring soprano Greta Bradman and conductor Guy Noble, by Robert Catto, captured at the Sydney Opera House on Friday 18 March, 2016.
I've been working with Pinchgut Opera this week on their production of Handel's Theodora at the City Recital Hall here in Sydney; it's nice to be doing a bit of opera again actually, as it's a slightly different challenge to theatre or dance...
From a pool of over 300 applicants who auditioned, six performers were chosen to perform at the Rob Guest Endowment Gala this past Monday - and I was there once again as their official photographer to document the night.
Last year was my first time at the gala event, and I have to say I was impressed - the quality of performances from guest artists from shows currently playing in Sydney, and from the six finalists, were absolutely top notch. Considering there's very little opportunity to rehearse with the band before the event (much less have technical rehearsals, on the borrowed set of Dream Lover for the night), it's an incredibly smooth & slick production they put on.
So I knew, going back this year, that it'd be something to see once again; and it certainly didn't disappoint...
This month's issue at the Kage Collective is bigger than usual, as our collective is augmented with six 'temporary members' - participants in the very first Kage workshop held recently in Belgium with Patrick La Roque and Bert Stephani.
I've got an essay called Meetings & Collisions - part of our theme this month, Surfaces - and here's a bonus image that didn't wind up fitting in the essay quite the way I'd wanted it to.
Photos by Robert Catto, on Tuesday 4 October, 2016.
Just a quick note that the latest series of essays from all of us at the Kage Collective are up now - and this month is a little different, in that we're relying entirely on the images. No words to our essays this time - apart from a quick introduction from Patrick LaRoque, we're all about silent contemplation this time.
Photos by Robert Catto, on Wednesday 7 September, 2016.
It's been a week of pleasant surprises recently, with a number of arts organisations announcing their new seasons for 2017 - and a couple of them using my work to do so!
Musica Viva's season launched recently, and it was great to see a couple of my images in their Masterclasses section from the workshop with Maxim Vengerov late last year, at Sydney Conservatorium of Music...
Maxim Vengerov conducts a violin masterclass at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, on Wednesday, 9 December 2015.
The new edition of Kage Collective essays is out today, with new work from just about all of us. It's summer over in the Northern Hemisphere, so a lot of us have been on the move or on holiday recently - including myself - so our stories this month reflect that.
Here's a bonus image that didn't find its way into the story this month - I don't often do double exposures in-camera, but thought I'd take another look at it this month...
I was working with the good folks at the Sydney Symphony Orchestra again over the weekend, at the premiere of a new concert called Witches - featuring four Australian stars who've all played, well, witches, both here and overseas.
Helen Dallimore and Lucy Durack represented for Team Good Witch, having played Glinda in Wicked on the West End and in Australia respectively; and Jemma Rix and Amanda Harrison combined forces for evil, having both been Elphaba in Australia, New Zealand, and on tour through Asia as well.
The idea was to get them together, and put together an extravaganza of music based around that theme...
The Sydney Symphony Orchestra presents Witches, a concert featuring songs from Wicked, The Witches of Eastwick, Dance of the Vampires, The Wizard of Oz, Into the Woods and Love Never Dies, plus orchestral highlights from film and stage. Guest artists: Helen Dallimore, Lucy Durack, Amanda Harrison and Jemma Rix, with special guest Ben Lewis, and conductor Kellie Dickerson.
Photos by Robert Catto, on Friday 15 July, 2016.
Our latest collection of essays is up at the Kage Collective site, including one from me called Proof Of Life, which takes a look at recent events here in Sydney where a woman was found to have died in her home, after being unnoticed for eight years...
In a previous post, I talked about photographing a show that is unknown to its audience; my point was that the best publicity images are ones that leave an air of mystery - that pique the viewer's interest, and make them want to know more. But what about a show where the story is well known already - like a panto?
I was working recently with Bonnie Lythgoe Productions on their winter show, Cinderella, at the State Theatre in Sydney - and that's what made me really start looking at this question again.
Because really - the story is a given. So what you want to show in a still image is twofold - what's different about this production, and at the same time, what's familiar about it? How can you show off both the uniqueness of this version, and also capture the feeling of a story that's been told again and again, for over a hundred years?
Images of Cinderella, starring Jaime Hadwen, Tim Maddren, Gina Liano, Jimmy Rees, Kev Orkian, Peter Everett, Craig Bennett, Josh Adamson, and Lara Mulcahy at the State Theatre in Sydney. Directed by Bonnie Lythgoe, with executive producer Christopher Wood.
Photos by Robert Catto, taken on Thursday 30 June, 2016.
It's the middle of the month, so once again the Kage Collective has put together a collection of essays from our various points on the globe, including a new essay from me, captured at Sydney's Vivid Festival of light recently.
This month we decided to limit ourselves as a group to a single lens - the equivalent of the old standard 50mm, so 35mm on our Fuji cameras - and only photograph at night, which turned out to be much easier here in winter than it was for some of my friends at the higher latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere summer...
Photos by Robert Catto, taken on Thursday 2 June, 2016.
I've been working with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra a bit recently, and this weekend was their David Bowie: Nothing Has Changed tribute concert at the Sydney Opera House concert hall.
I'd been in a couple of weeks ago for rehearsals and to meet some of the production crew and performers, which was great - but they'd come a long way since that first day, including incorporating the orchestral musicians, which we didn't have there at the time!
Images of iOTA, Tim Rogers, Steve Kilbey, Deborah Conway, Adalita, and Jack Ladder performing 'David Bowie Nothing Has Changed' with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
The band are Ashley Naylor, Clayton Doley, James Haselwood, Davey Lane and Laurence Pike, with vocalists Robyn Loau and Jade McRae.
Photos by Robert Catto, taken at the Sydney Opera House on Thursday 19 May, 2016.
The April issue at the Kage Collective came out recently, with a series of essays from around the world from members Patrick La Roque, Flemming Bo Jensen, Vincent Baldensperger, Bert Stephani, Derek Clark, Charlene Winfred, Kevin Mullins and myself - but I realise I've been slightly remiss in not mentioning this in February and March as well, when we had equally impressive collections of images from everyone!
One of the longest & proudest associations I've had as a photographer - and as a person, really - is my work over fifteen years with the New Zealand International Arts Festival. I moved to Wellington in 1997, working as a box office manager at the time, in part lured by the fact that the venue I'd be working on was the primary ticketing agency for the Festival, and moreover that Wellington would be the last place ever to see Robert Lepage's Seven Streams Of The River Otain 1998...
Berthold Brecht & Kurt Weill's opera The Lindbergh Flight / The Flight Over The Ocean, directed by Francois Girard, is seen in rehearsal at the St James Theatre in Wellington, New Zealand.
In early February, I spent the day with some great young classical musicians, making portraits of them individually and as a group for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Fellowship programme. These are the best of the best, young Australian talent who have been chosen to spend a year in the company of the country's top orchestra, working together as a chamber group, attending masterclasses - and, of course, playing with the orchestra as well.
Musical theatre fans in Australia got a bit of a treat over the weekend - some would probably say it was the equivalent of a visit from the Pope, or the Queen; or possibly both at the same time.
Composer Stephen Schwartz was in town for Defying Gravity, a concert tribute to his career, featuring stars from around the globe - all here specially for the event.
We had double Tony winner Sutton Foster, film and stage star Aaron Tveit, global performer Joanna Ampil, and top Australian artists David Harris and Helen Dallimore - but the biggest coup had to be the amazing Betty Buckley, 'The Voice Of Broadway', whose work with Schwartz goes back as far as Pippin in the early Seventies.
I was working on a new production of Thomas Murray and the Upside Down River at Griffin Theatre here in Sydney recently, and chatting with the lighting designer before the dress rehearsal, he told me a couple of useful things. Having been there not long ago for The Dapto Chaser, I knew the stage was...let's call it unique. It's a wedge, between two seating blocks - not quite traverse, but certainly not a proscenium, either!
On that show, I'd found myself photographing much of it from the point of the triangle, rather than from the seating blocks; not least because you can see the other seating block in the back of the photos, if you're looking across the stage. But this was a different show, and of course, different designers.
"I've mostly lit the show from either end of the stage," he said, "so you might not want to photograph it from there."
But it's especially exciting this month, because not only do we have a range of stories & images from my friends in the group, but no less than five of us have been testing Fuji's hot new camera, the X-Pro 2, which is being unveiled in Tokyo as I post this.
Hundreds of people from all around the globe have grabbed a copy already - and, hopefully, enjoyed it - which made me think I should also mention our Flipboard magazine, which is where we post articles & images we've been reading lately, as much for our own interest amongst the group as to share with other photographers and interested folks...