First XV: The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King premiere (2003)

[#2 in a series of my favourite images, from my first 15 years as a professional photographer.]

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...

The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King world premiere, 2003 (click the image to embiggen)

When they were setting up the event, they'd got a number of performers into costume, and positioned them along the parade route; so on the corner of the media pen was this Gondorian guard - at least, he was there for a moment, until his banner started wrapping itself around the cameras to the right of me, and they came to take him away again.

Just before they did, I asked him to stay where he was while I lined up this image - his armour glinting in the sun, and a Nazgul draped across the theatre's facade. I knew no-one else in the media pen would have this point of view, they'd just see the back of my head - and then he was taken away, so they wouldn't have another chance to get it, either. It's so hard in a red-carpet / media pen situation to come away with anything uniquely yours, or find a unique point of view on the event; so it was great to start the day that way.

And somehow, that moment changed how I approached the rest of the event, too. From then on, I had no hesitation about asking the cast to come over so I could photograph them, or asking Peter Jackson to pose in front of the theatre (which he'd had a large part in renovating for the event). 

I realised that what most of the press photographers didn't do was just talk to the cast as if they were people; so they found my polite requests a bit of a nice surprise (as opposed to 30 people shouting "LIV! LIV! LIV!" en masse), and were happy to come over for a chat and a photo or two, for someone who knew their names and took a bit of an interest in them.

And I have to say, that hasn't been a bad approach to events like this ever since, either.

Next week, another year - 2004!