Two Theater Projects
I had the opportunity to show my “portfolio” to Louis Faurer in 1981. Included were exterior images of movie theaters. His comment was “you must have been in theater in an earlier life.” I have no idea what that might mean, but the fascination remains.
These galleries contain two related on-going projects.
The first of these is Costumes a collaboration with Cleveland Public Theater.
Each triptych shows an actor in costume and in or around their home.
Four Theaters looks at Cleveland neighborhood theaters - Capitol, LaSalle, Moreland and Variety. All were built in the 1920's as vaudeville/silent movie houses. The Capitol has been renovated; the other three are centerpieces of future neighborhood development. All three were very large by today’s movie theater standards –as many as 1900 seats.
Many layers of commonality connect these projects. Beyond the obvious theatrical component, both are about neighborhoods – places that, at their best, tie us together. They are about the tension between showing and revealing. In Four Theaters, renovation does not mean restoration. These working people’s theaters lack the ornamentation of downtown theaters. Nevertheless, the original workmanship, decoration and attention to detail reflect their time. In the renovation of the Capitol, partly due to economics and partly due to the practicality of its new use, much of this craftsmanship was hidden. In Costumes the central image, in costume in the theater, is the least ambiguous. We cannot know how “real” the home images are – we can only guess. These are actors, people used to managing appearances. And, of course, photographs are notoriously unreliable indicators of reality.
Both are photographed on film using a large format wooden camera. The film is scanned and digitally printed. In Four Theaters, this technique was used to provide the ability to make very large prints and because the equipment is well suited to photographing architecture. This technique required long exposures, frequently on the order of six minutes. It also created challenges with the color of the lighting that was in different places daylight, tungsten, fluorescent and mercury vapor. Our eye adjusts for this. Film is brutally honest. Mixed lighting accounts for some of the unusual colors.
In Costumes the use of the wooden camera softened the power relationship between the subject and me giving the encounter a less technical feel. The same issues of the color of light and long exposures presented themselves. In this case, two to six seconds was typical. This is an eternity for most of us to remain still resulting in a softness in the photographs.