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Matthew Bourne's 25-year retrospective by Jane Hobson

1 January 2016

Following a successful career in advertising on the strategic side of things (latterly Strategy Partner running the London office of a network agency) Jane Hobson returned to education to pursue a photography degree in 2008.  Finding herself under-stimulated by the course, she worked as an arts and entertainment photojournalist in parallel, as well as practically living with the drama and dance departments in the theatre next door. Having graduated and, drawing heavily from past business experience, she hit the ground running and continued to attend press photocalls within the performing arts. Jane is widely published in the national and international press, her client base for commissioned arts work steadily growing as a result of awareness of her published work.Her cherished clients include Sadlers Wells, National Youth Dance Company, Barbican, and Richard Alston Dance Company. Based in London and Edinburgh, she can usually be found (or not, as she tends to wear head-to-toe black so as to be unobtrusive in the auditorium) in a theatre, with occasional forays into the studio.

This photograph of an extract from 'The Nutcracker' was taken on the set of Matthew Bourne’s Christmas TV special in 2011, filmed at Ealing Studios, where I was the production photographer for Leopard Films. It was a retrospective of Matthew’s career, which spanned twenty-five years at that point, and I shot extracts from around ten productions over four days. This image appeared in The Times.

At the time of the shoot, it was only one year after I had graduated from my photography degree, and, although I worked throughout my studies, getting work sporadically published in the nationals, this represented a hugely exciting high point in my career thus far. I had been photographing Matthew Bourne’s work for a couple of years at Sadler’s Wells, during press photocalls, so was familiar with a number of the productions - but to a dance photographer, this was like being a kid in a sweetie shop, with so many productions in such a short space of time. A dance history lesson too.

The filming took place at Ealing Studios and, although I had not shot there before, I had three short films under my belt as unit stills photographer, so knew the protocol of how to behave on set. Basically, the job is to get the killer shots needed, but without getting in the way of the camera/camera crew (DOP, dolly grip, grips, etc), or the lighting dept (Gaffer, Best Boy, etc) or the sound dept! And don’t pollute the sound feed with clicks! So my first job on a new set is to get to know the relevant people and agree on where I can/can’t be, and which take to shoot on. As long as you understand that your job, when on set, is less important than an intern, but (slightly) more important afterwards, then all is well! Luckily, on this job, I was in the rare position of already having met one of the lighting dept, so the introductions were smooth and friendly. I didn’t have a blimp and, as there was no budget to hire one, I shot during the rehearsal takes on a signal from the sound engineer. So the four intensive days of shooting were spent dodging cameras, lights and cables, and their operators, coping with LED background projections and low light, with fast-moving subjects – pretty similar to shooting dance in a theatre, but swapping other photographers for the crew. And the catering is better!


See more work by Jane Hobson

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