Defying Gravity - stevenmayatt

Defying Gravity

Shooting at the hugely, and highly, talented StudioFly

2015 has presented a wealth of new opportunities for us, and we’ve been able to sample cultures and techniques from so many places this last year. One of our favourites was up in Ware, Hertfordshire in a large studio space surrounded by mirrors and seemingly held up by poles…

StudioFly commissioned us to create a series of photos over a weekend of their pole and aerobatic work, focused more importantly on the girls doing the hard work. Now, the research and sample videos we had been sent don’t quite convey the huge amount of strength, talent and commitment needed to make pole work look as effortless as these girls made it. Spending more time with them, it became clear how much ‘pole’ had been integrated into everyone’s lives and has become a major focal-point of their lifestyles, goals and achievements.

So where did we fit in here? Well, we had the run of the studio for two consecutive days, and while the initial brief of shooting each of the girls against a white backdrop sounds straightforward, working within the huge height and width requirements meant that we had to string two of our portable backdrops together and raise them high enough from the ground. The reality was that we could have done with an extra few feet in all directions, but accepting a little more edit work was required after capture, we lit and carried on.

Lighting the backdrop from behind gave a slight glow around the girls and the pole for effect, and two different lighting setups from the front gave a mix of soft even light or a more contrasty look to highlight the shapes and shadows.

As a photographer, you’re then literally put to shame while everyone flexes, bends, twists and lifts in every angle. I’m sure someone said to me halfway through: “That camera looks quite heavy?” – and while I’d usually jump on that kind of remark for a moments sympathy, I wouldn’t dare this time!

What was a major help on this shoot was the addition of Stacey to our shooting team. Stacey’s dance qualifications meant that she could lend some empathy and much-needed extra direction between the girls and the shooting team – invaluable to help guarantee we were shooting at exactly the right moments.

Claire Collett from the studio had this to say:

'Steven and his team worked incredibly hard over a weekend shoot at our studio in October. A lot of the ladies were extremely nervous and for most of them it was their first ever photoshoot; however they were quickly put at ease with friendly yet professional direction and encouragement. Even though this was Steven's first aerial dance shoot he quickly grasped the dynamics of the moves and understood which angles best captured the strength, flexibility and grace of his subject. The team were very patient when the ladies couldn't hold a move long enough for the right shot; which happens quite often when you're suspended upside down in mid air!'

The overall results were incredibly pleasing, and after an extensive edit process of cutting and whiting, with some very subtle skin and contrast work, we delivered all the images entirely digitally. Interestingly, playing with the horizon and format of the images gives some very interesting results! Not content with setting the bar here however, next time our task is to go one step further. You’ll have to check back with us in a few months time for the next update.

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A Creative Director and Digital Photographer, based in London. I specialise in being versatile, creating images - moving and still - for some of the largest companies in the UK: from startups to small businesses and amazing individuals.
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