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This weekend I was invited to attend AIR studios (Lyndhurst) to photograph multi BAFTA winning composer Christopher Gunning recording his Symphony No. 5 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO). This was to be a “Reportage” shoot working around the busy musicians, engineers and of course, Christopher.

Christopher and the RPO

There are of course many constraints to working at a recording session; for example, when sections of music are re-taken (re-recorded) due to a “loud page turn” you realise that the equipment in use is very sensitive and that photographing during “takes” is a definite no-no. (This is in fact something I was already aware of having attended a session at AIR in the past).

Talking through

I made a point therefore of being in the control room listening to the music during takes, rushing out as soon as the Red Light was off to capture the interaction between Christopher and the Orchestra.

The engineers view

After a movement (or section) was recorded, Christopher would return to the control room (sometimes a couple musicians would also come) to listen back to the recording, analyse and then back out to re-record.

Listening Back

I edited the photos and delivered as usual via my secure client delivery website the following morning. Then of course comes the nervous waiting; I have a style of photography which I knew Christopher has seen and liked but there is always that wait. I knew I liked the images and thought they reflected the day and Christopher well but, would he like them? I’m pleased to say he did. If the client is happy – I’m happy!

I had already decided that I would deliver a mixture of colour and monochrome images, I’ll close on a couple of my favourite monos:

Christopher at the desk

Deep in thought

In his thanks, Christopher called me “clever”. Yes, I understand light. Yes, I understand composition but shoots like this are all about watching and understanding. Christopher on the other hand sat in his music room (I don’t know how long for), working on his piano, writing music. This he then orchestrated for 70 musicians. They come together at the studios, the musicians never having seen the music, the composer/conductor never having it actually played by 70 musicians. Christopher conducted, the musicians sight-read and together they created a wonderful sound that had never been heard before… now that’s clever!