Her Naked Skin

We take for granted the fact that both men and women have the right to vote, but there was a time when that was not the case. Her Naked Skin is a play by Rebecca Lenkiewicz that is set in 1913 at the height of the Suffrage movement in England. It tells the love story of Celia (Bea Svistunenko) and Eve (Claudia Grigg-Edo) during the sometimes violent fight for women’s rights. It is directed by Rose Reade, and depicted the hardship faced by the women who rebelled, the hunger strikes and force feeding. The play contained several strong scenes, but also very tender scenes as the two lovers find each other. For those that want to know more I can recommend reading the preview on the Varisty webpage (and the review here).  There is also a post in the Cambridge Tab about the play.

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I took several photos during this scene, this one with the woman on the outside in focus was the one that I liked the most. To further emphasise her I darkened the rest of the image.

I saw the ad for the play and thought it sounded interesting so contacted the two producers Josie Wastell and Hannah Calascione and sent them the link to my photos from Thing with Feathers. They were more than happy to have me come photograph the dress rehearsal. I like theatre plays, you have great light on the stage, lots of things happening and human emotions.

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Here the woman walking in the background is the subject even though she is not the one in focus.

For this rehearsal I mostly used my 50 mm lens. It was a great focal length for everything that took place at the front of the stage. There were some occasions when I would have wanted to zoom in or out, but overall it was just about right. I arrived a bit early to get a chance to talk to the cast and crew, and get some information about what would happen during the play, if there were any particular things I should not miss. They excitedly told me about the steamy mattress scene, but forgot to mention a short fight scene in the parliament that caught me unawares. I shot in manual mode, which meant I had to stay constantly aware of the light levels as they changed between scenes, but I am getting better as it went a lot smoother than the last time.

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Stage lighting and a hazer that produces smoke can give some incredible light. This photo is a composite where the left half is one image and the right half is another. I used a layer mask with a black to white gradient, and then fine-tuned the selection with a brush.
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Yasmine Freeman as Florence Boorman. You can click on this image, or the other ones, to see them in higher resolution.
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Just after the first kiss, Celin is going in for seconds. Here I darkened the image a bit to the right to get rid of a few distracting elements.
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The mattress scene that the producers talked about. I played around with a few different camera angles, but in the end it was the photo with the most interesting interplay between them that won. Only adjusted the curves a bit in this photo.
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I like the separation of Eve in the foreground and the other women in the background. This photo didn’t need much retouching either, just a few curves adjustments.
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Since I edit each image individually I sometimes get a bit extra creative and try something different. Here I changed the white balance and did split toning to get the green-orange hue. I also experimented with adding a background texture, using one of the built in Adobe extensions.
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Here I tried to take advantage of the fact that Florence (Yasmine Freeman) was in shadow in the foreground to make the prison scene more dramatic. I also added a background texture.
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Normally a blurry shot like this would get axed without a second thought, but now I find myself keeping it. It has that something which more than makes up for the imperfections.
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It interesting how my choice of photos is slowly evolving. I find myself biasing the selection more towards photos that tell a story or evoke an emotion rather than just being beautiful.
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I had many similar photos, but opted for this one where the waitress is looking over at Eve and Celia.

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The force feeding of Eve was intense and I tried to do it justice. Looking at the photos afterwards I was wondering what the woman on the chair with the feeding bottle must have thought. This is a composite shot, I had a good overview shot, and another which was more expressive of Eve and the prison guard holding her down.

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This scene came as another surprise to me. I thought she would be washing herself, then suddenly I saw blood and the mood of the scene changed instantly. For the dress rehearsal she was cutting herself with a pen instead of a knife, so removed it from the photo.
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I felt that a normal angle would not work for this, so I went closer to capture the hands, then went down low to get her face in the background. Added a texture on top of the photo, and some strong vignetting.

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It was an amazing play. If you have the chance then go see it. The show is running until Saturday May 17th (2014). It took me way longer to edit all these photos than I expected, but I enjoyed looking at each photo and then trying to make adjustments so that what the actors were feeling came through to the viewer or to enhance some detail in the photo that I thought was important. I did a lot of selective brightening and darkening of parts of the images to lead the eye to my main subjects. It was an interesting journey reliving the play in front of the computer over the last few evenings.

– Johannes

Reviews: Varsity (4/5), The Cambridge Student (3/5), The Tab

Cast
Celia Cain – Bea Svistunenko
William Cain – Aoife Kennan
Florence Boorman – Yasmin Freeman
Mrs Shliefke/Suffragette – Olivia Bowman
Emily Davison/Suffragette – Lauren Brown
Clara Franks/Suffragette – Sasha Brooks
Mary Nicholson/Suffragette – Julia Kass
Felicity/Suffragette – Tara Kearney
Mrs Briggs/Suffragette – Rosanna Suppa
Wardress/Nurse/Suffragette – Eleanor Colville
Kier Hardie/Dr Klein – Orlando Gibbs
Herbert Asquith/Dr Vale – Kyle Turakhia
John Seeley/Hunt – James McMullan
Edward Grey/M.P – Lily Lindon
Robert Cecil/Charlie Power/M.P – Gabriel Agranoff
Lord Curzon/Potter – Harry Gower
Eve Douglas – Claudia Grigg-Edo
Miss Brint/Suffragette – Joanna Clarke
Augustine Birrell/MP – Rox Middleton
Brown/Dr Parker/MP – Jamie Armitage
Projection Suffragette – Rhiann Pickering, Eve Waller

Production Team
Director – Rose Reade
Assistant Director – Marco Young
Executive Producer – Alex Cartlidge
Producer – Hannah Calascione, Josie Wastell
Assistant Producer – Lewis Scott
Technical Director – Sam Payne
Sound Designer – Teresa Baron
DSM – Ellie Dobbs
Stage Manager – Phoebe Elliott-Mills
Costume Designer – Ellie Beveridge
Lighting Designer – Shanti Daffern
Hair & Make-up Designer – Georgia Thurston
Set Designer – Matilda Ettedgui
ASM – Elisabet Lindgren
Publicist – Ru Merritt
Chief Electrician – Ben James
Publicity designer – Clara Potter-Sweet
Fight Choreographer – Jamie Armitage
Trailer Cinematographer – Greg Forrest
Photographer – Johannes Hjorth

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