Inner Demons, Generous Angels


In addition to being a playwright and theatrical producer, I’m also a photographer. Reasonably serious–had a couple shows and some stuff published. Have my own darkroom and just recently made the shift to digital. (After a certain point, resistance really is futile.) Going digital has been very convenient as a theatre occasionally asks me to shoot PR photos for them or someone wants a portrait, and it’s a lot easier and cheaper to do a little sharpening and color correction, burn a CD, and be done with it.

Awhile back, I ran across an L.A. gallery’s call for submissions on the theme “Angels or Demons?” I didn’t have anything suitable for submission, but I thought: hell, what a fascinating theme. And a project took shape.

I’d been working on a lighting set up for portraits and thought I’d found the right combination to give me the look I wanted. What would happen if, knowing many actors, actresses, and other photophilic people, if I invited them to collaborate on the theme, shooting the pictures with a consistent lighting and backdrop scheme, with the variable being the look–costume, make-up, and attitude–the subjects brought to the project?

So far, I’ve shot five sessions, and the results have been simply wonderful. The images have all been remarkably individualistic, unique, and reflective of the subjects’ creativity. And the lighting is gorgeous. I have more shoots in the works, but we’re working on the ever-challenging matter of scheduling. With the holidays coming up and “Dead of Winter” going into production/rehearsals for next February, I figure I’ll be shooting well into next year. The ultimate goal will be a show, I suppose, ideally in a gallery, but right now it’s just fascinating to see what one can do with a simple backdrop, a couple of hot lights, and some creatively crazy collaborators.

Before sessions, I often sit on the porch and look through photographs to sort of “tune up” my eyes, the photographic equivalent of stretching before playing sports, but I find my attention wandering to: good Lord, what will my next subject bring to me and can I make a good photograph of it?

Happily, so far, the answers have been, respectively, “nothing I can predict” and “yes.” Making art dosn’t get much better than that.

(Note: if you live in Portland, have some Monday or Wednesday evenings free, and feel like getting in touch with your inner angel or demon, drop me a note. It addition to participating in a project that subjects seem to enjoy, sitters will receive a couple e-mail sized images, plus a CD and a couple finished prints.)

About Steve Patterson

Steve Patterson has written over 50 plays, with works staged in Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Austin, Tampa, and other U.S. cities as well as in Canada and New Zealand. His works include: Waiting on Sean Flynn, Next of Kin, Farmhouse, Malaria, Shelter, Altered States of America, The Continuing Adventures of Mr. Grandamnus, Bluer Than Midnight, Bombardment, Dead of Winter, and Delusion of Darkness. In 2006, his bittersweet Lost Wavelengths was a mainstage selection at Portland Center Stage's JAW/West festival, and, in 2008, won the Oregon Book Award (he also was an OBA finalist in 1992 and 2002). In 1997, he won the inaugural Portland Civic Theatre Guild Fellowship for his play Turquoise and Obsidian. View all posts by Steve Patterson

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