Help the performing arts recover

9 September, 2020

 

We’ve certainly asked some interesting things of photographer Mark Gambino. Whether it’s shooting Supersense: Festival of the Ecstatic underground for three days, climbing up to our iconic Spire or acting as a “wedding photographer” as part of an immersive theatre show – he always manages to get the shot.

From dress rehearsals to backstage, empty foyers to a packed house at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, there’s practically no part of Arts Centre Melbourne that Mark hasn’t seen. We asked him to pick his top five, all-time favourite shots he’s taken with us over the last five years.

The crowd at Asia Pop Fest, Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Asia TOPA 2017

Lucette Aldous and Rudolf Nureyev in the film version of Don Quixote

 

Spontaneity is one of the most captivating parts of live performance photography – especially so when shooting music. Intimate gigs have their place, of course, but large concerts are a different beast. When audience numbers start pushing into the thousands, the crowd becomes a roiling sea of energy. I like to think that this shot from Asia Pop Fest – held at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl during Asia TOPA 2017 – is as close as you can get to feeling part of a 30,000-strong audience at its peak from the comfort of home. The blur, the colours, the faces, all caught in a moment of spontaneity.

Ánde Somby performing at Supersense: Festival of the Ecstatic, State Theatre Studio 2017

 

Lucette Aldous and Rudolf Nureyev in the film version of Don Quixote

 

Ánde Somby is a Master Joiker of Norway. A vocal tradition of Northern Scandinavia's Indigenous Sami people – to witness the art of joiking this far south of the Equator is a rare treat. The vocal quality inhabits the space between notes on the chromatic scale, and to the average Western ears it is quite arresting. Despite not being very tall, when Somby sang it felt like his head brushed the ceiling.

Sir Matthew Bourne’s Lord of the Flies, State Theatre 2017

Lucette Aldous and Rudolf Nureyev in the film version of Don Quixote

 

The Matthew Bourne production of Lord of the Flies was unique for many reasons, the main being the young performers from around Victoria who performed alongside the company’s core ensemble from London. Documenting the process – from audition workshops to rehearsals and finally the fully staged production on the State Theatre stage – allowed me to see the fascinating process that propelled eager, young amateurs to a professional level in mere weeks. This shot positively radiates the commitment of these young men.

John Maus performing at Supersense: Festival of the Ecstatic, 2019

Lucette Aldous and Rudolf Nureyev in the film version of Don Quixote

 

There is nothing passive about being in the audience when John Maus is singing. His music may have the synthetic drone and monotonous beats of the 70s and 80s (Maus’s influences include vintage synth, Renaissance composers and Medieval chanting) but his vocals are drawn from the depth of his soul. They straddle the light and the darkness, and everything in between. The emotional journey he travels through each performance is evident in every song, every word, and simply engrossing.

Mark Coles Smith and Tuakoi Ohia as the bride and groom in BLACK TIES, Asia TOPA 2020

Lucette Aldous and Rudolf Nureyev in the film version of Don Quixote

 

BLACK TIES is a modern day take on the ‘star-crossed lovers’ tale, told from the perspective of two feuding families. Our lovers, seen here interacting with the audience at their wedding, are an emotional surrogate to experience the themes and issues of both Australian and New Zealand First Nations people. It’s not often you get to witness theatre that has the potential to move hearts and change minds, let alone earn the privilege to document its joyous celebration and power.

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