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My year in theatre, dance and portrait photography 2014

January 30th, 2015 by Helen

Jersey Boys - UK Tour

At this time of year it is good to reflect on the past twelve months, so I thought I would display some of my theatre and dance work of 2014, putting more of an emphasis on shows I haven’t previously blogged. I am extremely fortunate in that I get to shoot some excellent productions across the UK, from small fringe plays to big West End productions, and I love the variety of the shows. There are often pragmatic differences between shooting at a sixty seater venue than a one that holds 2500 people, but ultimately it is about capturing those few moments that encapsulate the show.

Jersey Boys - UK Tour

This year I have been lucky enough to work on a lot of UK tours. I shot the Jersey Boys rehearsal images in London but I travelled to Manchester and Sunderland to take production images. Shrek the Musical rehearsed in the capital, but opened in Leeds. In 2014 I also worked in Plymouth, Bristol, Stratford-upon Avon, Birmingham, Salford, Stoke on Trent, Bradford, Southampton and Cardiff. The quality of theatres across the UK is superb, and it has been a pleasure to visit so many cities.

Shrek the Musical UK Tour

Donkey and Dragon Shrek the Musical Freak Flag - Shrek the Musical Shrek the Musical

Shrek the Musical Shrek the Musical Shrek the Musical Shrek the Musical

Please click on a thumbnail to see larger images.

Promotional photography for Shrek the Musical

I was also asked to take studio photographs of the cast of Shrek for promotional use. Check out my previous blog post to view more images and see a video of the shoot.

The Roof - Fuel

The Roof - Fuel

I travelled to Bristol for The Roof by Fuel. It was such an unusual show, part theatre, part dance, part movement, and very compelling. Unfortunately it rained heavily on both nights of the dress rehearsals, so I was only able to take a few images before the rehearsals were called off. What little I did manage to photograph was intriguing and very dynamic. As a photographer working in the performing arts, this is one of the many times you need to react to the situation and deal with you hand you are given. It can be frustrating to lose the opportunity to shoot the show from start to finish, but I always know that however difficult it is for me, it is even harder for the cast and crew who are usually opening the next day. It is excellent when you manage to get the images despite the conditions – and the feeling that you have managed to succeed against the odds is one of the many reasons I relish live photography. On the opposite end of the spectrum I photographed The Mousetrap Tour, a London institution, it has had a very successful tour across the UK and Ireland. Conditions could not be more different – we took the images during a photocall which meant the photos were set up for me and then lines of the play were run. The director and I moved the cast around to get the best looking photos, and these are then displayed front of house at the venues and in the local press when the play comes to town.

The Mousetrap UK tour

Secret Theatre Show 4

Secret Theatre Show 4 Secret Theatre Show 4 Secret Theatre Show 4 Lyric Hammersmith Secret Theatre Show 6

The Lyric Hammersmith in London is one of my favourite venues – and it was one of my earliest theatre clients. This year I captured three of their Secret Theatre productions, Show 4, Show 5 and Show 6, and also photographed promotional images for them. I was in Kingston, at the Rose theatre for Hetty Feather – a dramatisation of Jacqueline Wilson’s best selling books and at the Arcola Theatre in Hackney for Tamasha’s My Name Is…

Hetty Feather at the Rose Theatre Kingston

My Name is... by Tamasha

In April I travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon to the Swan Theatre for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Roaring Girl, and The Witch of Edmonton. Also for the RSC, I was asked to shoot more production images of the London production of Matilda the Musical after their recast. I have been extremely lucky this year to have shot an extremely wide range of shows, from Beauty and the Beast in Istanbul, Frantic Assembly’s The Believers, Rifco’s Happy Birthday Sunita featuring the phenomenal Shabana Azmi, One Snowy Night at the Discover Children’s Story Centre and the Donmar’s Henry IV. Please click on the thumbnails to see larger images.

One Snowy Night at the Discover Children's Story Centre The Witch of Edmonton The Believers

Henry IV at the Donmar Warehouse Rifco's Happy Birthday Sunita Beauty and the Beast

RSC's The Roaring Girl

Matilda the Musical production photography

Matilda the Musical production photography

I also shoot promotional images using studio lighting and this year I shot a number of images for posters. Please click on the thumbnails to see larger images:

Oh What a Lovely War! Macbeth The Believers - promotional poster

Poster for The One Selfie by the National Youth Theatre  Private Peaceful

I have shot some fantastic dance performances in 2014, including Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake and Lord of the Flies and the Royal Ballet’s Don Quixote.

Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake

Sometimes the line between dance and theatre becomes very blurred – in the summer I took rehearsal images for Guys and Dolls for the Chichester Festival Theatre, which was choreographed by the ballet star Carlos Acosta.

Guys and Dolls - Carlos Acosta directing the ensemble

The male ensemble leap in the air during Guys and Dolls rehearsals

Here are some more of my rehearsal images, including Terence Rattigan’s Variation on a Theme, the RSC’s Matilda and The Witch of Edmonton, Memphis and The Believers.

The Witch of Edmonton Rehearsing Shrek the Musical Memphis the Musical rehearsals

The Believers rehearsals Hetty Feather rehearsals photography Rachel Stirling rehearsing Variation on a Theme

Gregory Doran directing The Witch of Edmonton RSC's Matilda the Musical Rehearsals Rehearsing Shrek the Musical

Ian Reddington photographed by Helen Maybanks

It is great shooting portraiture, although it is very different to a lot of the other work I do. Ideally with rehearsal and production photography the subjects should be unaware you are there. In reality this is difficult to achieve as most people are very camera conscious, but even so you tend to keep your distance during the shoot and observe rather than interact. When taking a portrait the photographer and subject need to have a rapport, it is my job to help the sitter relax and trust me, and normally this needs to be done very quickly. I love talking to my subjects, and getting to know them a little better, and last year was no exception. Here are a few of the images I took this year, including Ian Reddington for Oh What a Lovely War!

Beverley Knight David Bryan Mark Puddle

Phoebe Waller-Bridge Director Steve Marmion with the cast of The One for Soho Theatre Vicky Graham

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Shrek the Musical Promotional images

September 28th, 2014 by Helen

Portraits of Fiona and Donkey from Shrek the Musical

During the summer I was asked to take promotional photographs for the Shrek the Musical Tour. These images were needed for use in advertising and marketing for the show across the UK and Ireland. Taking high quality images for a show like Shrek is a real team effort, and it was a privilege to work with such talented actors, costume makers, make up artists and all the other creatives that combine to work on a top musical.

The Three Little Pigs

Ugly Duckling, the Mad Hatter, Lord Farquad and the White Rabbit

photos of the cast of Shrek the Musical, including the Three Bears and Pinocchio


When I shoot production and rehearsal photography I use digital SLRs as they offer the best combination of quality and speed. However for advertising studio work I like to use medium format cameras which give both the largest and the best quality images. These were shot with a Phase One IQ180 which gives 80 megapixels. As an example, here are Princess Fiona and Donkey zoomed in, and you can see the quality.


Close ups of Donkey and Princess Fiona

When shooting in the studio I work with a team of assistants to get the best results. Ben Peter Catchpole was first assistant and in charge of the excellent lighting, Oliver Rudkin was second assistant, Alex Cornes was in charge of digital workflow, and I can highly recommend the three of them. Thea at White Dwarf Retouch did an excellent job of post production. Shrek created a ‘behind the scenes’ video of the shoot, so please take a look to get a better idea:


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The One poster and promotional photographs

February 27th, 2014 by Helen

The poster for Soho Theatre's 'The One'

Here are some images I took for Soho Theatre’s The One. I was asked to photograph a poster image, and then take some portraits of the cast and creatives for general promotional use.

Steve Marmion, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Rufus Wright, Lu Corfield and Vicky Jones The cast of The One at Soho Theatre Portrait of Phoebe Waller-Bridge

It was a very cold afternoon in January, we started in the studio at the theatre before heading outside for the portraits. We finished on a rooftop with a fantastic view of London. The play stars Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Rufus Wright and Lu Corfield. The play, directed by Steve Marmion and written by Vicky Jones, has received excellent reviews and is running until 30th March.


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Portrait of Brett Graham at The Ledbury

July 1st, 2013 by Helen

Chef Brett Graham at his Michelin starred restaurant The Ledbury

In May The Sydney Morning Herald got in touch and asked me to do a couple of jobs for them. I rarely work directly for the press – usually I am hired by the client to shoot photography for PR purposes. I was surprised by how much fun it was to work for a newspaper. Here is an image they used of mine of Michelin starred Australian chef Brett Graham in the kitchen of his London restaurant, The Ledbury. To read the full article please go here.

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Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonka

May 29th, 2013 by Helen

Front page of The Times Saturday Review featuring Douglas Hodge

Here is the tear sheet for last weekend’s Saturday Review in The Times featuring the portrait I took of Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonka. And here is the spread inside, featuring another one of my portraits, and some of my behind the scenes photos.

The Times Saturday Review featuring an article with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory's Douglas Hodge.

As part of my ongoing work with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory I was asked to take some portraits of Douglas Hodge in full costume as Willy Wonka for editorial and advertising usage. Most of my theatre work is rehearsal or production photography, which means I capture the actors on stage or in the rehearsal room. This involves me working on my own and being as quiet and discreet as possible, so that the actors can concentrate. With a large scale portrait shoot however it’s all about capturing great photos which means that I use a team of people to help get the best possible shots. For this shoot my first assistant was Ben Peter Catchpole, digi tech Sheila Udeagu and assistant was Tom Ortiz. As the photographer, responsibility ultimately lies with me, however having a team around me allows me to utilise the best of their knowledge and for us all to bounce ideas off each other. Ben is a lighting expert – helping to create the fantastic lighting for the shoot, Sheila is extremely adept with software and was able to tweak the output and show it to the client immediately. Tom worked with Ben to get everything set up quickly and correctly. In the days before a show opens the actors work very long hours and barely have time for their lunch, which means we knew we would have to do a great job as quickly as we possibly could. We used two backdrops for the shoot – one white and one blue. By having a team around me I was able to focus on Douglas and the composition, whilst leaving the heavy lifting to the team. Once the client had chosen the images they wanted the pictures were retouched by the excellent Matt at Tank.

A portrait of Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonka

For anyone interested in the technical details I used a Hassleblad H4X Body Prism with PhaseOne P65 back and a 100mm F2.2HC lens. We used Profoto lighting which was hired from the always reliable Direct Photographic.


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Clockwork Orange at the Soho Theatre

January 8th, 2013 by Helen

Promotional poster for A Clockwork Orange at the Soho Theatre

I was pretty busy in the Autumn and didn’t have time to blog as much as I would have liked, so here are some images I took back in September. Soho Theatre asked me to take photographs of the cast of A Clockwork Orange for the show poster and for general PR and marketing purposes.

Martin McCreadie holds a glass of milk in a promotional image for the Soho Theatre

I started by taking taking some studio images of Martin McCreadie who played Alexander DeLarge

Martin McCreadie as Alexander DeLarge Portrait of Martin McCreadie as Alexander DeLarge Martin McCreadie, star of 'A Clockwork Orange Martin McCreadie as Alexander DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange by Glynis Henderson Productions and Soho Theatre

Please click on a thumbnail to see a larger image.

Neil Chinneck, Will Stokes, Stephen Spencer, Martin McCreadie, Philip Honeywell, Simon Cotton - A Clockwork Orange

More cast members joined us to take some outdoor images. We used the back streets near the Soho Theatre – always useful for creating a seedy and run down look.

Portrait of Martin McCreadie in Soho

A portrait of the actor Martin McCreadie Neil Chinneck, Will Stokes, Stephen Spencer, Martin McCreadie, Philip Honeywell, Simon Cotton – A Clockwork Orange at Soho Theatre

The entire cast were lovely to work with – very charming and relaxed whilst parading about Soho in vests and braces. Directed by Alexandra Spencer-Jones, the show got some great reviews.


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James and Alex’s engagement shoot

June 28th, 2012 by Helen

Last week I went down the South Bank to photograph Alex and James

James and Alex laughing whilst standing on the river bed of the River Thames

James and Alex

James and Alex sat on some steps

This was an engagement shoot as the couple are having their civil partnership next week. James and Alex met several years ago whilst working in Japan. James is originally from Portland, Oregon and moved to the UK to be with Alex. Many of his friends and family will be coming over for the big day, and I am really looking forward to photographing it.

James and Alex with St Paul's Cathedral in the background

When the tide is low you can walk down onto the banks of the River Thames

Alex and James sitting on the Thames riverbed

I have created a slideshow of some of the images from the shoot:

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Steven Webb

May 16th, 2012 by Helen

The Lyric Hammersmith asked me to take some photographs to promote their highly-anticipated pantomime Cinderella which will run from 24th November 2012 to 6th January 2013. The photo shoot focused on one of the production’s star performers, Steven Webb.

Colour portrait of stage performer, Steven Webb.

Colour headshot of theatre performer, Stevie Webb

One of the perks of my job is meeting lots of interesting people, and Stevie must be one of the loveliest people I have photographed in a long while.  He’s had a diverse career that has included theatre, film, and television and he is full of interesting stories and anecdotes. He is also no stranger to the Lyric Hammersmith as he has appeared in their last two pantomime productions, Aladdin—2011 & Dick Whittington and his cat—2010.

Black and white photograph of Steven Webb in a stairwell

Black and White photo of actor and Creative Associate Stevie Webb.

Steven will be performing two roles this year… on stage in the role of ‘Buttons’ and offstage in the role of Creative Associate.

Colour photograph of Steven Webb seated in an empty theatre.

To see more of my actor’s portraits, please visit the portrait photography area of my website.

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Kimberley Walsh

September 13th, 2011 by Helen

Girls Aloud star Kimberley Walsh has joined the cast of Shrek the Musical. She will be playing Princess Fiona, a role previously played by Amanda Holden. I was asked to take a set of portraits of Kimberley – most haven’t been released yet, but this one was all over the press when the news broke.

Portrait of Kimberley Walsh wearing Shrek ears for her role in Shrek the Musical

You can see part of my photoshoot in this video interview – with the back of my head making a brief cameo at the beginning.

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Sir Ian McKellen

August 30th, 2011 by Helen

Last Thursday some of my photographs of the actor Sir Ian McKellen appeared in the Guardian, including one on the front page.

Scan of the front page of The Guardian on 25th August 2011

I photographed Sir Ian McKellen whilst he was rehearsing for his latest play, Chichester Festival Theatre’s The Syndicate. These have been used in a variety of local press

Guardian G2 interview with Sir Ian McKellen featuring a photograph by Helen Maybanks

The play had a sold out run in Chichester and is currently on tour.

Portrait of Sir Ian McKellen during rehearsals for The Syndicate

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