Performance and photography go hand in hand. Live events need visual documentation, and photographers need willing subjects. And when the chemistry between performance artists and visual artists is good, sparks fly. A single image can encapsulate the night’s atmosphere, raising curiosity and inviting the viewer to grab a ticket and take the ride himself.
Working with subjects under the warm glow of the spotlight has to be a reactive affair, and Johannes Reinhart considers himself a reactive photographer. Johannes is a German-born Perth-based photographer who is presenting his first solo exhibition, and he’s chosen to exhibit some of his best performance photography at the Epson Print Gallery at Team Digital.
The series covers four years of work shooting mostly fringe artists, including the likes of much-loved Perthonality Magnus Danger Magnus, Twisted Vaudeville Circus, plus many of the city’s most beautiful burlesque artists. He haunts Fringe World each year, blocking out time away from his family and normal business duties to help capture the essence of Perth’s most visually sumptuous and stimulating time of year.
Johannes took some time out to speak to me about his exhibition that opened this week.
What draws you to shooting live performance?
I thought about this when I wrote for the exhibition, and I thought it’s really a love for performance and circus from childhood. My parents took me to a lot of circus shows, and they arranged for other people to take me when they couldn’t make it because I totally loved it. Especially the acrobatics. I loved the acrobatics, and the trapeze and the clowns…I guess something stuck there with me.
Somehow I’ve been lucky, I’ve met a few people that have been performing, and I’ve sort of slipped in there and they’ve booked me in to shoot the shows. I was totally hooked.
You focus mainly on burlesque and circus?
Mainly sort of Fringe shows, smaller shows with a limited budget, generally, which is more intimate, so you get to know the people. I like that Fringe aspect that comes from back in my skater boy days.
What are you looking for when you take a shot at a live performance? What stands out to you?
It always depends on what’s there. Light is a big one I look out for, but I really look out for key moments and emotions. An image that’s mysterious, that doesn’t show everything. You sort of half see what’s going on and your mind can still sort of interpret your own story about it.
I shoot more from the subconscious. I sort of half-think, and the other half comes from the heart, for lack of a better word. It sort of falls into place.
How difficult is it usually to capture what you need to as far as the lighting conditions can go and other factors? Is it hard to cull and edit your images to get to the best shot?
I’m pretty ruthless with editing. I tend to go with what initally jumps out at me. Those images that first attracted me tend to stay the ones that come out in exhibitions. Sometimes it’s hard to choose just the one. I looked through pretty much everything to get those that went into competition and into the exhibition. I had a good look back and discovered a couple of new ones.
Do you have a particular performance photography style or do you adapt to your environment and see what comes out of it?
I totally adapt to the environment. I shoot reactively a lot, so if something evokes something in me, I take the picture and look at it after to see if it’s any good or not. Putting things together for the exhibition, there’s a lot of silhouettish stuff, and I dig that. I think it comes down to that not everything is revealed and it’s got a bit of mystery.
Will you continue to push further into the subject of performance or do you just see that as one stream in your portfolio?
I tend to stay open. I’m really busy with kids and my business, and when opportunities come up I run with them. It’s pretty unstructured. But I want to do more performance, more behind he scenes next year. The next show will probably more documentary. We’ll see what comes up. I have a couple of other themes that I’m exploring in my mind, anything that means something to me and attracts me personally, that’s what I end up doing. It always will mean Fringe.
It’s Showtime runs until the 21st of November at the Epson Print Gallery, 268 Lord Street, East Perth WA 6000 during the following times:
Monday to Friday 8:30am – 5:00pm
Saturday 10:00am – 1:00pm
Johannes is the AIPP Documentary Photographer of the Year for 2015. Go to his Facebook page for more information on the exhibition, and check out his website for more of his beautiful, award-winning work.