Too often the focus of the burlesque world is aimed at the performers alone. Here at Burlesque Bible we recognise the enormous hard work and dedication that goes in to all aspects of burlesque both on and back stage. It is for that very reason that we want to celebrate that work with our new feature Spotlight On…
When Rod Doyle approached us with his recent images of British burlesque favourite Kiki Kaboom, we were impressed. The images he sent us perfectly capture the huge personality that Kiki, and her characters, have. Not your average studio shots, these images stood out as something new and exciting and got us thinking about just how much we love photography as a medium. We decided to interview Rod, along with two other British burlesque photographers to find out more about what led them to the hurly burly world of burlesque. (Keep your eyes peeled in the coming months for the other interviews!)
I started taking pictures at an early age and ended up attending college in Canterbury and Bournemouth which gave me a basic knowledge of shooting, developing and printing before digital became a standard. I have always worked around performers, mainly bands which led me in the 90s to work for Melody Maker music paper for a few years taking generic photos of pop stars. To be honest, this ended up with me putting the camera away for a few years! When digital started to get better, that was the time I started documenting life on the road with some of the artists I was working for, and always knew it was a long term project, as images always get better with time passed and now I am starting to reap the rewards of being the lone guy always snapping backstage when I can!
I guess I became interested in Burlesque 20 years ago when an Australian friend of mine used to hit the bars of Old Camden Town with her snake and fire act, and my wife and I used to go along, plying customers with cheap tequila and wrestling any change they had out of them to fund our young hedonistic lifestyle. We did OK! Last year I went to visit Linda, our Australian sister, and discovered she was running The Risque School of Burlesque in Woolongong, outside Sydney, and after meeting a few of her girls (and boys) decided when I got back to London, to find a performer I could work with, who needed photos, and wouldn’t mind meeting a perfect stranger in a bar to take pictures of her draped in a flag! Enter Kiki Kaboom……
I wanted to go somewhere blind, take my lights, set up, shoot and go, catch something quickly without having to hang around all day, as I find the best pictures come from being spontaneous, friendly, courteous, slightly cheeky, not letting the subject think too much about what they need to do, and catching a moment. I looked online at a few images of burlesque performers and was suprised to see that most were quite ‘standard’ shots, stage, studio, club, and wanted to use somewhere on location that wasn’t the usual cheap stage and glitter….Hence we met at The 12 Bar in Soho early one morning and before we knew it, I was snapping away with a very confident, funny, professional girl who was a dream to work with. Here is a quote from Miss Kiki Kaboom, voted Burlesque Performer of the Year 2012 at the London Cabaret Awards, about me. “I had an absolute blast working with Rod, and I think that shines through in his pictures. For me to be that relaxed and at ease on a shoot is a testament to him. I love the energy, vitality, colour and personality of the pictures, and I think he’s done a great job of capturing me, and the sort of performer I am.” I decided to send the shots to you at Burlesque Bible just to get some feedback and to see if other eyes would see something slightly different and of course to try and get some coverage hoping to pick up more work from artists who don’t mind being taken out of the usual burlesque comfort zone to create some more dynamic images and putting them in a different setting.
This year I have decided to concentrate more on my performer portraits, even though taking photos of famous musicians and bands did jade me before, it is something that obviously draws me and more than often friends ask why I am not doing more as they know me as the guy with the camera stuck to his eye. My next project, would be to have a pop up studio, backstage at a Burlesque show, to take shots of the performers straight after a show, to try and catch the effort put into their routines, the blood, sweat and tears of performing, so if there are any promoters reading, do get in touch!
My shots of performers over a long time span, as I said, get better with age, and recently 2 artists/bands, have been in touch to ask for photos from some years ago to illustrate biographies they are writing, so never delete anything is my advice, and get a bigger attic! In March of this year Mike Skinner, the artist known here as The Streets, is releasing his life story, and yes, he had to contact me as I have worked with him for 10 years, to see if I could help furnish his book with photos. I always knew the photos I took would get more relevant the older they got…As I said before, it’s a long term project!
So this year, I would like to expand my work to include other burlesque performers in different locations, and am always looking for people who want to think outside of the box, and to get shots that make you want to look. My many contacts in the entertainment business over the years are now going to be getting calls about using their locations, venues as backdrops for my work, and as the summer approaches, outside locations are looking good too! So if you like the photos, please look at my website and do get in touch if you have any ideas you would like to see realised in print!
Happy Birthday to the lovely Kiki Kaboom for this week!
Keep your eye out for next month’s Spotlight On Photography with Glo Mason