Tuesday, February 2, 2016
View Award Nominee Profile- Matt Norris- Photographer
I make character portraits at two events per year.
For what I do, I pick events that people aren't going to mind the presence of a camera at. I don't want what I do to be obtrusive, so I tend to pick the events that have a moderately strong Out Of Character component to them as well. Uncle Cecil's, and Feast of Leviathan being the prime examples, since both are as much about the game's community as they exist within the game itself. I want to shoot at events where people are celebrating, want portraits made to celebrate their characters and their friends, and where what I do, with lights and studio paraphernalia won't get in the way of anyone's ability to enjoy the atmosphere.
The greatest challenge I face is timing. I'm a wedding, portrait, and alt-fashion photographer. That work primarily happens on the weekends, concurrent with the Realms.
Photographically, the moments I'm always proudest of are the ones where I can win someone out of their shell and give them the freedom to really embody that other person they turn into on the weekends. My work revolves around making intangible things visible, and when I can show a person a picture of their character that makes them lean in toward it and say "Yes, THAT, oh wow I didn't realize that that could be me." I feel like I'm doing my job. I want to help people show their friends the person they have inside their heads, that they wear when they go out to an event. A few years ago at a North South War, I talked Justin Pluff, who went on to found the Lands of Retribution larp based on the Realms system, into climbing onto a fifteen foot tall pole to balance on it, just to get the vigilant-guardian type monastic assassin type vibe his character was built on into view. Seeing himself from down below, perched and ready - that 's the kind of moment I'm talking about. I'm looking for ways to let you explain the feeling of your character to someone else, with just a profile picture.
The advice I'd give, to start, is Get In Close. No matter if you're trying to document an event through photojournalism, showing the event site as it is, or trying to hide the trappings of the modern world and show the Realms as they exist in-character without a back-hoe and caution tape parked right beside the tourney field, the closer you can frame the action, without sacrificing context, the more emotion you're going to capture. In a lot of ways, photographing an event is just like any other sports-photojournalism work environment. You stay out of the way, you frame as closely as you can, remember that the point of interest is the face, no matter what else is going on, and you'll be golden. Outside of capturing the action of a fight, if what you want to do with your camera at an event is more staged than candid, the first and best advice I can give is to keep your image clean. Paying OCD attention to what's happening outside and around your subject in the frame, eliminating people and traffic cones and outbuildings behind them until you've got a backdrop that doesn't draw attention from your subject will never be wasted effort. After that, you turn their face toward the nearest source of light, and go. That's really how you start.
[Top photo of Matt Norris by Christine Gauthier. All other photos by Matt Norris]