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Dec 02

Giving it some Attitude, with Access All Areas.

Giving it some Attitude with the brilliant actors from Access All Areas Theatre Company

 

I’ve been shooting The Attitudes project, supporting theatre charity Acting for Others, for nearly 18 months now, and a key part of the project has been actively to seek out and include performers representing the full breadth of the contemporary acting community.

Shooting for diversity

Why? Well, it’s easy to gloss over in the book that inspired the project, because it is a historical document, but Shaftesbury’s 1892 text ‘The Art of Acting‘, presents a very particular paradigm of acting excellence.

In short: a (portly) middle aged white man with a fine pair of moustaches demonstrates each and every acting pose!

Now, that scarcely reflected even what limited diversity there was in theatres in 1892, (and perhaps it was Shaftesbury himself…), but suffice it to say that times have changed significantly, and in 2017 we more commonly see performers of all shape, sizes, genders, ethnicities, backgrounds and abilities in TV, film and theatre.

The Challenge of Equal Representation on Stage & Screen

That’s not to say that we have overcome prejudice or historical bias in casting processes. Many groups are still excluded from fair opportunities in theatre and film and are fighting for equal representation on stage and screen.

That’s especially so for disabled people: a recent report showed that of all types of people, they are are least represented in the media: 18% of people in the UK have a disability, but only 6% of people on television do.

So, in this celebration of the art of acting – this examination of how we understand the way an actor communicates – I wanted to help present the fullest possible picture of the modern actor.

And that’s where Access All Areas came in, making me very welcome for an afternoon of shooting Attitudes with their acting company at the east London HQ early in summer 2017.

Showing acting ability

Access All Areas is an award-winning theatre company that creates “urban, disruptive performance by learning disabled and autistic artists,” and it’s company is made up of highly talented actors, who all happen to have learning disabilities and/or autism. Pursuing professional careers, a number are represented by the agency Simon & How in an unique partnership in the industry, while others are being supported by the Company to make and tour public work.

Each actor chose an Attitude to explore and gave their unique take on the embodiment of that posture and emotion, finding a way to make it real.

Some of the images are very direct recreations, and tell us mainly about the past, like Imogen Robert’s terrified ‘Horror’ (above).

Others bring a formulaic posture to life in a real moment that could be a still from a film or TV programme, or a frozen moment on stage today: there’s delicacy, poise and poignancy in Kirsty Adam’s  ‘Disconsolation’, below.

And if disability is the least important thing about these shots, that’s not to say the actors aren’t more than capable of playing with preconceptions about them as ‘disabled’ performers; Terry Hugget’s witty choice of ‘Stealth’ (see top image) makes for a sly image that both anticipates and subverts our expectations about how limiting or otherwise a wheelchair might be; you can move pretty silently, smoothly and stealthily on wheels, after all, perhaps more so than on tiptoe…

Most importantly, each AAA actor achieved a compelling still moment of emotion and communication, the equal of every other actor I’ve shot for the project.

It’s always great as a photographer working with talented actors, but it was especially energising and uplifting working with performers who, while pursuing fulfilling careers, are also challenging preconceptions and prejudices through their work. So, I’m very glad to have them as part of the project, and a massive ‘thank you’ to AAA and all the company members for their time, energy and acting skills.

Actor Adam Smith talks about his experience here:

 

 

Learn more about Access All Areas here

View all the pictures from the project here

Read about the work Acting for Others here

4/12/2017 MW

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