There’s only one week to go until Luscious Cabaret at The Albany and we thought we’d take a moment to celebrate our unsung heroes from behind the scenes. Today we meet Stephan Burn our Luscious photographer. Every month Michael Twaits invites him up on stage to take pictures of our lovely audience. You may of starred in one of these pictures yourself. As you enter Luscious Cabaret he is the one by the bar with the camera ready to get the perfect shot of our performers & Audience. There have been some corkers over the past year and a half.
Like Mr Delicious being seduced to the extreme by Carmen Mon Oxide ..
Or This one of Luscious regular Chalkiliscious
He has taken some amazing photos and we thought it was about time you got to meet the man himself.
Tell us a bit about your background. Did you always want to be a photographer, or is it a career choice that arose spontaneously?
What I always wanted to be was a writer, whose hobby was photography. But when I quit my dayjob in 2016, it was the opportunities in photography that allowed me to keep the lights on, and my dog fed. From bridal fashion shoots and London Fashion Week, to art prints and studio work, and eventually events from birthday parties to Luscious Cabaret, it was photography that paid in something more than exposure. Also, photography has an immediacy about it that’s very compelling. A short film can have a two-year gestation period, and still come to nothing, never mind an income. With photography that little flush of success, that little hit of dopamine and gratification, can be nigh-instantaneous.
How did you first begin to work with Little Lady Luscious?
Wanted: Photographer for Cabaret Show on 7th October (one night)
That’s what the ad said back in 2016, though I now have to laugh at the ‘one night’ qualifier, as I’ve now done around a dozen Luscious Cabaret nights, not including Luscious Showcase, Luscious Privee and Little Lady Luscious’ engagement party! I knew then, from that first night, that this was a special event; rambunctious, creative and fun, with great people. I was thrilled to be invited back, again and again!
Describe what an average day looks like for you.
Back when my life was that of a fulltime creative freelancer, this is what my day might have looked like:
- Wake up far too early, sleep was never a friend, more like a passing acquaintance. My first coffee though, that was a much more intimate embrace.
- Writing, whether a review of the previous night’s TV, blogging, outlining, a screenplay, or a journal entry about how writing’s really really hard.
- The dog will need a walk, and I’ll need breakfast. The rest of the world has woken up and I may as well join it.
- The worst part of a freelancer’s day is marketing and scrounging for work. Social media posts, blogs, self-promotion, scouring freelancer’s sites for opportunities, bidding for work, turning down work that “couldn’t pay”, wasn’t of any use to my portfolio, but would have “great exposure”.
- Processing photos! Perhaps the most time-consuming part of the job. Sifting through hundreds, perhaps thousands, of photos. Choosing the best moments, the funniest moments, those images where the client’s requirements and my aesthetics overlapped, trying to rescue photos of fast moving performers on a small stage in poor light. The retention rate of photos in such circumstances might be one in ten or worse, as opposed to a studio shoot, where careful setup will mean more like a one in three ratio, but there’ll be much more post-processing.
- Apparently the dog needs another walk? Couldn’t I just fit him with a catheter or a nappy?
- Time to prepare for an evening event shoot! Packing the equipment bag for the specific requirements of the evening and, these days, checking it twice!
- The event shoot itself, which can either be a delight or a drag. For every Luscious Cabaret there are so many more without its charms.
- Crash. Coma. Repeat.
Many of your clients come from the entertainment industry, theatre and cabaret. Is there anything in particular which draws you to this world?
I love to work with creatives; people trying to create something from nothing, driven to perform or create, to bring joy, beauty, poignancy, or pathos. I particularly love the feeling of community that can blossom; at its best it can feel like family.
What is the craziest thing that you’ve witnessed while working as a photographer?
It’s so hard to choose just one! I could tell tales from a particular fashion launch, which would involve terms like ‘Russian mobster’s wives’, ‘Z-list celebrities’ and ‘bacchanalia’, but I think it’s better to highlight genius than degeneration.
The escapologist Dave Diamond had a new act that he needed promo shots for. He was going to be chained, handcuffed and dangled upside-down in a clear perspex tank of icy cold water, in a modernised recreation of Houdini’s Chinese Water Torture Cell escape. Many of the shots could be faked in that cold East London warehouse, but there was no getting around a full recreation of the scenario. It was the first time that Dave was to be submerged in the tank.
The shots had to be taken rapidly, the limits being his ability to hold his breath and withstand the freezing water.
The danger was real.
There was no fast-release valve for the water, the tank was shatter proof, and if Dave got into trouble, extracting him wouldn’t be fast. His muscles were seizing up from the cold and the narrowness of the tank made it hard to turn himself around. Every time there was a problem there was a half hour reset time.
It was certainly tense, but Dave was a consummate professional and skilled performer. I’m very proud of the shots, and Dave has since taken his show on tour.
Describe your photography style in three words.
What. Client. Wants.
Well, to a degree!
But for my personal photography style, I’d have to go for:
Chiaroscuro. Dramatic. Subjective.
You can check out Stephan’s latest photos for Luscious via our Facebook Page. Next week will be your last chance to meet Stephan as he will no longer be able to shoot Luscious Cabaret! We are very sad but with every Luscious Cabaret there is always after show drinks so let’s send him off in style! Tickets are available via the button below.