Salon Results: Theater

It was an honor to be chosen for the last salon and to adjudicate this one. Although I was initially petrified, I really enjoyed looking at all the pictures. Coming into this, I felt I had neither the background, insight, or eloquence to do a good job of adjudicating, but I was crazy enough to try. In other words, my comments reveal my own limitations rather than saying anything significant about the pictures. Don't take it too seriously. I just did the best I could.

The topic was theater. Although I was as interested in the "stage" and "set" as much as the performers, I was grateful that virtually all the photos had a human presence. I was also more interested in seeing ordinary places and people interpreted as theater than in seeing actors, musicians, etc. As it is, quite a number of entries fit my notion of the topic exactly. If the theatrical metaphor becomes a little strained in some of the descriptions, I apologize.

The entries are in the approximate chronological order of submission. Honorable Mentions, Contenders, and Winner at the end. Now, it's Show Time!


Michal Daniel


I was hoping that Michal would not choose a photo from his outstanding collection of theater photography, and I wasn't disappointed. This is the most ambiguous and enigmatic picture in the group. I enjoyed its painterly quality that subverts photography's natural forte of unflinching realism. The shadowy shapes of the unicycle and whatever that other thing is were both gripping and vaguely disturbing much like a de Chirico painting. Very theatrical in effect. Even though it doesn't say street to me, I liked this one a lot, so Contender.


Eliot Shepard


Now that is a stage! I guess you can think of political conventions as theatrical performances, but with audience participation. Anyway that's quite a grand panorama, but what makes it for me is the man wearing what this east-coast liberal would call a "cowboy hat." That hat symbolizes the Convention, the Party, maybe even the whole country these days (51% anyway). Some questions arise... It looks like someone is at the podium, yet why is he so far away from the action surrounded by empty seats? I imagine he must be someone important to be able to wander up to the nosebleed section all alone, although with a hat like that he could probably go anywhere at the RNC. Of course, from this viewpoint, the photographer is even more omniscient. Contender.


Jack Edmonds


[Jack originally submitted three pictures for the Salon, but narrowed it down to one at my request.] Lots of nice angles in this which lend interest to the flat perspective. The gentle twilight suggests not only the transition to the next show, but also that show time itself is approaching.


Fiorentino F. Iantosca


A simply beautiful image of refinement and grace (is this a ballet?), caught at just the right moment. The most polished of the pictures of performers.


Sam Anthony


This early submission was just what I was hoping to see. An ordinary scene (checking in with a security guard), elevated to the theatrical by the framing, but most especially by the dramatic downlighting in the background. Well observed. Contender.




Like a number of Rami's other photos, this is very witty. The scaffolding frames the stage and the drapery suggests the scrims of an industrial set. Not a lot of drama here, but I like the rhythmic echoing of elements, most notably the one between the pose struck in the ad and by the man on the right.


Stuart Robson


I won't try to guess what this is. Here in Philadelphia we have the Mummers, but they don't stay out this late. Mardi Gras? (Ah, I see, it's Carnival in Wellington). I like the placement of the costumes with their wing-like appendages so close to the sky. The inclusion of the Star Mart could be jarring, but I found it funny. Can't explain why. Love the beautiful blues and golds.


Hugh Thompson


Here's another one that fit right into my concept of found sets. The backdrop on this stage couldn't be much plainer, but that only throws the actors more into relief. This looks like a bus stop, but three of the people are doing something more interesting than merely waiting. The combination adds up to something interesting. You certainly caught something. Contender.


Ed Nixon


One of the few shots of an audience. The audience makes their own drama in reflecting and reacting to whatever is happening on stage. I love the rapt expression on these two, so attentive and involved. Even the background figures are doing something interesting. Difficult to catch this many coordinated expressions at once. Glad you turned the camera away from the stage.


Sonny Carter


Made me laugh out loud. This also fits the topic perfectly, because of the shape of the opening in the woods. It's no leap at all to see a proscenium, the letterbox shape made even more striking because it is formed by trees. So who (or what) is on stage? Is the cow a performer, or is she merely painted on the backdrop. Either way, I like the way Bossie returns the camera's gaze so alertly. Theater is everywhere. Contender.


Chandos Michael Brown


I imagine to myself these are some show folk seen backstage (whether they really are or not, they've got the personality for the stage). I get a feeling that this group puts on a show wherever they are. Looks like a fun group to be part of. Odd that some of the cups on the table are upside down... Also I wonder what you said to them to get them to mug so devilishly?


Paul Russell


Can you believe I have never seen Punch and Judy? I am so deprived. Anyway, here we have a stage within a stage. And theater without an audience. The stage is easily the smallest of the group, and made even smaller by the stark composition and vast emptiness of beach. Sure it's a beautiful day at the beach, but what is lonelier than an empty stage? Enjoyed it.


Larry Gustafson


We've got our act together, and we're taking it on the road. Without any context, I got distracted trying to figure out who these people are. I have to say this is one of the odder floats I've seen. I can't read the sashes well enough to figure out what this is about... Do they say "Solar Queen"? Anyway, they're plenty theatrical, but they just don't hit me. Sorry.


Peter Williams


What at first seems like a common scene at an amusement park or fair, becomes almost surreal when you realize that the costumed actors are just kind of standing there so matter-of-factly. That's what makes this work for me. No one is excited. Except for their costumes, the performers and audience are indistinguishable. For example, the clown who I guess is signing an autograph, could just as well be writing directions. Interesting moment.


Markus Hartel


It's just a display window that I probably wouldn't have looked at twice (Miracle on 34th Street?), but this photo made me stare. I can't really tell what is real and what is reflected, what is inside the store or outside, or where the display ends and reality begins. I enjoy the ambiguity. The face in the middle is especially odd; I can't tell if it's a real person. Haunting.




A soliloquy on a sandwich board. The leading man in this drama has great stage presence and gives a commanding (if silent) performance just standing there. Kudos to the chorus line for not trying to upstage him. I like the set, too. As close as you must have been, it's odd that no one is looking at you. Contender.


Fred Fichter


A charming picture of some very young ballerinas. My eye goes right to the girl on the left, her tiara slightly askew, her wand held high, and her arms wide open in a warm gesture of welcome. Perfect timing.


Russ Butner


Jazz musicians are among my favorite subjects, and there's nothing really wrong with this portrait of Skip; he certainly looks like he's in the pocket. Other than that he is a performer, however, it doesn't say "theater" to me that much. I would have liked to see him in the context of the bandstand and the other musicians. Otherwise, it's a nice portrait.


John Shaw


A hot time in the old town tonight. I'm glad you found this--these two are putting on a better show (or at least making a more interesting subject) than the performers. Excellent color, too. A favorite.


John Fernquest


Beautiful color and delicate lighting, but this shot went right over my head. (Bam! That's me slamming into my interpretive limits.) Still a nice picture.


Dragan Nikolic


A symmetrical, orderly composition which supports the expressions and general stiffness of the actors. There seem to be planes (or walls) everywhere: besides all the perforated panels, there's one connecting the two women in back, along the man's path, and an implied wall between the women and the man. All bathed in a cold, mechanistic, even dehumanizing light. This, I believe, is an actual stage set, or it could be a mall. :-)


Mark Ware


The angle allows us a glimpse backstage where my eye is drawn to the young girl, at once both apprehensive and fascinated, while the older women are more composed. A nice juxtaposition. The lighting is perhaps too even and revealing. This would probably be much more vivid in color.


Alan Barr


What have we here, a casting call for a John Waters movie? No, it's Honfest in Baltimore. Since I knew nothing about Honfest before seeing this picture, I'll refer to all these guys as "hon" (as in "What'll you have, hon?"). There are a lot of hons in this picture and lots to like. Let's see, the dynamic composition, tilted frame, near/far perspective, the low viewpoint, and best of all, the expression of the closest hon engaging the photographer. Well done. A favorite.


Richard Vanek


I consider this picture more cinematic than theatrical, simply because of the scale, but it's certainly dramatic. Technically, I'm attracted to this for its crisply-rendered ramparts, dark sky, and big clouds. As if that's not enough, the lone figure really gives the picture a reason for being. Classic black-and-white.


John Beeching


Street Cleaning from John's Holy City gallery. Soldiers everywhere, yet life goes on. A powerful, poignant subject, and photographically rich in texture and detail. Otherwise, I'm at a loss for words. Moving.


Ed Leveckis


Between the graffiti and the stooped figure, it's a depressing image, but it's so beautifully lit! The long, brooding shadows form a number of elements artfully organized. The blacks are so rich. Contender.


Alana Waters


Looks like you got real close to Trent. Nice monochromatic scheme helps bring out the silhouettes; dramatic lighting is a given in this setting. Elements are very nicely put together.


Ralph Ballerstadt


A surreal scene. What is going on here? Obviously some real drama here, just not sure of the cause. We have a young girl looking completely composed watching a couple (her parents?) seeming to freak out over a bird. I am impressed not only that you found this scene and reacted to it, but that so many chaotic elements are under such perfect control. Contender.


Noll Luma


From Noll's Thrills gallery. Kind of a loose, sprawling composition with a lot of potential focal points, atypical of Noll's honest, authentic, sometimes gritty work which I admire very much. The camera is pointed at the video camera and so takes in everything except what the video camera is seeing, so we're kind of seeing "backstage." There's subtle drama at work here and there, but it seems as though we're a little early for the main event.


Oliver Oey


A really strong composition created by the low viewpoint and excellent timing. I'm glad you cut out the flag on the right, and I like the way the flag on the left points to the woman's head. A favorite.


Jim Arnold


I wouldn't touch this one with a ten foot, uh, whatever, but I guess I have to say something. Very naughty. Could it be a party favor from some unholy bridal shower? Is she in some kind of procession? Probably a common sight in Las Vegas. I have no clue. Anyway, theater. Enjoyable for its oddity, but other than the surprising prop, I don't read it as having much drama.




Halloween on the subway. (I take the train to work, so this evokes memories.) Good shot of Darth himself getting acquainted with our planet's quaint customs. The woman pointing at the camera (or just behind it) makes me wonder, what was the photographer wearing that could upstage Darth Vader?


Jeff Callen


An AC Delco inflatable spokesthing who's seen better days. Between the angle of the snowman and the scale of the photo, what is likely well over ten feet tall reads as a hand puppet. Very cool. This is the most creative observation of a found stage and actor I've seen. Is the vignetting Holga-induced or just an artful burn? Either way, very effective. Contender.


Kevin Bjorke


Even without the floating sombrero, there's a lot going on here. Good balance between the slow shutter speed and all the other lighting elements. Looking at this makes me hear deafening salsa music and gives me a sense of the whole scene, although I admit I would like a closer look at the woman under the sombrero.


I had so many favorites, I found it difficult to even start narrowing it down, so I have a few Honorable Mentions:


Favorite picture of actual theater performers was Dragan Nikolic.

There were a number of pictures of parades or marches. My favorite was Oliver Oey.

Theater is a shared, social experience that is a lot of fun. Some images portrayed that aspect very well; I felt like I was sharing the experience. I got a warm and fuzzy from these:

That brings us to the contenders. I leaned heavily on the pictures that did not include professional performers.


The Contenders

From here, the cuts were all painful. Sonny's hit me right away and never let go, but as funny and appropriate as it was, I started to crave more drama. Michal's was a favorite simply because it is a strange and mysterious work of art, but I was tempted by the submissions that looked more conventionally "street." Jeff's was a favorite for sheer ingenuity. Other contenders showed very interesting "stages" (Eliot Shepard, Sam Anthony, Ed Leveckis). On these, the actors didn't have to be doing much, but I gravitated towards the ones with a little more drama. That left three.


The Finalists

Back and forth I went, but in the end I was swayed by what I thought was the most theatrical and interesting. Take it away, Ralph!


Well, I've certainly enjoyed my fifteen minutes. Time to hit the showers. Whew!