For my latest venture I was called back on tour with Taylor Swift. I’ve been working with Taylor since she was 18 and she’s been one of the regulars always coming back for more.
The pressure was on. Her creative team were nervously waiting to see what I would produce as the new tour program had been put on hold until I delivered the goods. I had three rehearsals to get to know the show and four shows to get the job done. So we flew to Omaha, Nebraska, for the last rehearsals for Taylor’s long awaited Red Tour. And of course, the first run through of the show knocked me off my socks completely. A dozen costume changes and lots of action and moving bits and pieces and fifteen dancers all over the place… As per usual I went into general panic mode. No way little ol’ me would be able to capture all of that in such a short space time. I did what I always do, I had a dramatic rant and cried out to Patrick that I couldn’t do it and I wanted to go home. Nothing new there. Everyone seemed to have faith in me, except me.
During those rehearsals I studied the show as well as I could, with Patrick by my side taking detailed notes of where Taylor was standing or running at any given moment, what the dancers and musicians were doing, figuring out angles and so on. Then it was show time. The pit was the size of a folded handkerchief with no space to move at all and I had to share the folded handkerchief with two live cameramen. The game was on. It’s a fabulous show, by the way. I’ve seen it a few times now, and I still discovered new things in the fourth show.
After two shows the creative team came out of the woodwork with a list of shots they still needed. Some of the shots were near-impossible to obtain though. Like the one with the piano, to pick just one example. Taylor is high up at the back of the stage with a red piano. To get a clear full shot of her and the piano, I’d have to be almost next to her, which was quite impossible. One of her creatives jokingly suggested they suspend me on a harness and fly me over the stage. So the only way to get the shot was from a long distance, but then a big candelabra and a banister would block the view. It was suggested I’d climb up the ladder at the back of the stage in pitch darkness just before the song started and like a ninja move silently near her piano to get the shot. That’s where I had my little diva moment, I admit. There was no way I was gonna climb and stumble in complete darkness with my cameras dangling around my neck. The audience and Taylor could have been in for an unexpected minute of slapstick. Anyway, I think I may have eventually found and angle that worked, using a very long lens. I think I may actually have found every single shot they wanted. Hopefully.
This blog would not be complete without mentioning Taylor’s support act on the whole North American tour, our own Ed Sheeran. Funny coincidence, but me and Teddy go back five years. We met back when he was working hard in small clubs, and last year we hooked up again and started working together for real. So it felt like old friends gathering in some ways. As I was there anyway, I got some live shots and portraits of him, quite an easy task for me as the connection is there in seconds. No stress, no worries, brilliant results.
That connection is there with Taylor as well. It’s as if there is an awareness between Taylor, my camera and me. I can’t explain exactly what it is. But during the show it’s as if I get a mental signal that a perfect shot will come up, and then it does, and I capture it. During the second St Louis show, my last shoot, rapper Nelly joined Taylor on stage, which was a nice treat for me as I really like him. This time with Nelly next to her it happened again. I saw (or imagined) that she gave me a certain look for a millisecond, and just then she almost pulled Nelly along until they were right in front of me and did their magic together in the perfect angle for my camera. Whether any of that happened consciously, I don’t know. But I got what I wanted there, spot on.
As I write this I am home, digesting the jetlag before heading out with Joe Bonamassa all of next week. Meanwhile somewhere in America Taylor and her team now have the daunting task to go through a mass of pictures in just a few days to compile her new tour program and get it to the printer. May the force be with her.
Conclusion of my 11 days on tour with Taylor: Patrick gained 2 kilos, I lost 1. That’s the price you pay as a tour photographer.