A moment in time

styled shoot

Taking snapshots of classic moments in a film noir movie, PAUL ADSHEAD has created a narrative so gripping we canstop Looking.

It1950s America and Guy is banged up in the slammer for a crime so scandalous the cameras couldnface the action. Documented by the vulture-like press photographers, his life behind bars becomes a haze as he is pushed to his cell. Clenching onto his beloved tatty bear, bewildering thoughts of his future stream through his mind like the train that delivered him to the jury deciding his unwanted fate. Fear, regret, mistakes, revenge.

This is just my turn on the events of this film noir-esque styled shoot, but the open-ended narrative created by photographer Paul Adshead has everyone grabbing onto their seats wanting for the final chapter to unveil. Itincredible how a set of images like these get your heart racing, not just from the handsome chisel-faced model, but because of the fantasy Eastender dramas we love to create in our minds. In reality this styled shoot was shot in Manchester and the extras were made up of fellow creatives-one of whom was brought on board after a mankini-based threat.


This voyeuristic look into the final chapter of the antagoniststory was all in the mind of the beholder and his goal to develop a complete book of works. particular shoot is part of a larger body of work which follows several characters through pivotal moments in their lives,”said Paul. particular narrative is all about a made’and feelings of regret. Instead of the viewer tuning into the regrettable moment-which in my opinion would have been too obvious of a photograph-we see the aftermath.”These snapshots in time that freeze a film noir moment gets the onlookers to pull apart the individual aspects of the story. unanswered questions in an image gives the viewer the breathing space to attach their own ideas and feelings to it. This, I hope, will help make the work resonate with greater intensity,”he continued.


With vintage photography running through his creative work, Paul made sure that the authentic styling held the shoot together. from fashion to the architecture and the w hole American dream ethos has always been a desirable subject matter to me. While I usually use a stylist, on this occasion I styled the shoot myself as I had a very clear vision of what I wanted,”said Paul. Research into police outfits and other costumes was carefully done to make it as close to the real thing as possible. For extra cool points Paul even included vintage cameras and real police handcuffs from the 1950s as props. To bring these elements into action the team was sourced from fellow creatives and by working on a previous commercial job with the model who Paul felt a great look and would work perfectly for this narrative.”Staying loyal to the chiaroscuro element, the black and white styling aided the film noir narrative, creating those strong contrasts.


 film noir

Influenced by his favourite era, 1950s Americana, Paul took inspiration from old reportage photos which spurred on the main arrest photograph, lit in a way that mimicked the surroundings of a police station. Drawing on film-noir influences with chiaroscuro and strong shadows, Paullighting design was essential to bringing the story together. lot of my work does tend to have a noir-ish cinematic feel to it, which I think helps create more dramatic moments. The lighting was motivated by the location and it has to sit right, otherwise it is only going to distract the viewer and the intended feel and narrative of the image.”With Bowens and a comprehensive lighting design on standby, Paul used overhead lighting to create the atmospheric shadows in the beaming, white-walled cell that highlighted the models physique. During these cell scenes, Paul gelled the lights with different tones.

wanted the whole scene to feel rather dishevelled, and so gelling the clean white walls gave this impression.”

For the all-important arrest scene that brings the narrative together, Paul bounced light off the ceiling to create harsh shadows upon the modelface as he stares through the bars of his life-restricting future. Again reflecting upon film noir references, the connotations of the bars left open invite the viewer inside the cell for the next page of the story, held together through the shallow depth-of-field to pull focus on the main character despite the crowded scene. bars were actually real bars in the doorway. I was stood on one side while the model and extras were on the other. I manually focused past the bars to avoid having any autofocus issues.”Itthe small details like this that transforms the shoot from stills to scenes in a movie. the arrest scene the guys are actually slowly walking. I set a mark on the floor for them to hit and turn back towards the camera. Even though this isnobvious in the photograph the movement helps give the image that edge.”


Despite the classic elements to this styled shoot, as with any modem day digital project some post-production wizardry helped make the most of the minimal amount of team members when creating the arrest scene. actually not much post-processing on the image apart from the extras being shot separately and added in later,”Paul admitted. shooting in small groups and taking different options for each, I had far more control and choice than if l had directed several people to do what I wanted all at the same time.”He explains that this process is pretty simple to do with the right equipment. a sturdy tripod it is very easy to do compositions like this. Shooting in fully manual mode and using only flash light also helps greatly to make seamless images.”If attempting to recreate this compositional layering element to your final image, Paul advises to: shoot an empty background frame as you never know what you may or may not need later.”Other than the layering of the crowd, basic adjustments such as desaturation and a little dodging and burning were added.


When asked if he faced any challenges during the shoot Paul thanked his good team and planning for the success of the finished package, but did add one mishap. only slight issue we had was convincing the kick-boxers next door that we werenhurting Gerardo (the model) when they popped into the studio to say hello. I guess itnot everyday you see a guy strapped into an electric chair.”When directing the real-to-life scenes that even fooled the burly boxers, Paul wanted to maintain authenticity without too much direction for the shoot to look false. "Realism is really important to me so I tend not to bombard models with too many directions. I think this approach comes from my music video days where as a director you would explain the scene to the actor or actress beforehand, then leave them to it while the camera was rolling,”he said.

The final piece of the puzzle featured the boy in the stripped pyjamas awaiting his fate with a guard overlooking the aftermath. The painfully emotional stare on his face tells it all. The discolourisation of his skin, his tight grip on the wooden chair, the frown of fear in his eyes; this is one final scene worth holding a breath for, and waiting for the credits to roll.

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