Behind the scenes at the Royal College of Music
Edmond Terakopian is used to covering hard news, chasing the latest political story, reacting to events and capturing the moment through his lens. Yet his latest project takes him a long way from this, behind the scenes at the Royal College of Music. Here he talks about the work.
With long-term assignments sadly becoming a thing of the past, I was on the lookout for a something I could work on, and, following a chance meeting with a tutor at the Royal College of Music, a door opened for me.
My timing coincided with an upcoming staging of Benjamin Britten's Albert Herring. With Britten being a former pupil of the Royal College of Music and the theatre there being called the Britten Theatre, everything was aligned and I felt that it was meant to be.
My idea was to document every aspect of this opera, especially the parts no-one sees: auditions, set-building, costume fittings, rehearsals, lighting and the dressing rooms.
My favourite imagery soon came from what was going on backstage during the dress rehearsals and performances so I spent a fair amount of my time photographing these beautifully silent and introspective moments.
For me, there were three main challenges to this reportage. The first being able to find special moments and juxtapositions during the many, many rehearsals. On the face of it, a white room with fluorescent lights and singers in normal attire aren't the most visually arresting scenes and one rehearsal looks pretty much like another.
The second challenge was to keep creatively motivated during this long-term shoot. I needn't have worried as being surrounded with so much talent from the Opera School made this project an absolute joy to photograph. That creative energy kept me buzzing throughout the months and really motivated me to make these images sing.
Later in the process when the orchestra joined in the rehearsals, the energy was kicked up a notch, just making the process even more magical.
The third challenge was to be unobtrusive. I like to work in close, but naturally didn't want to put off the musicians. Working gently and with my small and quiet OM-D cameras made this a possibility and I was thrilled when the head of opera mentioned in his closing speech after the last performance, just how unobtrusive I had been; he even said "barely noticeable".
One of the interesting parts to the project was a visit to Aldeburgh, Benjamin Britten's home town. Visiting The Red House where Britten lived and worked, to see the original handwritten musical score was fascinating, but it became an even more special moment when Michael Rosewell, who, as well as being head of the opera school, was also conducting the piece, flipped through the pages as he wanted to double check one single note, which sounded like it may be incorrectly printed in the modern reprints. The note was correct.
It took seven months to shoot, resulting in nearly 32,000 images with 62 of these photographs making it to the exhibition, Opera by the River, which can be seen on Riverside Walkway on the South Bank in London until 11 October.
It's been a fascinating journey for me, being one of the highlights of my 26-year career and I must say that I'm extremely thankful to the Royal College of Music for seeing my vision and allowing me this unique access.
Here are some other images from the reportage.
Opera by the River can be seen on Riverside Walkway on the South Bank in London until 11 October. You can also see more of Edmond Terakopian's work and read his thoughts on photography on his blog www.photothisandthat.co.uk.