Sunday, March 27, 2016

Behind the Scenes . . . from Gorka . . . to Rossini

As many of you already know, I really enjoy photographing live performance events.  In the space of a week, I was able to shoot two -- or one and a half, depending on how you count.

First up was John Gorka, an American troubadour, who came to our local "Music in Corrales" series March 19.  The venue for the concert series is an historic decommissioned 1868-vintage mission church in our village . . .


Gorka graciously allowed me to shoot while he and the audio engineer worked on the levels . . .

. . . during rehearsal . . .

. . . and while he performed in concert.  During the show I had to shoot from the back of the church to avoid disturbing the audience or the artist.  But I still got some good shots:

You can see these and many more images of John Gorka in a gallery at my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.

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A few days later, I had the opportunity to do a publicity photo shoot for Opera Southwest, our local opera company.  The shoot is always arranged for an Albuquerque Journal photographer to get some images for their article about each new production, so it's not my shoot and I'm not in control.  I was literally shooting over the shoulder of the Journal photographer . . . 

But he is always very gracious and gives me the opportunity to shoot unobstructed and give a bit of direction to the singers if I feel like it. 

The shoot took place against a stucco wall outside the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, where Opera Southwest stages their productions.  No off-camera flash, no reflectors, just ambient light and some help from Lightroom:

The image above is Angela Martellaro as Fiorilla, the coquettish wife who is smitten with Selim, il Turco, played by Michael Sumuel.  Her foppish husband, Don Geronio, is played by Matthew Burns:

A masked ball, mistaken identities, chaos and comedy -- classic opera buffa!

From first push of the shutter button to the last, I shot 150 images in 10 minutes, but thanks to singers who know how to emote on cue, we all got some good pictures . . .

                                                     . . . and everyone had a good time!

If you would like to see these images and more, visit my photography website by clicking here.



Monday, March 7, 2016

Angels in the Architecture

He looks around, around
He sees angels in the architecture,
Spinning in infinity
He says "Amen!" and "Hallelujah!"

                                                                                                       -- Paul Simon, You Can Call Me Al

In a desert valley about 10 miles southwest of Tucson stands the mission cathedral of San Xavier del Bac.  

The cathedral is a National Historic Landmark.  Its construction began in 1783, the year the American Revolutionary War ended, and was finished in 1797, the last year of George Washington's presidency.

The cathedral is the oldest intact European structure in the United States, and the exterior is a classic example of Spanish Colonial architecture:  simplicity, clean lines, balconies and bell towers:


But it's really the interior that takes your breath away.

The interior decoration begins simply.  In a vestibule at the entrance to the cathedral, the walls feature primitive relief sculptures . . .

The vaulted ceiling of the vestibule is simply but beautifully decorated:

Immediately to the left of the entry vestibule is the baptistry and the baptismal font, said to be the oldest item in the cathedral, carried forward from the previous mission church.


Further in, relatively modest statues and fresco murals adorn the walls of the nave, accompanied by elaborate moldings and painted designs above and below:

The cathedral has four masonry vaulted ceilings, three of which feature a shell motif, which is a symbol of pilgrimage after the patron saint of Spain, Santiago or James the Greater.  Here's a view looking back toward the entrance to the cathedral:

Notice that the shell motif is also used in the window openings (on the left and right sides of the image below):

And check out those angels, who look like local seƱoritas and are showing more than a modest amount of leg.  Tradition has it that these angels are likenesses of the two daughters of the artist who painted the ceiling.  (Would those Puritans in Massachusetts approve?)

The decoration of the nave and its ceilings pales, however, once we arrive at the apse containing the altar at the front of the church, where the style goes totally crazy Byzantine . . .

Compare this with the interior of Albuquerque's San Felipe de Neri church, built in 1793 at the same time as San Xavier del Bac:

The transepts at San Xavier are only a bit less elaborate than the altar area:



And towering over the intersection of the nave and the transepts above the altar, the great dome:

If you would like to see these images (and more) in a larger format, visit my photography website, Todos Juntos Photography, by clicking here.