Promotional photography by Sharon Blance.
Lighting design by Brence Coghill.
– Neisha Murphy, Co-founder & Performer, Damaged Duo Circus Company
The Damaged Duo are amazingly talented circo-arts performers Mim and Neisha. They approached us for new promo photos, explaining that they especially needed some standout images of their duo aerials acts.
Their motto – “To entertain and infuriate” – gives a sense of their style, which is somewhat different to the usual circus fare
Their work is hugely character-driven, using loads of facial expression to create a mood for each act. It’s less about ‘looking pretty’ and more about being unexpected: sometimes funny, sometimes dark and edgy.
The photos needed to capture the unique personality of each act and show off the girls’ physical skills. Mim and Neisha perform acts usually not attempted by women: intensely demanding physical stunts hanging from straps and chains that push the limits of strength and pain.
The shoot had some hefty technical requirements – we needed a super large indoor space with a minimum 7 metre high ceiling, including a beam we could rig from rated to a 2.5-tonne load.
Visually the location needed to provide a suitably ‘edgy-yet-not-too-distracting’ backdrop. The usual go-to performance spaces had had been rendered out of action by the Christchurch earthquake, but we had some other ideas up our sleeves…
The key to the whole shoot was sourcing a workable location.
We lucked out initially with a fabulous space but another aftershock stuck just days before the shoot, necessitating a postponement and causing us to lose the window of access we had to the space.
Undeterred and after much scouting and legwork, we found and hired a second space that fit the bill: a still-under-construction warehouse with a high span and a massive steel beam to rig from. Now we were in business!
Specialty lighting gear was brought in for the shoot – Broncolor heads and packs that would provide the fast recycle time and the lightning-quick flash duration we needed for shooting the aerial acts.
We also set up a mini headshot studio in one corner so we could capture static promo shots in hair & makeup before each act.
We had a fantastic day-long shoot, assisted by Bonita Monique doing creative hair & makeup and the wonderful Kerry Truman as runner, who fetched coffee, helped on set and did the occasional backflip.
The Damaged Duo rocked the set all day, going through multiple hair & makeup changes, doing difficult, exhausting and bruise-inducing stunts for camera, and maintaining a totally upbeat attitude and sense of humour the whole time.
They even had energy to spare after the aerials work to do some adagio (two-person balancing) at the end of the day, with lovely ‘Geek Chic’ style.
We followed up with a half-day shoot to create solo images of Mim and Neisha themed on contortion, handbalancing and juggling. Again, facial expressions and capturing a quirky sense of humour in the images was key.
A glittery silver curtain provided the backdrop for Mim’s ‘Black Swan’ styled ballet-gone-wrong contortions, while a blue backdrop was matched to Neisha’s fabulous cookie-monster-esque Gaga-inspired ‘Lady Boomba’ juggling ensemble.
Brence’s lighting design for the aerials warehouse shoot worked beautifully: cross-lighting highlighted the shape of each aerial pose and a soft fill ensured the all-important facial expressions were visible. We gave a slightly different look for each act – brighter for tango on the ropes, darker and edgier for hip-hop on the chains.
The duo were so amazing at ‘bringing it’ on camera that we had a hard time narrowing down the final selects, and ended up delivering more images than anticipated – a well-deserved win for the client.
The photos really capture both the skill of the Damaged Duo and their wonderful ability to bring quirky characters into their performance. We’re super pleased to have worked with these amazing performers.