The Spanish word Cimarrón refers to that which cannot be tamed. The creator of the performance work Cimarrón is Sally Lewry, a theater maker based in Melbourne. She produces pieces that are raw and visceral and describes her work as “engaging with a deep sense of socio-political content and often driven by personal politic and the human condition.”
Image Workshop photographer Sharon Blance has a particular flair for the performing arts and was excited to be asked to shoot the promotional photography for Cimarrón, premiering in March at Metro Arts Brisbane.
“Cimarrón speaks to an aspect of humanity which is all but lost.
This work aims to evoke an instinctual and primal element – to reveal the savage beast that lingers behind our social façades. It is a call to reclaim our place within the wild.”
The performance uses physicality to explore representations of the savage and civilized, and the fine line dividing them. Sally wanted the promo photography to capture this dissonance of wild/civilised and to centre on the ‘beast’ character central to the work.
Sharon and Sally discussed the work’s themes and looked at a huge range of reference material. Two pieces that were particularly influential were the cover of George Monbiot’s book Feral (which Sally was reading at the time), and the famous 1967 Patterson Bigfoot footage.
We loved the out-of-placeness of the deer on the Feral cover, and Sally wanted the promotional photography to show Cimarrón’s Beast as out-of-place among a starkly urban landscape, but with a sense of fragility and vulnerability to the character – it’s not aggressive and menacing, but perhaps just trying to find its way.
However, the details of the Beast needed to be kept vague – as the progressive discovery and revealing of this character is central to how the performance unfolds. We wanted the images to be a teaser, not an explanation. Like Bigfoot footage, it needed to be uncertain and undeterminable, not shown in full detail but hinted at in a caught moment. What is that thing? We wanted to entice the audience to come to the performance to find out.
We planned an approach which would speak to the themes of the performance whilst maintaining the necessary mystery. Our chosen location was an underground car park that’s both starkly urban and banal, but that itself hints at the intersection of the constructed and the wild – the cone-shaped subterranean concrete supports are actually root enclosures for the trees above.
We constructed the lighting to be shadowy so we’d only be glimpsing the Beast in the darkness. We also did some shimmying with gels and white balance to give the Beast a warm natural tone within colder blue-toned surroundings. We shot a huge variety of poses (arms up, crawling, scratching, etc.) but in the end the most powerful images were the simpler ones, which captured the vulnerability and lost-ness we wanted to convey.
We also did some shots with Sally running through the frame, inspired by the idea of blurry Bigfoot photos, we wanted to portray a moment caught out of the corner of your eye, that reality-check moment when something unrecognisable flickers through your field of vision.
For those that are interested, here’s a quick sneak peak behind the scenes of the Cimarrón shoot.
After the shoot Sally had some really nice words to say about us :)
“Sharon and Brence are adept at creating atmosphere within imagery and perfectly captured the essence of my work. More than photographers, they collaborated as artists. Incredibly skilled and professional, Sharon and Brence adopted a playfulness which, as a performer, I really connected to.” – Sally Lewry