Living on the palm tree’d streets of Los Angeles creates some unique opportunities for photo projects. Stephanie Diani is no stranger to the celebrities and bright lights of Hollywood. With a cross-country move to NYC approaching, Stephanie recently started on a project that had been on her mind for a few years. The project, called “Live Audience!,” began as an idea in Stephanie’s head the first time she went to a live taping and realized how managed the audience reactions actually are. People are made to clap, boo, cheer and laugh before the show even begins.
This, combined with Stephanie’s drives by CBS Television City, a famous studio near her home where people lined up daily for tapings, got her to thinking about how she could photograph these people in an interesting and cohesive way:
At a certain point it just suddenly made sense to me to keep everything but the person consistent: so same light, roughly the same fictional scenarios, same background. What would vary would be the people and their responses.
In preparation for Live Audience!, Stephanie scheduled studio time, laid out a schedule (making sure to include enough time in between subjects to allow for the unexpected, like traffic) and even brought in an intern to act as a second assistant for the day.
The biggest challenge was coordinating. I had about 35-40 people respond to my various casting notices, and of those I chose 20-25 to shoot, mainly based on how many shows they had been to. I lost a few during the scheduling process, and a few just failed to show up, but in the end I had seventeen subjects come in to be photographed.
As with any project, Stephanie learned about herself and about collaboration, especially what happens when others join in to help with her vision:
When people get behind a project, or get excited about an idea, they become active participants in a photo shoot. The best possible scenario for me is when I’ve got an idea or a narrative in my head that I’m hanging a portrait concept on, and the subject catches on, gets excited, and then contributes their own vision to the image. In it’s best form, I feel like portraiture is a collaboration. I can bring the lights and the camera and frame up the shot, but the subject has to participate a least a little bit to make an image visually arresting and memorable.
The difficulties were well worth it and people are enjoying the project. Stephanie feels this is because it’s “simple, entertaining and fun to look at.” She also thinks most people can identify with the cross-section of subjects.
With her move to the Big Apple now complete, Stephanie hopes to continue this series, East Coast Edition.
I’d like to do another shoot here in New York City; with SNL, the Late Show, the Today Show, etc., I think I’d have a plethora of willing subjects. I’d also like to add a secondary series of portraits of the audience producers. I always feel sorry for those guys…controlling any group of people is akin to herding cats through a tuna fishery.
To see more of Stephanie’s work, please visit her website.