TLDR; I worked with the WWE on their Pride 2022 campaign. Here’s the gallery.
If you’d seen my earlier post about Light Motion Capture, you would know that I spent the past year shooting Pride flag long exposures to show my allyship with the LGBTQIA++ community. I donated a portion of every print sale from my shop to different LGBT-led orgs. It was a project with an ebb and flow but I shot when I was able. My intention was to wind up the project at the end of Pride 2022. I didn’t know I was about to add an exclamation point to the entire endeavor!
On March 11th, I received an email from the WWE! Initially I was skeptical because “why would the WWE be emailing me??” It was real! Melissa Martinez, photo editor with the WWE, found my LMC work and loved it. She’d proposed it to her employers as the technology behind their 2022 Pride campaign.
THEY SAID YES!
Soon I was on a call with the VP of Photography, Brad Smith. We started discussing how best to make it work. I’d only ever done the shooting myself and typically went big and environmental. Their focus would be the talent, as they call the wrestlers internally. And they’d want to use their photographers as they know best how to shoot the talent. I was introduced to Mike Marques. With 15 years experience shooting photos professionally for the WWE, Mike was a perfect choice to head the integration of my art piece into the WWE aesthetic. I sent Mike a light bar to test with. He spent a day practicing and dialing in settings on the strobe and camera to get a great result.
A New Photographer
A couple of weeks before our intended shoot, Brad emailed to say he’d secured the services of a new photographer, Eva Woolridge. Eva’s work is beautiful and poignant. As a member of the queer community, Eva would be able to highlight the real purpose behind the project; the strength of the community and the value of allyship. Mike would stay on as support with the various components needed to accomplish this goal.
We would converge on Providence, Rhode Island on May 7th. Wreslemania Backlash was happening on May 8th. We’d shoot for the day, pack up, then drive to Hartford, Connecticut. Then we’d shoot during RAW on the May 9th. I would be on site to use the light bar(s) with the talent. Eva would shoot, Mike would help direct. Melissa would be on hand to help guide her over-arching vision.
Just Take A Second
Ass-Kicking To Painting With Light
Let me start out by saying, I have never worked with an organization so fine-tuned. 20 tractor trailers drive into a venue, unload and set up an incredible show. After the show, they tear it all down again and move to the next city. The behind the scenes crew and staff, from cabling to catering were incredible.
And there I was, little backstage pass stuck on me. Walking, wide-eyed seeing the “man behind the curtain” for the first time. Luckily, at almost six feet tall, covered in tattoos and heavy-set, I fit right in. But I was there to make my art. For real. After getting a tour of the arena and back area, I was introduced to the space we’d shooting in. Mike had us set up the tenting to darken our space. He taped over the LED “fluorescent” lights. Set up the strobe, light, camera, laptop for tethering. Without Mike technical expertise I am sure we’d have been sunk. Thanks so much, Mike.
Eva and I started to do some test shots for us both to get familiar with the space, the possibilities it allowed and what kind of variability we’d be able to accomplish. You can see me on the left and Eva is the subject. To get an understanding of the juxtaposition of me in motion and the stillness of the subject.
I know how to move the light bar but I’ve never had to consider a person and wrapping them and getting out of the way of a strobe.
So I got ready.
My speed notwithstanding, Eva and I managed to make it work.
It was an intense schedule. Arrive and set up the tenting per Mike’s direction to give us maximum shade/darkness. Shoot sporadically over twelve hours. Tear down and be ready for the next day. Rinse and repeat. For the space we were in, I managed 10,000 steps each day! I was taking three steps per shot. Bonkers.
When I say the talent are professional, it doesn’t give them the proper due. They were patient and accommodating. We had a monitor available and, invariably, when they saw what we were doing, they were excited by the results. I don’t want to brag but later on the second day, Seth Freakin’ Rollins told me “That light thing is cool as f*ck”. Day made.
Sonya “The Official Boss” Deville
I discovered that the biggest champion of the project was Sonya Deville. She is proudly out and advocated for a showcase of support from the talent, crew and staff of the WWE. She was gracious and enthusiastic.
Thanks again to Melissa for reaching out and having the vision. To Brad for championing the effort. Mike for being so knowledgeable. Eva for your talent. I hope we can find reason to work together again.