Musings on Photography

The Empty Space

Posted in Solo Photo Book Month by Paul Butzi on May 25, 2009

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Naturally enough, besides making photographs in empty theatres I’ve been thinking hard about theatres, and empty theaters in particular. One of the things I’m trying to understand is the set of properties of ’empty space’ – space that’s used to provide a variety of experiences.

The following passage is the opening paragraph of Peter Brooks’ book The Empty Space: a Book About the Theatre:

I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged. Yet when we talk about theatre this is not quite what we mean. Red curtains, spotlights, blank verse, laughter, darkness, these are all confusedly superimposed in a messy image image covered by one all-purpose word. We talk of the cinema killing the theatre, and in that phrase we refer to the theatre as it was when the cinema was born, a theatre of box offic, foyer, tip-up seats, footlights, scene changes, intervals, music, as though the theatre was by very definition these and little more.

It’s a surprise to go into an empty theatre – one without audience, without sets, without designed lighting and designed sounds – a space that is by intent and design a space that can be bent to different audience experiences. You expect that such a space has no particular experience of its own; that a space with such a design is fundamentally emptiness. Instead you discover that there’s a core experience there. Different theatres have different emptinesses.

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  1. _Don said, on May 25, 2009 at 10:33 am

    I volunteer at a theatre in town for stage crew. We set up various acts. When a one night show comes in, the crew is on stage ready for load in. The emptiness to me is a pregnant pause of what is to come. To stand centre stage knowing in five hours, the house will be full and the ban performing. Equally so, at the end of the night, after the band and gear have left, and the stage mopped, the emptiness is different.

    I’ve never really thought about that until just now.

    P.S. Loved the shot of the fly rail a post or two ago.

  2. Sean Galbraith said, on May 25, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Abandoned theatres are one of my favourite types of spaces to explore.
    View from Center Stage


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