What Would Axel Foley Do?

On September 12, 2012 by Greg

(This post is a reprint from a Utata.org story I wrote in 2006)

Today I tried a new photography technique. It’s not really new, but it is new for me. I am not advocating this, so if you get in trouble for photographing top secret dead aliens at Area 51, your problems are not my problems.

I wanted to get some interior shots of the Springer Opera House (Columbus, Georgia).

The original plan was to contact someone who worked there and ask nicely for permission to come in and do some shooting. When I looked at their website to see what kind of photos had been taken before, I noticed a message stating that photography of events is strictly forbidden unless written consent has been obtained. Since this was not a live performance, and merely some interior shots, I certainly didn’t need to get permission from anyone.

But sometimes I will have a conversation in my head. This is one such time. The person I spoke with in my imaginary dialogue was stubborn and refused to budge from her position that written consent must to be obtained, in ALL circumstances. It didn’t matter that there was no live performance. This was her first position, and I was not going to persuade her with logic. I don’t want to have that conversation, in my imagination or in real life, so I asked myself “what would Axel Foley do?”.

No, I didn’t pretend to be a delivery person. I just walked right in and through the main hall, as if I belonged there. In a large side room about 20 kids and an adult were conducting some acting/singing clinic. I acted like I knew where I was going, but since this was my first time here I really had no clue. I saw stairs though, and any good theatre must have a balcony. So I proceeded up the stairs and down a hallway. A girl, who I believe was an employee of the theatre walked out of a hall door right in front of me. I smiled, said a friendly “hello”, and kept right on walking. She smiled back and returned the greeting. Hey, that went well! But this clearly was not the balcony. These are offices, and unless I wanted to push my luck with more encounters, I had better keep moving.

Up another flight of stairs, but this one had a sign: Balcony. The theatre was very dark, with only enough lighting to see where you were walking.
I didn’t bring a tripod, but with all the seats and pillars, there would surely be something I could brace my camera against. I was amazed at how beautiful the theatre was. Viewing from the balcony, I could imagine the actors on the stage. I was right on top of them. Hanging from the ceiling was a beautiful chandelier, begging to be photographed.

After a few shots, I exited out a side door to see if I could reach the upper balcony. I went up another flight of stairs, but this one seemed twice as long as it should have been. At the top of the stairs was a large metal door. Not the kind of door that you would expect in a fancy theatre. This was the kind of door that the sound and lighting people might use to get to their position high above the crowd. Uh oh.

Well, I didn’t climb all those steps for nothing. I walked forward and turned the knob. The door opened.

It was really dark up there, and I could hear the faint hum of computer equipment. I could see the edge of the balcony about 30 feet in front of me, but everything else was dark. After a few minutes my eyes adjusted to the dark and I could see three rows of seats near the edge. To the right of the seats was the sound and lighting control area. I didn’t want to go that far, but I could look over this rail in front of me and maybe get a shot of the chandelier.

After staying up in the loft long enough to get a few shots, and to get nervous, I made my way down the stairs and back to where I thought I had come from. The staircase I descended did not resemble the one I had ascended, but with all the old brick, it looked like a good photo opportunity.

More shots, and down the stairs again, through a hallway. Some man walked out of another door, stopped, and looked directly at me. If I look like I’m lost, he will ask me if I need help. If I hesitate, he will think I don’t belong there. That will lead to other questions, like “who are you, what are you doing here?”.

 

I don’t want to go down that road, so I kept right on walking, smiled and greeted him with “hello”, which was returned with a broad smile. Walking where, I do not know. Just as long as I kept moving, I was safe. It’s good to pretend you know what you are doing.

Finally I found a familiar staircase, and a familiar sound – the sound of roughly 20 kids singing and laughing. I walked towards the sound and through the main lobby. A few kids and an adult turned to look, but I kept walking. Pay no attention to me, I belong here.

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