Exploring Set Photography

June 20, 2014  •  1 Comment


        A few days ago I had the delightful experience of being in the audience of the TV Show, The View, and I discovered a new aspect of photography that I never really thought about before. This journey began months ago; in fact, to be exact. It began in late October or early November 2013.

        I was trying to think of a special birthday present for my mom, author Elaine T. Jones. See, this was going to be a milestone birthday - her 75th; therefore, I had to do something big! I started to think about things that she liked to do, places she liked to go…etc... At the same time that I was racking my brain trying to come up with an awesome gift idea, I realized that I was also watching one of her favorite shows…The View! Honestly, it was more like the dawning of a white noise at that moment because I wasn’t really paying attention to the TV at all. But suddenly I became aware…

      My mom watches this show religiously! She has done this for years - since the show began. She loved the entire panel of hostess, but her favorite has always been Whoopi Goldberg. My mother admired Whoopi for many different reasons, but one of her biggest reasons was Whoopi’s sense of fashion. We always thought that it was an interesting observation coming from my mother because she was a fashion designer most of her life.

       “I admire Whoopi because she wears whatever she wants, when she wants, because she likes it. And she doesn’t care anything about what other people think about her choices.” My mother told us.

        Anyway, the sound of the show was in the background, and it caught my attention… Then out of nowhere, the idea of taking her to a live taping of the show punctured my brain! It would be the PERFECT gift!!! So, without hesitation, I went to the show’s website and submitted a request for tickets. I thought it would be great to go to New York around her birthday - which was at the end of January. Since it was only the end of October when I sent for the tickets, I thought I should hear something from the show by December. That would be perfect timing… right? Ok, well November came and went… So did December, January, March, and April.  Soon I totally forgot about the tickets.

       I never told my mom about trying to get the tickets; therefore, she had no clue that they had never came through. Life continued…Then all of a sudden, one day in early June, an email from ‘The View’ popped up. I was finally being contacted about tickets for the show!!!

       I called my mom and filled her in about the what, where, when, and why of the situation. We had four tickets, she could invite two additional people, and of course I wanted to go too – she was so excited… She invited two of her closest lifelong friends and before you knew it I was driving the three Golden Girls to NYC. After standing in a line way too long, we finally got into the studio building. By the grace of GOD, the four of us were the first allowed onto the actual set. We had great seats in the second row, right behind her icon Whoopi.

        Of course my mom had a plan… She wanted to speak to Whoopi personally. I thought she had a great chance of doing that since we were so close to her. As the rest of the audience began to pour onto the set the production crew began to work moving tables, chairs, and walls. They also moved the many TV cameras into pre-determined places. I was in heaven watching the crew in action. I love behind the scene backstage stuff!


   Then, from the corner of my eye, I saw a familiar sight… It was a camera that looked like my Canon Mark II. There was a lady walking around the set taking still photos. You could tell that she wasn’t part of the audience; because, she was up close and personal with the crew, the guest, and all the host on the show. She was able to take photos during the segments. We had been told that the audience would be allowed to take pictures, but only between the taped segments. I found out later that she was actually using the new Canon Mark lll with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L and I think she also had a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L. She had an splendid camera kit to say the least!

       I pointed her out to my mother and said, “Wow… How awesome is that? She has to be the show’s staff photographer!”   


      That was amazing to me… I had never thought about a TV show needing still photos, but it made sense. How else did they get those behind the scenes photos? It astonished me that after every segment, the entire show paused for her to take photos of the guest with the hostess. I was in awe! It really blew me away! I had my eye on her the entire time. I wanted to see how she worked. What caught her eye during the show? I observed every move the photographer made.

       At one point, she was standing right in front of me. She was close enough for me to touch - so I did… I taped her and got her attention; then, I introduced myself and told her that I was a photographer from Philadelphia. I just had one question… “How did you get such an awesome job?” I asked. She spoke to me for a few moments, and then she was off. But I was able to give her my card and get my question answered.

        Her answer was simple; someone on the staff had seen her work. The rest was history. As a photography and filmmaker, I left the studio with a newfound perspective for production and on-set photography. I’m looking forward to doing more on-set photography myself.


         Oh, as for my mother - she got her chance to speak to Whoopi directly… Actually we both got to interact with her. My mom was able to give a copy of her new novel “Aunt Donsy’s Trunk” to her icon, and I was able to capture my mom speaking with Whoopi on video. The quality of the video isn’t great, but you can clearly hear the conversation.

         Even though my birthday present to my mom was 6 months late, it was well worth the wait. “Since 75 yrs. old is ­­­­­­¾ of a century, I might as well celebrate it for the entire year.” She told everyone willing to listen…

 ­­­­­ It was a great day!!! 



(The two group shots of my mother, her freinds and my self, were take with my Galaxy Note 3. All others were taken with my handy Canon G9)


Douglas Sutton(non-registered)
It's marvelous, the legacy yet unfolding of "Aunt Donsy’s Trunk"; the willingness to recognize personal and family value leading to fulfillment as deserving as it is innately spontaneous and a blessing!
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