November 29, 2012

Capturing Orpheum history through a lens

Douglas Hahn wasn’t looking for a new job when he offered to take pictures for the Orpheum Theatre last November. He just wanted a close up of the excitement that their live shows bring.

Douglas Hahn wasn’t looking for a new job when he offered to take pictures for the Orpheum Theatre last November. He just wanted a close up of the excitement that their live shows bring.

After one year and a series of riveting events, he has become the venue’s resident photographer. The first public showing of his photography will debut Friday at the place he now considers a second home. The Final Friday exhibit will both showcase his work and celebrate a fruitful year for the theatre.

“It’s been a very successful year for us and an exciting year for us since it’s our 90th anniversary,” said theater president Jennifer Wright. “To be able to wrap up the year in photographs of select shows seemed like a good fit to me.”

Hahn, 42, had no connection to the theater or its staff prior to seeing a flier advertising last winter’s performance by The Hendrix Experience. Group member and guitarist Eric Johnson is one of his idols, and he was determined to find a way to meet him. He offered his service as a photographer to theater staff as a way to be in the action and capture the excitement.

Hahn’s first show to shoot was the annual Christmas Benefit concert, about a month prior to The Hendrix event. Hahn said that the staff liked the quality of his work and wanted him back for more. Soon, he got to meet and photograph Johnson. He has been taking photos for the theater ever since as a volunteer.

“It was insane,” Hahn said of photographing the Hendrix Experience. “I couldn’t believe I was in the middle of it. The feeling that I got doing it made me want to continue. It’s really special to be able to do this. I get to be so close and can see everything — the hair on the performer’s face, their eyes. It’s mind boggling.”

Since then, he has captured images of performers including Glen Campbell, Bernadette Peters, Jonny Lang and Imagination Movers. Though he has no formal training as a photographer, he had experience taking pictures for kids’ sporting events, family functions and weddings. After he invested in high-quality equipment, he said his work as a photographer grew. When taking pictures of events, he focuses on movements and gestures. He says he’s just a dude with a great camera and a love for being at The Orpheum as much as possible.

“Doug has an incredible eye for capturing moments. There is a unique style to his photography,” said Wright. “For us, it’s been wonderful to have him in the theater photographing the events because it documents not only the event but it captures the performance and the spirit of this venue. It’s important for people to realize and understand that the performing arts are a visual art form.”

The exhibit will showcase around 30 of Hahn’s photographs displayed in various parts of the venue. Most are from notable concerts from the past year, but a few are of the building itself. Some will be in the lobby, some in the main theater, and others will be scattered throughout the upper level. Wright said she wants people to interact with the theatre while seeing the quality of the performances it offers.

“It really helps to promote who we are and what we do,” Wright said of Hahn’s works. “By having great photographs and seeing how beautiful they look and seeing the emotion on performer’s faces, it shows the talent that we are bringing in. It really helps to showcase what we are doing. We bring richness to the community that is priceless. All of these performances that Doug has captured really serve to make the city a better, more vibrant place to live, to experience life.”

For Hahn, his inaugural show will be as much a homecoming as it is a new experience as an exhibitor.

“I felt I belonged as soon as I walked into The Orpheum,” he said. “I told Jennifer that I’ll be there when I’m 90 if she lets me. When I’m there, I feel like I belong. It’s like a second home. Everyone there is just way cool.”

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