Netflix’s Bridgerton needs no introduction. 82 million households have already seen it, and as I write this, it’s back to being #1 in the United States. It’s been an entertaining, refreshing, and raunchy hug for many souls since Christmas 2020, and I have not encountered such passionate exaltation of a love story since my high school friends giddily discussing the new romantic paperback.
Bridgerton has honestly been a welcome phenomenon for many of us, and it’s difficult not to quickly be invested with the show’s characters… and if you haven’t seen the show, am sure your lady friends has dragged this topic into the conversation one way or another.
Which is why…. I am sooooo thrilled to introduce you to Barnaby Boulton. The man whose film photogrphy on the set — remember, #1 viewed Netflix Series of ALL TIME — spread like wildfire the moment Rége-Jean Page as the Duke of Hastings graced his Instagram page. What I can say is, what really struck me when I first saw the shots, is the aura of authenticity, grain and all. It’s just beautifully natural, and dear reader, please continue with the article and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
Aislinn: Hello Barnaby! For those who haven’t stumbled across your work and the (Duke’s piercing gaze) these past few weeks, can you introduce yourself?
Barnaby: My name is Barnaby, I’m 25, and I work in the TV & Film Industry. I’m a portrait photographer and aspiring writer and director.
Aislinn: Tell us about your journey and your relationship with film photography. When did it start, who were your anchors, how has it evolved, and where has it taken you. I see that you shine the most in portrait photography, what is it about documenting people that compels you to click the shutter?
Barnaby: I started around three years ago when I picked up and used a friend’s film camera. I absolutely loved how the shutter click felt and sounded, and I loved the manual nature of it all. I spoke to my dad about it and he brought down his old Pentax ME from the loft along with the original receipt from June 1980! That was my first ever camera.
I brought it everywhere I went and took photos of everything, I became “that person” in every group who’s always snapping away. At first, I used the camera exclusively to capture fun memories with my friends, but over time I found my love for portraits. I believe that a good portrait can tell you a lot about the subject beyond just what they look like. It’s a challenge but it’s one I love pursuing.
Can we all just pause for a second and give a shout out to all the dads and moms out there who have kept their film cameras. We love you! ~ your sons & daughters.
Aislinn: What reaction do you get when you show people their film portraits?
Barnaby: It’s always a huge mix as people can be extremely self critical, but usually the feedback is positive! Often due to the delay between taking the photo and getting the scans back from the lab people have forgotten the photo ever happened, so it’s a happy little surprise when they finally see it.
Aislinn: Ok Barnaby, time to show off your gear! Can you walk us through your weapons of choice and why you can’t live without them.
Barnaby: My main camera these days is a Nikon F3, usually with a Nikkor 35mm f/2 lens. It’s super sturdy and reliable, and the Nikon lenses are a treat to use. Before I had the Nikon my go-to was my Pentax ME with a 50mm lens. It’s small, lightweight and fast, and easy to use, which is a huge plus when taking candid shots.
I have a Canon Sure Shot Ace as my trusty point and shoot which goes everywhere I go, I have a Nishika N8000 for the occasional GIF/wiggle gram and I’ve just started using a Mamiya RZ67 for more “serious” portrait work.
Aislinn: What are the Top 3 films you constantly use and why?
Barnaby: Kodak Portra 400, Kodak Gold 200 and Kodak Tri-X 400 are in my constant rotation. Portra is my go to stock, it’s crazy reliable and the colours are to die for, you simply can’t go wrong with Portra. Gold is amazing for warm and nostalgic looking shots with lovely grainy shadows, and Tri-X is my favourite black and white stock, I just love the contrast and the grain.
Aislinn: Do you process your own work or do you have a trusty lab?
Barnaby: I get all of my work processed and scanned by filmdev.co.uk, the results are always excellent.
Aislinn: Ok let’s now engage the elephant in the room!! Tell us about your journey with the Bridgerton family. How you got there, what you did on set.
Barnaby: So my job on set actually has nothing to do with photography! I’ve worked in the production department in the industry for a few years and on Bridgerton I was Director’s Assistant to three of the directors on the show. My job involves pretty much anything you can imagine an assistant might be needed for; teas, coffees, and a whole lot of organisation. Whenever my director was busy directing scenes and had nothing for me to do, I started taking photos! It became a bit of a regular thing and I was soon well known for wearing the Pentax ME around my neck most of the time.
Aislinn: You began posting beautiful photos of the cast well before the show blew up. But the shot that really whipped everyone into a frenzy was Rége-Jean Page. Overnight, you became “The Diamond of the First Water” on Instagram and various photography pages. Tell us about that shot, what gear was used etc… and if the respected actor himself reflects the awesomeness of the image (LOL!).
Barnaby: It’s been pretty crazy! I never expected the photos to be as popular as they have been, the positive feedback has been so lovely! “The shot” of Regé was actually a very quick moment I snuck in and snapped right before the cameras rolled, the lighting was lovely and as always the costume and setting combination was a winner. I didn’t anticipate at the time it would be such a key shot! It was taken on the Pentax ME with a SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7 lens on Portra 400. Regé himself is a lovely chap, he sure knows his best angles and he gives an excellent hug.
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Aislinn: Must be extraordinarily magical to be surrounded by supremely photogenic people who are so engaging with the camera. I am not gonna lie, but my personal favourites are of the Bridgerton brothers. Something about the candidness of your shots there. Tell us how you navigate yourself (as a photographer) on set and amongst the many opportunities to document a moment, and finally capture the image.
Barnaby: I would say photogenic is an understatement! Taking photos on the Bridgerton set honestly feels like cheating! The sets, costumes, hair and makeup and the cast themselves are all so spectacular, combine all that with gorgeous lighting by extraordinarily talented cinematographers and you have a recipe for some very pretty pictures!
Due to being on set for 10-12 hours every day I never felt like I had to push to create an image, I simply kept on the lookout for the right moment, then would swoop in and take the photo! In general, I tried my best to not intrude, get in the way or disturb anyone’s creative process. Something that really helped was meeting most of the cast during rehearsals, which then meant I wasn’t too much of a stranger when I’d approach them on set. I believe having that pre-existing relationship did wonders for the candidness of the photos.
Aislinn: Walk us through 5 of your favorite snaps from the set, what gear, and why they are special to you.
This one I love for the anachronism. Something about having to take off such an ornate 1800s glove to use an iPhone is pretty funny to me.
This one I love for the lighting, Harriet is absolutely glowing, I didn’t have to edit this at all.
This one I love for the general atmosphere I think the photo captured.
This one I love for Claudia, she’s such a bright and fun person, and I think this photo shows that nicely!
This one I love simply for Phoebe, I think it captures her personality well. It’s one of my best and favourite photos I’ve ever taken. This was taken on a Leica M6 that Drew Marsden, one of the camera assistants was generous enough to let me borrow for the day.
Aislinn: If you were given an opportunity to be stuck in a room and photograph your dream subject for an hour, who would it be, why, and what gear/film would you use?
Barnaby: I think my dream subject would be Ana De Armas. She’s just so beautiful and absolutely shines in everything she does. I’d want to use ALL of my gear with a mix of film stocks and go a bit off-piste with it, mess around, shoot as much as possible and see what comes out well!
Aislinn: What are your thoughts/projections/hopes for film photography in the movie industry. What role does it have or yet to play in the modern/digitized world of entertainment?
Barnaby: I think film will always have a role to play in the modern entertainment world anywhere it’s given the chance to shine! In my (very biased) opinion there’s no better way to shoot behind the scenes for a period show like Bridgerton than on film. I think the subject matter captured on an old school medium has resonated with a lot of people. I truly hope that’s something that will be noticed and that the use of film will be encouraged as a result!
Aislinn: Lastly, do you have any advice for people (like myself) who gravitate towards portrait photography, but could never find their footing because it’s intimidating to shoot strangers?
Barnaby: My first piece of advice would be to shoot your friends until you’re confident in your own abilities, that’s what I did. As far as shooting strangers goes, I’ve never regretted asking someone if I can take their photo, the worst they can say is no. I have however regretted NOT asking and missing a great opportunity many times. You may as well ask, a lot of people would love to have a nice photo taken of themselves!
Appreciation is all I can say about Barnaby sharing his shots with the community. Most of us in the hobby can only dream of crashing into such an opportunity. The pandemic has really triggered a longing for creativity, thrill, and connections with our friends and even strangers. So to see film being lovingly applied in an industry that has kept us company most of last year is like living vicariously through Barnaby’s lens. I would like to thank Barnaby for being so cool as to share his unique experience with us! And of course, our warmest virtual appreciation to the cast and to Netflix.
I cannot end this article without insisting that you all follow Barnaby on Instagram, @barnabyboulton for his professional work, and for his personal account @negativejunkyard.
To Barnaby, May you find yourself fatefully stuck in a room with Ana De Armas, and we’ll be waiting in the wings for Season 2.
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Great story, wonderful shots!