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TV stars taking selfies in the auditorium or backstage during final preparations: Leica photographer Sarah M. Lee documented the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards. Up until October 20, the studio at the Leica Store Mayfair is showing an exhibition of Lee’s red carpet photographs. On Wednesday October 14, the photographer together with Janette Dalley, BAFTA director of photography, will offer a guided tour through the exhibition. You can find further information about the event at: www.membership.theguardian.com.

What does this exhibition at the Leica London studio mean to you?

Well, firstly it’s a great honour. I’m incredibly flattered and pleased that Leica UK have showcased the work I did for BAFTA in this way. I can’t quite believe my good luck to be honest! Also, it’s great for me personally to see these images printed so beautifully and framed.

Why is the Leica the perfect camera for you in this situation?

Since buying an ME a few years ago, the Leica rangefinder has been an excellent fit for me and I’ve found it's the way I prefer to work. It’s discrete. The M is subtle and, equally importantly, very quiet. That helps. On a job like this where there are lots of very creative people, and a number of them were interested to know what sort of camera I had, and why I was using it rather than an SLR. Steve Carrell, Ethan Hawke and a couple of other big names noticed the Leica and wanted to chat about it, this is always great for me because it instantly breaks down barriers!

Why did you choose to photograph in black and white?

Events like the one we’re talking about tend to be very busy visually: there’s a lot going on in terms of branding, people milling about, different lights, colours, etc. I usually prefer to work in colour but for this I felt that black and white cuts away a huge amount of that visual distraction and allows the photographs to be very much about the characters and the faces rather than the not terribly photogenic mise en scene. Also there is something very classically “old Hollywood” about black and white.

Do you have any advices for taking portraits?

I would say that trying to form a rapport or mutual understanding with your subject even if it’s only for the brief few moments you are taking the picture is of supreme importance. And also do try and get the “right” eye in focus if you are using a very shallow depth of field! The “right” eye tends to be the one closest to you the photographer. I failed in this with my portrait of Julianne Moore for this exhibition. I only had half a second to grab the shot and I fluffed the focus on the Noctilux Leica UK had loaned me. It’s a strong frame though, so I’ve included it here; but I can’t help but kick myself every time I see the “wrong” eye is the sharp one!
Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette take a joint selfie in the auditorium before the show starts © Sarah M. Lee
© Sarah M. Lee
© Sarah M. Lee
© Sarah M. Lee
© Sarah M. Lee
© Sarah M. Lee
© Sarah M. Lee
© Sarah M. Lee
© Sarah M. Lee

Sarah M. Lee

After studying English literature, Lee decided to turn her photography hobby into a profession. She was given free-lance assignments as a photo reporter for The Guardian, and later also worked as a photographer for The Observer. Lee lives and works in London.

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