World on Fire

Sarah Ascough

January 7, 2020

The British photographer, Sarah Ascough, speaks about photographing on the set of the war drama series, World on Fire.
Sarah Ascough was lucky enough to be able to take pictures on the set of the war drama series World on Fire that was being filmed in her home area: the resulting images are amazingly realistic. In an interview, she explains how she came to get this assignment, why the British coastline is so ideal for the setting of the series, and which were the greatest challenges on set. 

LFI: You are based in Lytham St Annes, UK, where parts of „World on Fire“ were filmed. How did you get the job?
Sarah Ascough: A friend of mine was involved in the planning for the St Annes part of the production. She suggested that I go down to the beach to take a look at what was happening. I met one of the directors on set and he was happy for me to take photographs during filming.

Why was St Annes Beach such a good choice for the series? How would you describe the place from a photographic point of view?
The St Annes beach area is very similar to Dunkirk in terms of geography, weather, and tide patterns. There's lots of accommodation for the cast and crew, and the council always have a positive 'can-do' attitude towards things that will promote the area.
Photographically, the first thing that you notice is the light. St Annes faces south-west and enjoys both sunrises and sunsets. During the winter, the area offers the photographer everything, from extraordinary crystal clear skies and low sunlight, to heavy, storm-laden clouds with shafts of hard light.
There are some amazing sections of beach here, but the part used for filming wasn't particularly interesting photographically. It is very flat and wide and only changes with the tide.

What was the biggest challenge while you were photographing on set?
It was bitterly cold on set, and the light changed constantly. There was a huge number of people involved in the production and a lot of pressure on the crew. My biggest challenge was finding the pictures that I wanted without getting in the way of the cast and crew. Each scene was filmed with multiple cameras and included pyrotechnics, smoke, and lots of extras. I decided to work around the edges of the filming and to concentrate on the people rather than the scenes. To stay as unobtrusive as possible, I took one camera body, a 28mm lens, and a pocket full of batteries. No camera bag.

Your photos look very atmospheric; some even too real! What do you want to depict with your imagery?
For me, photography is a means of self-expression. I always want to show the world how I see it. I can't imagine trying to photograph something through someone else's eyes.
I believe that every photographer views the world differently. Physical and mental attributes along with life experiences make us all unique in that respect. For example, I have a rare genetic condition called ocular albinism, which affects the light-sensitive tissue at the back of my eye. My eyesight is perfect, except in bright, backlit situations when I can only see silhouettes and shapes. So my photographs show those silhouettes and shapes. People may look at my pictures and think they are atmospheric, but they are a true representation of how a scene looked to me.
I also like to photograph subjects which I find amusing because I think life can be comical. It may be a little thing that I've noticed; a line of actors authentically dressed as soldiers on a film set and, in the middle, one of them is wearing a bobble hat. Things like that appeal to my sense of humour.

Interview: Danilo Rößger
Picture Editor: Carol Körting

All images on this page © Sarah Ascough
Equipment: Leica M9 with Summicron-M 28 f/2 Asph

Sarah Ascough+-

sarah_ascough_002 © Jeff Ascough
© Jeff Ascough

Based in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, the internationally published documentary photographer invites viewers to look beyond the obvious and explore the deeper narratives within a scene. Her work has been featured in publications such as Elle, InStyle, Harper’s Bazaar and The Mirror. Ascough’s first photo book, Showfield, has been accepted into the prestigious Martin Parr Foundation Library. More


World on Fire

Sarah Ascough