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20 by 2020: Going behind the lens with Casey Gardner

"Little Shop of Horrors" at Actor's ExpressGarrett Turner in "The Royale" at Theatrical OutfitAnthony Rodriguez as Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" at Aurora TheatreLawrence Flowers as Little Moe in "Five Guys Named Moe" at Theatrical OutfitKylie Brown, Jordan Dell Harris and Craig Waldrip in "Falsettos" at Actor's Express

How do you capture the moment when a plate falls to the floor? Or when a leg flies into the air? As an extension of our 20 by 2020 series (in which we interview 20 Atlanta theater artists before 2020), we’re going behind the lens with Atlanta’s hardworking theater photographers. In this installment, we chat with photographer Casey Gardner.

Casey Gardner

ARTS ATL: Where are you from? 

Gardner: I am a born-and-raised Atlantan. I grew up in Stockbridge, but I love Atlanta, and I’m so, so proud to be a part of the community.

ARTS ATL: How did you get into taking photos for theater? Did you do theater growing up?

Gardner: The very first show I took photos of was Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl at SCAD. My degree is in performing arts, and as I was going through my degree program, I saw a need for good photographs of the shows we were putting on, so I filled it. I didn’t actually do a ton of theater as a kid. I was a singer, so I did recitals and concerts and such. I only did three shows before I went to college to try to do it full time, but I’m loving what I do much more than I had any idea I would.

ARTS ATL: What’s the key to taking a good production photo?

Gardner: My advice for anyone who is allowed to take pictures in a theater is don’t fight your environment. Luckily theater is meant to be seen, so if you can just embrace the whole of what you see onstage, the production will provide all the components necessary for magical photos. What anyone should learn by trial and error is how your equipment responds and captures what you want.

ARTS ATL: With the advent of social media, particularly Instagram, how do you maintain copyright protection over your work?

Gardner: Luckily I work in one of the best theater markets full of the kindest people, and most will tag me or give me photo credit with gushy gratitude, which is all I ask. If I see a post without my credit, it might just mean I don’t know that person or we haven’t connected on social media yet, so I’ll post a little comment from my pro pages. The theaters I work for are wonderful as well in that if they are sharing my photos with an outside publication, they ensure my name gets passed on for photo credit. It has been working so far.

ARTS ATL: What’s the show you’ve shot the most?

Gardner: Atlanta doesn’t do as many repeats of shows, so I haven’t photographed any show more than once. I just photographed A Christmas Carol at the Aurora Theatre with Anthony Rodriguez for the second time, though, so I guess that is it.

ARTS ATL: Do you have a favorite show you’ve shot?

Gardner: It would be a tie between Little Shop of Horrors at Actor’s Express and The Royale at Theatrical Outfit.

ARTS ATL: Is there a show that you want to photograph that you haven’t done yet?

Gardner: My favorite show of all time is Les Miserables. I’ve always wanted to be in it and have seen it many times. I haven’t had the opportunity to do either yet!

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