Discover more from Process by Wesley Verhoeve
Process 103 ☼ Behind the Scenes with Seth Meyers, Brendan Hunt, and more.
Documenting culture long-term
In today's letter, I want to share with you an all-consuming and fun experience over the past ten days. I documented the behind-the-scenes moments of the Boom Chicago Comedy Festival, featuring some of their most renowned alumni such as Seth Meyers, Brendan Hunt, Amber Ruffin, and many more.
Documenting A Cultural Event
As the Boom Chicago Comedy Festival in Amsterdam enters its final day today, I find myself reflecting on my journey documenting the behind-the-scenes magic of this wonderful and historic event organized by powerhouse artistic director Stacey Smith.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, Boom Chicago has nurtured some of the most impressive talents in the world of comedy. From Seth Meyers, who later became a cast member and the head writer of Saturday Night Live, to Jordan Peele, one half of the iconic sketch duo Key & Peele, and Amber Ruffin, a writer on Seth Meyers' show with her own talk show on Peacock. Let's not forget Brendan Hunt, Jason Sudeikis, and Joe Kelly, who co-created the hit TV show Ted Lasso based on a character developed during their time at Boom Chicago. An earlier photo of mine featuring Brendan and Jason on stage at Boom was published in the New York Times.
On the first day of the festival I photographed Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema on and back stage with the Boom cast. She was disarmingly funny and down to earth. During the second day, I came along for a walk-and-talk tv interview segment with Seth Meyers and journalist Renze Klamer (see above).
As we strolled through the picturesque canals of Amsterdam, I stealthily snapped some shots, including the one above through the leafs of a tree that fell during the storm the night before.
Once we got to the canals I witnessed the impressive way in which the cameraman effortlessly walked backwards for at least twenty minutes as Renze interviewed Seth, even across bridges and up inclines. The soundman held onto his belt and guided him so he wouldn’t trip or fall. Such dedication and team work!
Later that day, we headed to the stunning historical Tuschinsky Theater, where both Seth Meyers and Brendan Hunt were set to perform. I documented their soundcheck with the tech crew, Sacha Hoedemaker, Emil Struijker Boudier, and Jeiel.
Once Seth finished his soundcheck, we took two precious minutes to capture some posed portraits. Next up, was Brendan Hunt who was soundchecking on the same stage for his show later that night. I snapped a few posed portraits with him as well, with the theatre acting as the easiest backdrop of all time to make look good.
That night, I watched both Seth Meyers and Brendan Hunt deliver incredible shows, capturing their brilliance through my lens. Brendan would perform an entirely different second show later in the week that left half the room teary-eyed and blown away as he shared personal stories of hardship and happiness all packaged together in a compelling one-man show. The image below on the right is from that soundcheck.
Throughout the rest of the festival, I documented sixteen different shows, capturing the soundchecks, warm-ups, and performances that make the Boom Chicago Festival so special. It was an exhausting journey, but undeniably rewarding.
At this point, I’ve been documenting the Amsterdam improv comedy community for about 18 months. It has given me a unique perspective on the power of creativity and laughter. Improv comedy is a form of creative expression that can be uniquely healing and help us be fully in the moment and outside of our mind. It can provide a great temporary break from any daily stresses we may be dealing with.
As I continue building this body of work I always keep my mind the long-term perspective and historical value of photography. One of the most beautiful aspects of documenting creative communities is the ability to look back on this body of work in ten or twenty years' time. These images will not only be a document of this era but also serve as a form of encouragement for current students and cast members. They can see that there is no difference between where they are now and where the famous alumni once stood. It's a testament to the potential for greatness within us all.
Today, Sunday, marks the last day of the festival. And as fate would have it, I will find myself not only documenting, but performing as part of the Boom Chicago House Team. After successfully auditioning in January, I've been honored to be a part of this incredible team throughout the current season. Tonight's performance carries both excitement and a touch of nostalgia. It’s carried me through a lot during the past six months and I hope to make it on the team again next season, continuing this wonderful journey in the world of improv comedy.
Tomorrow the festival will be over and in addition to hundreds of pictures I will be left with gratitude for the experiences and friendships I've made. Through laughter and camaraderie, I've found solace and inspiration.
Is there a recurring cultural event in your city or town? It can be anything, from a small farmer’s market, to an annual dungeons and dragons tournament, or a music festival. Get your camera out and get in the mix documenting for posterity. You may end up building a body of work that gains value over time, you may make new friends, you may end up seeing your work published in local media outlets. Get involved!
That’s it for this week!
Next Week: What has been inspiring me lately, plus I'd like to share a bit about the two previous generations of Verhoeve artists that have influenced me. Also, I will soon start accepting applications for an intern roll, more on that next week
Keep shooting and take good care of yourselves and others. <3
PS Shout out to my friends at Carmencita Film Lab. They’re my favorite lab in the world and I’m grateful for our collaboration. Use code “PROCESS” at check out to get a free upgrade.
Both images that were published in the New York Times were shot on the Canon 5D Mark IV using the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM lens. These are links to my friends over at MPB.com, which has become my go-to place to buy, sell, and trade used cameras and lenses. MPB caters to over 625,000 visual storytellers and provides a 6-month warranty. Thanks for supporting the Process community, MPB! <3
To show your support for my work here at Process, the best way is to order my photo book NOTICE, which is now in its second printing. Additionally, there are a few remaining copies of the first print special editions that you can grab right away.
Another good way to support is to spread the word by sharing Process with friends.
The Process Referral Program lets you earn exclusive items like a personal NOTICE postcard in the mail, a new Process eBook full of photo assignments, and a mini portfolio review. I appreciate your support! <3