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15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

Mandatory Photo Credit
Jeremy Enlow/Cliburn

Photographing the Van Cliburn

In June, Steel Shutter Photography had the honor of photographing the 2017 Van Cliburn Piano Competition. With complete creative control over the shoot, Jeremy set about photographing the finalists. The result is a collection of images that captures the character of the prestigious event, as well as the architectural development that has taken place in Fort Worth.

To get the images, Jeremy and his team spent two 12-15 hour days capturing portraits of the six finalists. While the shooting timeframe itself was compressed, months of meetings, location scouts, and prep work went into designing the shoot.

A gallery from the Cliburn

Get a glimpse of the stunning photographs (as well as some behind the scenes images) Steel Shutter Photography took for the Cliburn below. This project was truly one of a kind.

Connecting with world class pianists

“One of the medalists didn’t have money for lunch during one of the long days of shooting,” recalls Jeremy.  “He said, ‘It’s funny I just won thousands of dollars, and I only have $3 in cash with me and no credit card,’ We had tamales from Reata brought over and sat up a table and chairs in the studio we had set up inside McDavid Hall.

About that time another medalist showed up early for his photo shoot and joined us at the table.  Wow, here we were having a private meal with two recently announced Cliburn medalists.  No telling what a donor would have paid for that experience.  All the contestants we spent time with were enjoyable, kind, easily directed during the shoot, and incredibly humble; especially for just having earned such impressive honors!”

This shoot was Jeremy’s first time to attend a Cliburn performance. However, he and his family attended Van Cliburn’s memorial service in Sundance Plaza when he passed away.  Jeremy remembers the remarkable memorial, for which a Steinway piano was brought onto the outdoor stage, and previous Cliburn finalists from around the world came and played.

“It was beautiful.  We stood in the back and my young daughter, Clara, began dancing to the music,” says Jeremy.  “My initial reaction was, ‘Oh gosh, we can’t be dancing at a memorial service,’ but we continued to let her dance as I thought, ‘Well, Van wouldn’t mind Clara dancing one bit.’  I never had the opportunity to photograph Mr. Cliburn, but he’s at the top of my list of people I wish I’d had the chance to meet.

Creative decisions

Many of the portraits were taken throughout Sundance Square. When choosing locations, Jeremy considered how much Sundance Square had changed since the last Cliburn competition.

“These images will be seen around the world, and downtown Fort Worth will be the background.  Sundance Square Management and Security went above and beyond not only allowing us access for the shoot, but keeping us safe as we were out and about.” -Jeremy Enlow

When asked about his favorite images from the shoot, Jeremy lingered on the portraits presented to each finalist. He says, “We were honored to provide still photography portraits for these six amazing finalists.  I hope the stills will help further their careers.  I wish each and every one of them the very best and look forward to attending some of their contests over the next few years.”


You can see more images from the Cliburn on the Steel Shutter gallery page here. Whether you’re working with an agency for your next photoshoot, or you require creative services, Steel Shutter Photography will work with you to design the perfect shoot. Contact us below to begin your inquiry.

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