Have you ever wanted to learn more about what goes into creating the advance artwork for each of our productions? In our newest Bard Blog post, hear about how we take the visual design of our 2024 Season from concept to realization!



For over 10 years, Bard Associate Artistic Director Dean Paul Gibson has served as the Creative Director for our advance artwork, so he has a wealth of experience to draw from when it comes to approaching the visual design for this Season.

“I have the advantage because I’m on the team when we’re choosing shows, so even in those preliminary discussions, I can start hatching ideas,” says Dean. “Then in the initial chat [with the directors], I want to know, ‘What’s your context for the show?’ We participate in those discussions because the theory is that we know what our audience is interested in, but then our curiosity about working with different directors is that they’re going to bring something unique and put another dish on the table that is the big buffet of Bard.”

After getting a sense of the initial ideas for each production, Dean can bring those concepts to Bard’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Emma Lancaster. “For each show, Dean and I have a long conversation about where it was going,” Emma explains. “Then we had a conversation in the room with wardrobe, hair, Emily [Cooper], Dean, me, and [Bard’s Company Manager,] Susan Miyagishima. Everyone on the team understands that the role of these pieces is to tell a story and reflect the experience you’ll have in the theatre.”

For photographer Emily Cooper, who has been doing Bard’s advance photography and image design for six years, these initial brainstorming sessions are an opportunity to really start to step into the world of these stories. “Once I know the concept, then I’ll start image research to find what visuals are inspiring to me from the world of the show,” she tells us. “For example, Twelfth Night is set in an imaginative, amazing carnival, so I start gathering up unique images that inspire me to think, okay, what about this colour palette, or what about this lighting, or what about this idea? When reading the script, you can really hear the hustle and bustle of a carnival… It clicked so beautifully, and the rollercoaster was such a natural progression of that because [the show] is such a wild ride.”

The days leading up to the photoshoots are also when some of the most unexpected conversations take place. “We tried to actually find someone to rent us a real rollercoaster car,” Emma remembers. “That was not happening in any way. They weigh an awful lot!”



On the morning of the photoshoots, there is a sense of efficiency when it comes to the day’s proceedings. After all, both Dean and Emily have done this for years. At the same time, there’s an undeniable excitement at what might be discovered in the hours ahead.

“After all the concepts are done, then the photoshoot—when it all comes to life—is really magical. We’re also making sure that when we’re capturing the images, we’re also thinking about all its usages. How can we make the most of all the visual assets that we’re creating?” Emily explains. Still, there is room to make new discoveries about the world of these plays. “You can prepare all you want, and you can have all of your shot lists that you want to get through, but sometimes, an actor will come with a fabulous energy and a fabulous idea and that will unlock something that you didn’t even know was possible.”

When you’re in a room with actors making such wonderful offers, it’s also inevitable that some fun will be had. For Dean, that’s almost as important as ensuring they get the right shot. “The prevailing value that I put on my particular work at Bard is that I want it to be rigorous… but foremost, I want it to be joyful,” he says. “That’s the thing. In these photoshoots, with this team, and good actors, you laugh a lot.”

“My favourite memory is trying to get a photo of Tal Shulman upside down by having him lie on a table and having [videographer] Ryan McDonald hold his legs, so that he had realistic, hanging-down hair,” Emma remembers. “That was a bit like, ‘uh, should we be doing this?’ But he was game, and Ryan promised he wouldn’t drop him.”

For Emily, one of her favourite moments was during the photoshoot for Hamlet. “I love the moment that we had a tear from Nadeem, which is what we used for the poster,” she says. “I think it’s such a beautiful photo because you see the strength, but you also see the vulnerability all at once. I was very inspired, as a photographer, watching him channel that character, because it really is like a sneak peek of the show… It’s a privilege to be able to be in those moments together.”

And in those moments, when you realize you got the shot?

“Everyone collectively gathers around the monitor, and you can see everyone get excited at the same time,” says Dean. “It’s a breathtaking thing.”

Dean Paul Gibson, Emily Cooper, and Karthik Kadam at the Measure for Measure advance photography photoshoot.


Dean Paul Gibson with Emily Cooper and Tal Shulman reviewing photos from The Comedy of Errors photoshoot.

Make-up Artist Christopher Wu with Synthia Yusuf and Tal Shulman preparing for The Comedy of Errors photoshoot.

Nadeem Phillip Umar Khitab on set at the photoshoot for Hamlet.



After the photoshoots, Emily, Dean, and Emma work together to select the best images to tell the stories of these productions. “The first look at the unedited photos is always kind of thrilling,” Emma tells us. “And it happened for all four shows, where we thought, ‘wow, we have so many choices.’”

Once they’ve chosen a photo, then Emily can begin the work of compositing the final artwork—and it’s here where her artistry truly shines.

“Both of my parents are in the arts… so the arts are sort of all I knew growing up, and I developed a natural passion for it. I would watch what my parents would do, and I would want to try it for myself,” Emily explains. “I started when I was really young, sitting beside my dad in a dark theatre and snapping photos, then going back to the darkroom to develop that roll.”

As her passion for photography grew, she discovered photographers like Jerry Uelsmann, who created surreal photomontages using analog photos and a darkroom. Drawing inspiration from Uelsmann’s work, Emily began to use Photoshop to create pieces of art that were digitally composited, but using real vintage images that she had sourced from local markets. When asked about her unique style, Emily responds, “It really comes from the desire to not be limited to one photograph in-camera. There’s a new realm that unlocks when you can take what’s in your imagination and go above and beyond one photograph to collage something unique together. Then you’re starting to get into storytelling, and that’s what I think works so well with Bard and what we’re trying to achieve.”

“When someone sees these images,” says Dean, “we want to ignite their imagination. We want to invite them to participate in the magic that is bespoke to Bard.”

Orsino and Viola in a rollercoaster car with excited faces

Aidan Correia as Orsino and Camille Legg as Viola in Twelfth Night (2024). Photo and image design by Emily Cooper.

Hamlet stands in the middle of the image, the only light in the room comes from a window.

Nadeem Phillip Umar Khitab as Hamlet in Hamlet (2024). Photo and image design by Emily Cooper.

Synthia Yusuf as Luciana and Tal Shulman as Dromio in The Comedy of Errors (2024). Photo and image design by Emily Cooper.

Karthik Kadam as Lucio in Measure for Measure (2024). Photo and image design by Emily Cooper.

We’re so excited to be sharing these first looks at our 2024 Season with you—and we hope you’ll join us under the tents this summer for what’s shaping up to be a truly special Festival.