Stepping Through Film began in 2015, when Thomas Duke started going around London, bringing shots from movies to the places they were filmed — and snapping a photo. Two years later, a friend suggested he start sharing them on Instagram. The rest is history.
"I watched films way too much as a kid — it was my whole life," Tom said. "I love trying to find the locations and explore the films that I grew up with. It takes me back when I visit a place. For some films, I suppose it does shatter a bit of the magic. We all know movies are make-believe, and that they’re all made somewhere. But it's just so magical to see."
COVID-19 may have interrupted Tom's far-flung adventures, but a dive into his archive offers all the wanderlust we need. For A.frame, Tom looked back at some of his favorite shots ever staged:
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
I grew up with the films. The first one I saw in the cinema was the fourth, and I was so scared — with the maze and Voldemort returning. I just love everything about Harry Potter, so it's amazing to visit any of the locations.
I love the magical elements of it all. I don't remember another franchise that showcases magic like this one does. It’s such a universal thing that everyone can engage with. I also love how it got darker with each film, and how it really developed the world of the characters, both in the real and magical worlds. It's just a fun escape.
This was quite a nice shot of a young Daniel Radcliffe. It was shot at Gloucester Cathedral. I was on a trip to Puzzlewood, where they shot Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Merlin. It's this really magical little forest, and it's near this cathedral, so I thought I'd stop by.
Shaun of the Dead
The last one I posted was, ironically, Shaun of the Dead, where he goes to the shops, oblivious to the zombies around him. It was a week before the proper lockdown here in London. So I thought, “Oh, it works nicely right now.” That one and 28 Days Later felt very relevant, sadly. [This project] is a way to add some relevance to photography. I always try to think of the most timely things to do based on life and the world.
I have a few more from Atonement. It's definitely one of my favorites, although it's a really melancholy, depressing film. It's one of the films that I saw quite young. I just adored the story and how it looked. It was such a romantic wartime setting, and it had so much character. It's based around a relationship between James McAvoy and Keira Knightley. It's such a harrowing story about love, and it's shot beautifully. This scene is shot in Redcar, Middlesbrough, and it was a Dunkirk sequence. Well, Dunkirk-lite compared to the Nolan film.
When I went there, it was very normal. There was nobody there. When you think about what was shot there, it makes you think about the beauty of filmmaking and everything that goes into creating the atmosphere. All these people were standing here, filming this thing — and now it's immortalized on the screen forever. This scene, specifically, is a one-shot sequence. It's such a lovely showcase of what you can do with the camera. They only tried a few times, and they had to do a one-shot sequence because of the budget. But it just looks amazing.
I was on my first plane trip while doing this, and I thought, “What can I try? What's the best, most ideal film set in the sky?” I chose Up because it’s amazing and I thought the colors would be cool to try. So I cut out a few different versions and, on the plane, held it up to the window and tried to see what it would look like. I had to book the right seat so the wing wasn't in the way. The person next to me looked over and smiled, and said they love the film.
Sometimes, when I look in the reflection on my phone [while taking a picture], I can see everyone turn back. Some people say, “Oh my God, I love that film.” Some people don't have a clue what I'm doing. It's always fun to meet some locals who were there when a movie was filming or who were extras.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
This Hunger Games shot was from outside Paris, actually. When I shared it, everyone was like, “That's a real place?” because in the film, it does seem like a set. I think they're flats or part of a university. It's just this massive piece of architecture, this massive archway, on the way from Paris to Disneyland.
I went to Paris for some locations in January, and The Hunger Games was a main one. That was the last trip abroad that I did. I remember the last day, hearing about the first COVID-19 case. I was lucky I went there.
Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Poppins was a big one for me. I remember watching [the original] really early every morning when I was younger, and annoying my parents. So when I went to visit the new Emily Blunt location in London, it was really cool to see another iteration of that film in modern day.
I suppose nothing can beat the original, but I still love what they did and Emily Blunt really made it what it is. I'm a huge fan of hers, so I was sold already and I thought she was perfect for it. Her performance was almost an homage to the original performance. It was interesting to see a new version of the film, around the time of the remaking of The Jungle Book and The Lion King. It was shot all around London. It has that magical love letter feel to the city.
I went to New York last July and I tried to take as many photos as possible. I only had the trailer for Joker to go off of. I didn't have any other images. And I thought, “I have to do something.” So I kept it until the release in October. There was a bit of Googling and searching, and I came up with this area. It's in the Bronx I think. There's a nearby metro station, so I found it that way.
It was my first time in New York, but it felt it was my 100th time, because I grew up with the city, I guess. I thought it would be quite hard to find my way around, but I got there and just started walking and it all felt so familiar. It was such an amazing experience.
This is in Pinner, which is a short tube ride from me. Taron Egerton was just amazing in the role. It was such an inspiration to see an actor go from Kingsman up to this massive biopic.
This is just a normal road. It was a bright-ish day and it was completely dead. It was interesting to see what it looked like for real. Again, it's another scene that could have easily been on a backlot or on a set of some kind. But it was just outside a few residential houses.
I got some behind-the-scenes shots as well, with the director, with the camera on the scene. It makes you want to be a part of it all. I always fantasize about, “What if I made a film one day, and then went to hold up a scene from my film?” It feels nice to be in a place and share that with everybody. And it all started from a love for film, and that's what keeps me going.