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Capturing The Moment

With Gifts of Time and Talent, Simon Capell Offers Unique Lens on Philanthropy

By David Klein | Back to Table of Contents


More than a decade ago, Simon Capell and his wife, Judith, a pharmaceutical executive, left their native England for Raleigh after she took a two-year assignment here. Deciding to extend their stay, they eventually applied for green cards and became citizens in 2018.

Since enrolling daughters Savannah ’21 and Emily ’25 at Ravenscroft, Capell has volunteered his time and talent across the spectrum of the school’s parent opportunities, including as a member of DADS (Dads and Daughters & Sons) and, during the development of the curriculum, on the Lead From Here Parent Council. He has also served in critical leadership positions in Global Parent Ambassadors and the Fine Arts Association. His most visible contribution — as anyone who has enjoyed Ravenscroft’s coverage of fine arts performances can attest — is his striking photography, which he has generously shared with many campus groups and Ravenscroft Magazine. 

An accomplished professional photographer, Capell traces his passion for the art to his childhood. “I grew up with a father who developed black-and-whites on beautifully textured paper and even hand-colored some. Turning the pages of those albums were some of the most awe-inspiring times of my childhood,” he said.

Capell said he connected so naturally with Ravenscroft’s fine arts programs because of his daughters’ involvement in concerts and stage productions. He especially enjoys the challenge of photographing these dynamic spectacles.

“Because it’s real time, if you don’t capture it, it’s gone, like a sporting event,” he said. “You get that one chance to take the picture, trying to be as fast as you can while still trying to be as creative as you can.” 

Capell’s stunning images reflect the range and richness of Ravenscroft’s fine arts programs. We asked him to select five of his favorites and tell us about them.

From Lower School Ensembles Concert, Fall 2016 (Malachi Ogwangi ’24)

Sometimes in the moments before the concert starts, while people are getting settled, you can just catch somebody’s eye. They’ve been working up to this moment, and that to me is as much a part of the performance as the performance itself. It’s the moment when young artists are making their debut on the stage. Part of what fine arts does is it coaches the human being to be able to launch oneself as a person in front of others. Even if Malichi never plays the cello again, he will have more confidence standing up in a meeting or giving a presentation because of that moment.

From “Beauty and the Beast” dress rehearsal, Spring 2019 (Sammy Rivas ’19 and Shaurik Deshpande ’20)

It was an incredibly brightly colored show, but there was so much texture that to get it you had to drop the color. Why in the world — with all the beautiful color, characters in those gorgeous costumes —  would you choose a black-and-white photo? Anything can be a distraction. And sometimes even color can be a distraction.

From the All-Bands Concert, April 2019 (Taylor Hubbard ’19)

This was the performance just before Taylor graduated. It was a solo for him and really one of the most moving things I’ve ever heard the band play. This one to me showed the passion with which he was playing it and how much he cared that it was played right. 

From “Chicago” promotional campaign, Fall 2019 (Sarah Davenport ’21, Shaurik Deshpande ’20 and Elle Schantz ’20)

The Fine Arts Association wanted to create these publicity posters using our own students instead of generic ones cribbed from Hollywood posters. So all of these needed to be done long before the show was ready. As soon as we had costumes in and people had developed their character enough so they could live it, we went in before a rehearsal and set up some real hard light at ridiculous angles. 

From “Emilie: La Marquise Du Chȃtelet Defends Her Life Tonight” dress rehearsal, Winter 2020 (Jackson Fisk ’20 and Jessica Keim ’22)

This performance was set in the young peoples’ theatre, where the characters were often spaced far apart, and yet the engagement between them was all dialogue and tense interactions. I talked to theater director Jason Sharp and figured the best way to shoot this scene was to literally get in between the actors while it was all going on. I’d gotten other pictures of Jessica with that look on her face, but when you can see her over Jackson’s shoulder, you know exactly why she has the look. I remember I was like 10 inches behind Jackson and was praying that he wouldn’t back up!

Above, Simon Capell

A Tradition of Giving

Ravenscroft has been fortunate over the years to have top-notch photographers willing to share their talent to help capture and preserve those special moments that take place on our campus. Here, two of them share their favorite photos.

Billy Howard ’73: “An honor to tell the story of Ravenscroft”

During his senior year at Ravenscroft, Billy Howard ’73 took a month-long course that sparked a fascination with photography. Eventually, he turned his passion into a career.

In 2012, his journey came full circle when Howard and his wife, Laurie Shock, co-authored a book, “Young Travelers on the Path to Knowledge,” to mark his alma mater’s 150th anniversary. Many of Howard’s sun-drenched, evocative photos taken for the book are still used in the school’s communications materials today.

“It was an honor to have been able to work on the book and tell the story of Ravenscroft,” Howard said. “I was not exactly the best student and only attended for 11th and 12th grades, which were added the years I attended. Co-writing the book — I wrote the history from the ’60s to the present as well as the opening essay,  ‘A True Vision,’ and Laurie wrote the early history — allowed me to reevaluate what it meant to have the opportunity to be a Raven and helped me appreciate the school on a deeper and more profound level.”

About the photo: “Our last shoot for the book was graduation, and Laurie and I loved the tradition of seniors taking a yellow rose and finding their mothers. I think the photo of the mother hugging her daughter [Perri Anderson with Tyler 11] and holding the rose sums up what she must have felt witnessing her daughter prepare to enter a new phase of life.”

Parent Chris Watters: Ravenscroft photography “proved to be quite fun”

Like Howard, Chris Watters acquired photography skills during high school, working for the yearbook and covering sporting events, but his camera lay dormant as he pursued his surgical career. It wasn’t until the birth of his son, Andrew ’11, that he was moved to take pictures again. When Andrew joined Ravenscroft’s JV football team, Watters volunteered his services to Coach Ned Gonet, whom he knew through Andrew’s Pop Warner games alongside Gonet’s son Connor ’11.

“This proved to be quite fun,” he remembered, “and soon parents of athletes on other teams were asking why they weren’t being photographed as well. It slowly snowballed such that I was covering all sports and putting together slideshows for the varsity banquets. In the meantime, I was also granted backstage access for the Fine Art events and it just kept growing from there. I started sending out weekly emails with links to photos of the events.”

About the photo: “This is one of my favorite images. It was shot in March 2007 and features Eliza Ragsdale ’07, a very talented hurdler. I had stopped by campus on my way home and shot a little JV tennis practice. On my way back to the car I saw her practicing. Usually, in athletics, you try to get lucky catching peak action. This shot was planned and set up. I loved the side lighting and wanted to feature the Ravenscroft name. I like the composition. The image projects determination, athleticism and confidence.”