Once again, me and my camera went on one of our London ramblings… oh dear, I’m already running out of post titles for these walks…
There are also one or two thrown in from last week that have since grown on me.
So once again I thought I’d set out to explore London, just me, my camera, pen and paper. I made the most of the late night museum openings, spending hours sat in near-deserted galleries, for once able to really look at the art on display without having to peer through crowds of tourists.
Lately I’ve fallen in love with street photography and I’m having a lot of fun with experimenting with it and with finding my own style. It’s completely out of my ‘comfort zone’, not just for that reasons that I spoke about here, but also because for the past seven or eight years, I have focused primarily on fashion photography, an area in which I don’t have to worry about capturing an candid, spontaneous instant before it’s gone, but instead the model and I can spend as long as necessary perfecting their pose, their expression, explaining the story behind each image to bring character to each shot. With street photography, I get frustrated every time I miss a great shot, and I still tend to duck my head and rush off if ever someone catches me taking their photograph, but I’m missing less shots with each ‘camera walk’ and so far no one has done more than look at me curiously if they see my camera to my eye. I’m a lot more alert, constantly poised with my camera against my chin, my senses seem to have sharpened quickly to what is going on around me, and in the busy, bustling streets of central London, I never quite know where to look, aware that for each great shot that I do see, there could well be – and probably is – another one just over my shoulder. Does anyone remember that kids TV show that was on in the late 90s, about a pocket watch that could stop time? I think it was called Bernard’s Watch. If I had that pocket watch, I’d use to it to make sure that I never miss a shot again. But I guess that would be all too easy… not to mention, exhausting.
No matter how busy my schedule, I always find the time to take a long walk around London, see an exhibition or two, perhaps visit the theatre, anything that can get me out and about, drinking in as much culture and inspiration as possible, and of course, my camera has to come along with me (but for theatre trips). I’m always trying to make sure that I avoid a creative rut, and before moving to London, I did feel like my whole life was in a rut, a routine, even if, by travelling, it wasn’t a typical one. One of the promises that I made myself when I made my move here, was to get back into the habit of regularly stepping out of my comfort zone.
For me, street photography is definitely out of my comfort zone. Oh, I can’t and have been known to snap away as I make my way around an unfamiliar place – abroad. It’s a much easier thing to do when there are language barriers, and I’m so clearly not a local. But here, in London, where people can potentially confront me over what I’m doing, knowing that I’d probably not be a good enough actress to pull of pretending to be a tourist.. its a scary thought to an introvert like myself. However, I was determined, and as you can see… I didn’t come away empty handed.
Kudos have to go to my old college professor (hi Steve), who had a habit of shooting candid street photography discreetly from waist/chest height.
At the time, I thought he was crazy he is, of course, completely crazy, but I found it to be such a great way for me to break through that shell of shyness, the paranoid part of me that was too busy fretting about whether people would notice if I take a shot of them, whether they’d confront me, but equally, being too shy to approach people and ask for their photograph (after all, yesterday it took me five minutes to pluck up the courage to ask to the wonderfully dressed woman on Brick Lane, hurried only by noticing that she was about to leave, only to be told, frankly, to bugger off).
So that’s how I began, with a few tentative clicks of the shutter from waist-height, timed to match a noisy rush of traffic. No one noticed. I came to a quiet street, with no noise to cover Canon’s irritably loud shutter. Second photo, and again, no one batted an eye lid. And that was it, boom, fear obliterated. I spent the rest of the afternoon brazenly hopping about, camera pressed to my eye, photographing anyone and anything that caught my eye. It now seems like such a stupid thing to have begun my afternoon worrying about, as after all, I have been carrying around a camera for as long as I can remember, and if ever I leave the country, I have no qualms about photographing whatever takes my fancy, so why does that suddenly change in London?
Well, not anymore.
Everything I love about London is here for all to see; the madness, the vast, eccentric mix of culture, the mass of public art and entertainment for us all to enjoy, the laughter and how easy it is for everyone to enjoy the city together, but equally the unspoken rules of London: no eye contact, do not speak with strangers, especially on the tube. Big no, no, which as a person who enjoys a good book when travelling by tube, is more than happy with this arrangement. There’s this energy about London and I feel like I’m absorbing it whenever I leave my home; I return each evening smiling, inspired, motivated to knuckle down and work, network, create. Not that I specifically need London for any of that, but to be in a city that amplifies my creative energies tenfold, is such a wonderful, incredible feeling.
I walked about a dozen miles… from Islington to St Paul’s Cathedral, walking south to Tate Modern (I then stepped inside for a browse, as it’s been far too long since my last visit!), along Southbank, past Big Ben, through Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus, followed by what must have been 1000 miles walking around the mega Waterstones alone (I can never resist), back along Fleet Street, and back towards Angel, back home.
Yes, I guess you could say that my feet now hurt, as do my legs and shoulders. Of course, I could have been sensible, I could have taken the tube, or the bus, but then I would never have found half of these photographs if I had done that. The aches and pains are worth it… and tomorrow morning when it’s even worse, I’ll read this back and look back through these photographs and remind myself of that fact. No, that won’t be necessary. I’ll still be buzzing from my day.
While I had for a few months been contemplating the possibility that perhaps the constant nomadic wandering was not quite as healthy as I’d originally believed, something I spoke about briefly here, the actual decision to move to London was a spontaneous one; a few hours of packing a single suitcase, and off I went!
In fact, even once I was here, it took a further two days before I finally, 100% decided that yes, this was not just a whim, and I was not to continue along the railway tracks as far as Paris or beyond. I wanted to stay in London. It was obvious to me from the instant I stepped off the train, but it took a few days before I accepted that I’m not quite the nomad that I thought. London is my home, it’s where I feel I have to be right now, and while the passport is still going to be used regularly, to silence that niggling feeling of wanderlust that has a tendency to well up inside me, for a few months, at least, I’ll leave it to one side to gather dust, and savor every inch of London.
It’s as if I have been looking for somewhere where I fit in, and I’ve been searching all over Europe. (Update* I’ve spoken about my feelings on the matter here.) I felt inspired, but lost, happy, but as if it was just a quick remedy. Here in London, everything has clicked into place, and I feel as if it’s been calling me across the continent. So many friends have spent the past years while I was travelling Europe telling me that I would end up in London. Some even predicted that I would move here ‘in the summer of 2014’… perhaps they subconsciously planted the decision in my mind one year ago when they first made their predictions last year, during my university exhibition, but either way, it’s nice to know just how well they all know me.
I’m a North London girl through-and-through, and I have been making the most of my first week here with long walks across Hampstead Heath, people watching in cafes and networking with as many fresh-faced models, stylists with amazing wardrobes and talented hair/makeup stylists as I can track down. I have so many shoots planned for the upcoming weeks, and I am so excited to get a chance to share those with you, as well as tales of my London adventures.