Working while others play

Three people working in an office above an Ann Summers shop in Soho

Looking through shots I took at the end of October and in November, I had a look at this and decided I liked it (it sometimes takes me a while after I took the shot). I like the idea of three people working late in an office while others play – or at least shop – in the evening.

I took this before the Christmas period began in earnest – which is why there aren’t any festive decorations in the shot.

Engrossed in the paper

Young woman sitting on a step outside a theatre reading a newspaper

Theatres have continued to be a good hunting ground for street photography for me. I found this young woman reading a newspaper outside the Apollo Shaftesbury Avenue when the weather was a little warmer than it is now.

I took quite a few shots of her from various angles. She didn’t notice me: she was so engrossed in her newspaper. I loved the expressions on her face and the fact that she was oblivious to the world around her.

These are the best two that I took.

Young woman reading a newspaper, sitting on a step outside a theatre

Dramatic lighting from below

Woman's face lit by mobile phone

The joy of mobile phones is that at night they provide the perfect light for people’s faces. It can be hard, thought, to get close enough to get a good shot.

But on the South Bank on Wednesday evening, this woman was so engrossed in what she was doing that she didn’t notice me. I got one good shot and walked away very happy with my last shot of the evening. I’d previously put my camera away because it was raining and I was on my way home. But I got it out again for a couple of shots from Hungerford Bridge and then I spotted this woman – my last shot of the evening.

People watching, Miss Saigon style

Black and white photo of a man outside Prince Edward Theatre, London

I haven’t posted for almost two months. Life, work, exhibiting and selling prints has got in the way of blogging and of me getting out with my camera and photographing the streets of London. And that will never do! So I’ll be back on the streets – in a good way – this coming week and every week after that.

But to start off, here are some photos I took outside the Prince Edward Theatre on Old Compton Street, Soho, where Miss Saigon is currently on.

I like the lighting outside theatres. The downlighting isn’t always flattering to people but it does make for interesting images with lots of contrast – perfect for black and white photography.

And the places where crowds gather are prime people-watching territory – whether it’s someone grabbing a quick bite before going into the theatre…

Man eating a sandwich outside the Prince Edward Theatre, Soho, London

 

… or a couple standing around waiting

A couple waiting outside the Prince Edward Theatre, Soho, London, the man reading, the woman looking away

 

I might be hanging around a few more theatres in the next few weeks.

Launching “London Through a Window”

Woman on a reception desk looks out through a glass door at the photographer

I’m launching my “London Through a Window” series of limited edition prints at the Rotterdam International Art Fair on 12 and 13 September.

The series started life on this blog. Pointing my camera through windows when it was dark outside was a way of doing street photography at night. I capture people at the moment when they first become aware of my camera or at an honest moment when they are completely unaware of the camera. Lugging a huge tripod around to take shots at slow shutter speeds would make that impossible. So windows with light spilling out of them became my focus.

Since then the project has developed into a way of looking at life on the street and the dissociation between street light and life on the inside. As people commented on this blog, the presence of a window on the shot emphasised the photographer as an outsider, observing the world. Street photographers are detached from their subjects. We don’t know them, yet we take photos of them.

For me, street photography is pure observation: it doesn’t judge, it doesn’t start with a premise or a point to make, it simply observes. Of course, what a street photographer then edits out of the many shots they take, will reflect the concerns and interest of the photographer but that is the same for photographers in all genres.

A project, such as “London Through a Window” concentrates the mind. I’m looking in a certain direction. It helps me to find a little order in the chaos of a busy city like London.

You can also find the prints on my website.
A chef in a window in Soho

Looking through the door of Ed's Diner on Old Compton Street, Soho, London

Man reading a newspaper looks up at photographer

A woman spotlighted through a cafe window

Diners including a little old lady through a cafe window

Man sitting in cafe is obscured by a screen which has a reflection of another man outside the cafe on it

Woman seen through the window of a ladies toilet in Camden Lock Market

The definition of longing

Girl with her hand to her head looks longingly into the window of cake shop in China Town where a woman is making cakes

 

This window in China Town attracted quite a crowd the other evening. The woman in the window was making taiyaki – a Japanese fish-shaped cake – putting them in the heated storage thing on the right (I have no idea what they’re called) and serving them out to customers. She had a steady stream of customers – making the cakes in the window was obviously good marketing.

I wanted to get a shot of her making the cakes but that was never going to happen – too many people stopping to watch her. They came and went but this little girl stayed there for a while. I don’t know where her family were or if they bought her the cakes. I hope she got to taste some!

Cafe window

Diners including a little old lady through a cafe window

I took this last night. I initially spotted the blond woman’s hair which was luminous in the direct light from above. I took a shot of her and her dining partner. As I did, I noticed the elderly lady. She was so interesting that I had to get her in the shot. So I walked along to get to change the composition to put the blond woman on the intersection between two thirds and I got this shot. Two shots was all it took.

Before I spotted the blond woman I had been taking shots of the counter from another angle, trying to capture the interesting light and the waitress sweeping the floor behind the counter. I like the light in those shots but the subject is too small and the composition isn’t very interesting.

It just goes to show that the right shot can be there and it doesn’t take a dozen presses of the shutter to get it!

Working hard in cafes

Two young men in a cafe window with their laptops

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those coffee shops and cafes which have stools facing the window. These are very useful to me in my ‘London Through a Window’ project. With so many people facing outwards, I can capture facial expressions very easily.

The two men in the top photo seem to be having a serious conversation that the poor man on the left is finding difficult to understand!

Two men in a coffee shop in Soho, one is listening to something on headphones and laughing, the other is looking at his phone and has a serious look on his face

And these two are having very different experiences while sitting in the same space. I like how isolated they both are. A symptom of modern life?

Young woman deep in thought while sitting writing in a coffee shop window

I took this at Christmas – hence the stars on the window. I wanted to include it here to complete the triptych.

 

The ladies room

Woman seen through the window of a ladies toilet in Camden Lock Market

 

In summer, with the long evenings, I can be at a disadvantage when pursuing my windows project. I need lights on inside and dark outside to get good shots through windows. The long evenings give a bit of both, so often the interior is just too muddy to make a decent shot.

But with warm evenings, people leave the windows open, windows that would otherwise be obscured, like this ladies toilet. The top shot is my favourite of the shots that I got, even though her face is hidden by the window. It doesn’t tell you everything. Here are a couple more.

Women seen through the window of a ladies toilet in Camden

Women seen through the window of a ladies toilet in Camden

 

An evening in Earl’s Court

Looking through a window at someone watching television lying on their settee

Continuing my series of London Through a Window, I wandered around Earl’s Court. It’s an interesting area with a real mix of people from different economic groups in one street. So some buildings have been done up and have just one family living in them, while others have been converted into flats. You can find a rundown building next to one with shiny paintwork.

The proliferation of flats gives me lots of different shots – looking down and looking up.

A woman sitting on a window ledge in a lit up window

There’s also a mixture of residential and business. So happy hunting for a photographer who’s looking through windows!

A woman sitting at a computer, seen through a window as a man walks past

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