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.
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…
… or a couple standing around waiting
I might be hanging around a few more theatres in the next few weeks.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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?
I took this at Christmas – hence the stars on the window. I wanted to include it here to complete the triptych.
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.
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.
There’s also a mixture of residential and business. So happy hunting for a photographer who’s looking through windows!
“The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Secretary, 3 August 1914.
Tonight – Monday 4 August – marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. There have been commemoration ceremonies across the country. Tonight, between 10pm and 11pm, we were encouraged to switch out our lights and leave one light or a candle burning. On Whitehall, at the centre of government, the lights were out with one central light lit at the Treasury.
There was no central ceremony for Londoners and some people had gathered at the Cenotaph for a very moving candlelit vigil.
As Big Ben struck 11, there was complete silence and stillness among those gathered.
It’s a shame that the traffic kept moving. But perhaps it was fitting too – those millions of people died so that life could go on.
I am proud that Londoners, in the absence of a central formal ceremony for everyone, took it upon themselves to mark the occasion.
The nice thing about going to photography exhibitions is that they do sometimes afford you the opportunity to do some photography – not inside the venue because it’s always too crowded. But I got my camera out as I left a exhibition at the Menier Chocolate Factory Gallery recently and got this shot. Nice big windows, interesting reflections and someone looking directly at me – the kind of shot I’m pleased to get.