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

Marking the 100th anniversary of WW1

Three candles at the Cenotaph to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War

“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.

Lit candles and a tribute at the Cenotaph in London

 

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.

The Treasury with one central light blazing to mark the 100th anniversary of WW1

There was no central ceremony for Londoners and some people had gathered at the Cenotaph for a very moving candlelit vigil.

Women sit with candles at the Cenotaph in London

 

A man and a woman lighting candles at the Cenotaph

As Big Ben struck 11, there was complete silence and stillness among those gathered.

People standing outside a building on Whitehall at the Cenotaph

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.

The Cenotaph lit up

The Cenotaph and the beam of light from Parliament

I am proud that Londoners, in the absence of a central formal ceremony for everyone, took it upon themselves to mark the occasion.

Candle burning at the Cenotaph

Private view – looking through the window

A woman looks out of a window at the photographer

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.

Frame Your Train photography competition

Man with earphones in, reflected in a train window

I’m a judge on the First Great Western Frame Your Train photography competition. We’re looking for great views taken through the windows of First Great Western trains. So grab your smartphone, snap away and upload to Instagram. Tag your entries #FGWframe yourtrain and with the location too, eg #bristol so that we can see where you took it. All entries will be shown on the First Great Western website and the winning shot each week wins a pair of train tickets between two destinations of their choice on First Great Western’s network.

I’m looking for interesting views, imaginative photography and a sense of place.

I’m sharing some of my photos taken through train windows. I’ve taken quite a few with mixed results. Not only do you have to contend with a moving train and blurred images if you don’t have a fast enough shutter speed (not easy to achieve on a smartphone!) but you also have reflections in windows of the inside of the carriage.

You can either make a virtue of them (as I did above) or you can try to eliminate them altogether.

Buildings and rail lines in evening sun

Though, as you’ll note in the bottom left-hand corner, I didn’t completely manage to do that here. What I like about this photo is the layers of rectangles, the golden evening sun and the dark grey clouds.

You can include the window frame and parts of the carriage in your photo. It’s up to you. Use your imagination and have fun!

Just to note – these weren’t taken on First Great Western trains – so no clues here as to what will make a winner!

 

Exhibition – London Life

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

I’ve got this photo into the London Life exhibition with the L A Noble Gallery from 7th to 29th August 2014. Really thrilled to be part of a group exhibition with a great photography gallery.

Come and see it at:

Art Bermondsey

183-185 Bermondsey Street

London

SE1 3UW

It’s a limited edition of 10 and there are 9 left to buy. You can buy it at the exhibition or via my website

 

 

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