The big question on all street photographers’ lips right now is ‘Can I go out and shoot’? I think only you can decide. Personally, I’m okay with it and I know that I’ll be extremely careful and will follow all the advice, guidelines and regulations to the letter – and I’ll fastidiously avoid those who don’t. If London is anything to go by, I think we have a real opportunity here to shoot less crowded and more relaxed streets, perhaps capturing a significantly different perspective or vibe. So, with these thoughts in mind, there’s a nice lead-in to this week’s featured image . . .
Anatomy of a street shot
This week’s shot is by Mark Fly, who says: “This was the day Soho re-opened after lockdown and the place went wild. There was a huge buzz of anticipation in the air and before it even started getting rowdy, people were breaking just about every social distancing rule. People were everywhere. It was like the prison doors had been opened and everybody had been set free! I’d been following him, trying to get an angle . He looked a bit unkempt/dishevelled and was constantly smoking. Literally putting one out and then lighting up again. His wrinkled face and trail of smoke caught my eye but I couldn’t get in front of all the people milling around. I didn’t even really know what shot I was going to take – a random character portrait or something similar. His face just seemed to tell of a life of complete debauchery, which I loved. I almost gave up as I thought the scene was too cluttered and it wasn’t to be and then he paused and just leant against this old Soho bar/club frontage and again, went to light up. Couldn’t believe my luck with the colour of the wall behind. Pure serendipity. There was even a well timed break in the flow of people. I just stepped back a bit and took 3 images in quick succession before people started bustling past again – this being the first.” Mark used a Fujifilm X-pro3 with 23mm (35mm equivalent) f2 lens @ f5.6 1/250 and 800 ISO.
For me, this is all about the colours and there’s something about this guy which just screams ‘Soho’ – almost like a Keith Waterhouse character from the 1970s. The composition, with the head right in the middle of the frame is visually challenging but quite impactful; it’s a shame about the chopped-off hand but perfection often isn’t an option when we’re shooting quickly.
Video – making the most out of a workshop experience
Many of us enjoy workshops – whether they’re street photography workshops, landscape, studio, fashion – or whatever takes your interest. I run 60-70 workshops every year and in this video I offer some tips on how to make the most out your experience so that you get good value and also the best possible learning outcome. Please note – these thoughts apply to ANY photography workshop – not just street! Watch the video here.
If you would like to see some examples of great street photography, the LensCulture Awards is worth checking out. The results of the 2020 awards were recently announced – do have a look (here).
A challenge for you . . .
Here’s a challenge for you to try – and I know that for many of you it will require all the reserves of self-restraint you can muster – but it’ll be worth it, trust me!@
I often think to myself that we all shoot far too many images. It’s just so easy (and free) with digital and we can quickly fall in to the bad habit of shooting too much without really thinking, so I would invite you to take up this challenge to ‘shoot less, think more’. Next time you hit the streets for a day’s shooting, imagine that you have an analog camera with just one 36-exposure roll of film; your limit is strictly 36 shots for the day. This should make you think more deeply and critically about what you’re doing; thinking twice before pressing the shutter will almost certainly mean that you’ll return home with a higher overall standard of image. This exercise takes a lot of self-discipline but do try it – the results can be eye-opening. [This challenge was taken from my book, ’52 Assignments: Street Photography’ and you can order a signed copy here].
New workshop – in Hull!
Several people have been asking me to do a workshop on the eastern side of the country and in October we’re returning to Hull. This fine city was the British Council’s ‘City of Culture’ in 2017 and it’s a terrific place to learn and practice street photography. My workshop is on Saturday 10th October and you can book a place here (there are three places left at the time of writing this).
What’s happening to Olympus?
I’m sure there are a lot of Olympus fans reading this newsletter and you’re probably still in the dark regarding the company’s future. I have very fond memories of the brand and my main camera during my student years was an OM-1, which I loved to bits – in fact I still have one, though not my original black version. When the company adopted the micro 4/3 format I admit to having doubts about the long-term viability of that format and had a niggling concern that the brand was losing its way. And then the inevitable happened: it was announced last week that Olympus was to be sold to the acquisitive conglomerate Japan Industrial Partners (JIP). It now looks certain that JIP will ditch the Olympus moniker (as it did with Sony, when it bought their laptop brand, Vaio) and cameras will be know as either ‘OM’ or ‘Pen’, although the ‘Zuiko’ lens name will remain. Although it’s a sad day for a trusted brand, the good news is that the 2020 product roadmap remains intact and, for now, gear will still be produced. But I do have my doubts about the future. Best stick with Fujifilm, eh?
What I’m reading this week
Two zines dropped through my letterbox on Monday, both from the fabulous Cafe Royal Books. CRB publishes at least one zine every week, usually from well-known documentary photographers. They usually cost around £7 but you can take out an annual or monthly subscription and every week you get a lovely surprise – you never know quite what’s coming next. This week I got two super little books by Barry Lewis which really encapsulate the spirit of Soho and Blackpool.
I love giving oxygen to your great work and this week it’s the turn of Wendy Davies. Wendy has been on four workshops with me (London x2, Lisbon and Venice) and her latest zine, ‘Covid-19 Diaries’.
Wendy said: “My personal lockdown started on Thursday 12th March, eleven days before the government officially locked down the country. My two sons arrived home from university at the end of March, to join my husband, my daughter and me, and we officially became a family of five again. Regarded as a vulnerable person (due to immunosuppressive medication for an autoimmune disease) I was advised to shield for a minimum of twelve weeks. Since I was unable to get out with my camera, I decided to document my family’s lockdown experience from within. Out of necessity, it’s an intimate project – photos were taken in our house or garden from March to May 2020 and they document the ups and downs of our lockdown: – my sons setting up a home barbershop and gym; my daughter basking in the unexpected sunny Spring weather; our weekly Thursday ritual of clapping for the NHS; family zoom quizzes via YouTube and zoom plus me enjoying a glass of wine on the patio and bingeing on Netflix. Mixed up with the people shots, there are also some more generic shots of the symbolism of lockdown. The photos are black and white to suit the sombre mood of the pandemic, although at times, the subject matter is joyful and exuberant. Also, I knew it would be far easier to print my first attempt at a zine in monochrome rather than colour! I prepared the photos in photoshop and watched a few YouTube videos beforehand. Fellow StreetSnapper, Neil Johansson, sent me a link to a very useful YouTube guide and Peter Degnan was also a font of useful information (thanks very much both). Armed with this information plus the A5 landscape template from printers Mixam (https://mixam.co.uk) I prepared my own templates in Photoshop using guide lines to mark off “bleed” and “quiet” areas. I then exported the pages as PDF files and imported the files directly to the maxim website as single pages. Prior to submitting the full zine for printing, I did a test print of two 8-page booklets which helped me tweak the exposure of a few of the images. My zine had 48 pages in total (44 + 4 cover pages) so I opted for the “perfect bind” with a 3mm spine. I used 150gsm silk paper for the inside pages and 250gsm paper for the cover. A selection of photos from the Covid-19 Diaries project can be viewed on my website: https://www.wendygdavies.com and my instagram account is https://www.instagram.com/wendygbd. I only did a very small print run of 20 zines and these have all gone but if there’s any more interest, I’ll get some more printed up. Please let me know if you’d like a copy. It’ll be £5 (incl. p&p) or a swap with your zine.”
Thanks Wendy – nice work 🙂
If you have produced your own street photography zine or book and would like me to feature it here, please send me a copy!
New immersive weekend workshop
I’ve had a lot of requests from people who have done my 1-day workshop for something more in-depth, which includes more discussion critique and one-to-one time. So I’ve been working on a new format for the weekend Masterclass. Starting on Friday evening and continuing over the weekend, this new format takes you from ‘zero to hero’ – whatever your level of expertise. The next workshops are in London in November and January – please see here for further information.
That’s all for this edition of the newsletter. Thanks, as always, for tuning-in and I hope you found it interesting.