Welcome to a re-designed newsletter with a new, simpler look – I hope you like it. Again this month, it’s great to welcome lots of new subscribers on board and, as always, I welcome your ideas and suggestions for future content. I’m also happy to consider your contributions and proposals for ‘guest slots’.
Picture of the Week – Adam Ramjean
This week’s great example of street photography is from one of my workshops students, Adam Ramjean (@checkmybadself). Adam was using the ‘fishing’ technique here, where he found the background and then waited for the right element to come into play to make the scene complete. And I think he did pretty well – this is good street photography; Adam spotted an opportunity and made it work for him. I’m pleased to see that he wasn’t tempted to clone out the white bits of rubbish on the ground – realism is important to me and this small point helps tell me that the image has authenticity. The way the man’s white collar follows the line of the white swirl on the wall really makes this shot. I asked Adam to share his thoughts about this image and here’s what he said:
Q/ How did the picture come about?
A/ I was shooting around East London for a bit of a break from my usual west end route and I came across this red wall with bold text that I thought would make for an interesting background. I didn’t want to take a random person walking in front of an interesting background type of shot (which I have certainly been guilty of), it needed to be something more. I stood around for approx. 10 minutes waiting for someone to come into frame that would make a connection to the text (10 mins of looking right, left, then back at phone to be discreet after lining things up). That didn’t happen but eventually “the red man” came into frame and leaned against the post so I shimmied to the right, lined up his collar with the white stripe of the wall, and took the shot.
Q/ Where was it shot?
A/ Brick Lane, Shoreditch, London
Q/ What gear did you use?
A/ Fujifilm XT3 and 35mm f2.0 lens (shot at 1/250 sec, f/8.0, ISO 800)
Q/ What post production did you do?
A/ With 10 mins to line up the shot, only a little post production was required. All my editing is done with Lightroom CC on my iPad
Q/ What, in your view, makes a good street image?
A/ I think a great street image needs to have good composition and capture a moment, aesthetic or to document life on the street and always candid!
Q/ Anything else you’d like to add?
A/ Photo books are such a great way of experiencing photography, learning composition techniques and training your eye. Wish I knew this earlier but I’m trying to make up for lost time now! If you’d like to see more of my images, I upload them all on Instagram.
What gear do I use for street photography?
This is one of the questions I am asked most often. I’m not going to go into great detail or technical data here, just a quick tour of my camera bag, explaining ‘what’ and ‘why’.
The first point to bear in mind is that as a Fujifilm ambassador, I use Fujifilm cameras and lenses exclusively. This is not because I’m paid to use them (which I’m not!) or because I get free gear (which, sadly, I don’t!) – it’s because I love using that gear and it does exactly what I need it to do. If you use other camera systems, most manufacturers make gear with similar specifications and you’ll be able to make your own comparisons.
My main, everyday camera is the Fujifilm X100V, which is just about the perfect camera for street photography; it’s small, quiet, light, discreet, has excellent low light capability, a great lens and superior sensor. And like most of the X-series cameras, all the main controls are on the top plate and fall easily to hand without having to delve into menus. I could probably survive for ever more with this camera and nothing else.
My other ‘main’ camera is the Fujifilm X-Pro3. I tend to use this more for projects which have a documentary angle, where I may need to use a variety of lenses. The X-Pro series is based on the rangefinder form factor, and the ‘3’ is the latest iteration. It shares the same sensor as the X100V with a great sensor and very fast autofocus. This model courted controversy when it was launched last year because the rear LCD screen is hidden (folded inwards) in its default position. This was a brave move from Fujifilm and it immediately elicited a ‘Marmite’ response – you’ll either love it or hate it. I love it. It somehow makes shooting a more raw and organic experience – not unlike shooting with a film camera. Being unable to see the picture you have just taken (unless you really want to) is quite liberating and I find the experience wholly positive. The other big benefit for me is dual SD card slots – I never feel 100% safe without a back-up, particularly in a situation where the shots are unrepeatable.
Last but not least in my camera line-up is my ‘go everywhere’ camera, the diminutive XF10. With its sharp fixed 18mm lens (28mm equivalent) and 24MP sensor, this is more than capable of producing stunning images. This camera is tiny and will easily fit into a shirt pocket. As a street photographer’s camera, its size and weight are ideal and the great thing is you’ll always look more like a tourist than a photographer. This goes everywhere with me – a trip to the supermarket, beach, dentist – everywhere! It’s around half the price of its nearest competitor from Ricoh, with pretty much the same specification.
As for lenses, if I’m using the X-Pro 3 I’ll usually have a variety of primes with me: the 16mm f/1.4, 23mm f/1.4, 35mm f/1.4 (my favourite) and the 56mm f/1.2 which is use mainly for shooting portraits. I much prefer prime lenses over zooms for their better sharpness and contrast and also their ability to shoot with a wide aperture when the situation demands it. I’m just about to get my hands on the incredible new 50mm f/1.0 and I’ll let you know my thoughts on that in a few weeks.
Having said all that, I do find myself being drawn back to film and really enjoy shooting with a medium format film camera. I’m currently using an old Mamiya RB67 which offers a very organic shooting experience – but more on that in a future newsletter. Generally, I’m a big fan of film and would encourage everyone to at least experience it; you may surprise yourself and fall in love with it.
As for bags, I tend to favour small shoulder bags over big backpacks and I tend to cram as much as I can into the smallest space. Also in the bag will be:
Fast SD cards (usually between 150-300 MB/s)
Notebook and pen (I love making ‘real’ notes on paper, as well as in my Evernote app)
Business cards (I find I need to hand these out almost daily)
Zeiss lens wipes (I prefer these to cloths, which can attract grit particles)
Sometimes a GoPro Hero 8 (I’m always looking for opportunities to shoot B-roll for videos)
If I’m travelling, I’ll use an iPad Pro for post-production and will back-up everything to a Gnarbox
I do, however, always aim to travel as light as possible and I want to blend in, not looking like a photographer, so most of the time, for an average street shooting day, it’s one camera only – and most of the time it’s the X100V.
What’s on: exhibitions
There’s not a great deal to report since my last newsletter due, for the most part, to the restrictions brought about by the pandemic. However, I would like to reiterate my previous suggestion to make a trip to Liverpool to visit Don McCullin’s exhibition at the Tate Gallery. This features around 200 of Don’s iconic monochrome images, ranging from the horrors of war to landscapes, still life and, happily, some great street photography – with, as you’d expect, a strong documentary influence. All the images were hand printed by the man himself in his darkroom which, at the age of 82, was no mean feat. Runs until 9th May.
if you’re anywhere near London, it’s worth dropping in to Somerset House for a rather stunning exhibition by Leila Alaoui called ‘Rites of Passage’. Leila is a French-Moroccan photographer and this is her first major UK retrospective. Acclaimed for capturing the unseen stories of individuals and communities displaced by conflict and unrest, Alaoui’s photography offers an intimate portrait into the rich cultural identities and resilience of societies facing uncertain realities. The subjects of Alaoui’s works are pictured across the contemporary Mediterranean-landscape and beyond, from Syrian refugees fleeing civil war in Lebanon to young North Africans seeking an alternative future in Europe. Entry is free (although it’s advisable to book in advance) and the exhibition runs until 28th February.
For those further north, the excellent Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool is shortly showing a collection of work in three separate exhibitions entitled ‘L – A City Through Its People’. This brings together archives which explore life in Liverpool from the 1950s to the present day. Spanning evolutions in industry, society and leisure at a time of rapid change and challenge, they share unique approaches and perspectives in telling a story about Liverpool, its people and the ideals which lend the city charm and a distinct personality. From 5 November to 13 December.
The ‘Buddy Board’ – meet up with other street photographers near you
Street photography can be a lonely pursuit. Some people like it that way, preferring to shoot solo with total focus on what’s going on around them (and I fall into this category), whilst others prefer the company of others, making a day on the streets a more social experience – and some people feel safer and more confident when shooting with others, which I completely understand.
So, with that in mind, and as we have subscribers from all over the UK and across the globe, I’m planning to start a ‘buddy board’ as a regular feature in this newsletter. If you would like to make contact with other street photographers in your area, either for shooting or maybe just discussion and critique over a drink, please email me here with your name, location and some method of contacting you and I’ll post the list on here. Please make it clear how you want people to contact you (eg. email address or via social media).
What I’m reading this week . . .
You may know that I run documentary / street photography workshops based on the theme of the English seaside (more info here) and this is a topic which has always fascinated me. Having grown up near the beach, I’ve always been fascinated with how the seaside resort is a melting pot of culture, class divide and sheer hedonism – a rich mix for any street photographer who’s interested in more of a documentary approach to street photography.
Step in Dougie Wallace, one of my favourite contemporary street photographers, whose book ‘Stags, Hens & Bunnies’ I keep returning to. Dougie has what some would call an ‘in your face’ style of street shooting; he just goes for it and he takes no prisoners. Nicknamed ‘Glasweegeee’ (Dougie is from Glasgow and his style has more than a passing resemblance to the work of New York’s infamous Weegee), he shoots up close and personal, usually using flash and rarely seeking to flatter. ‘Stags, Hens & Bunnies’ was the result of three years’ hard work, during which time Dougie recorded the weekend madness of Blackpool in all its glory.
This is a great example of where social documentary meets street photography and an illustration of how a simple idea for a project can become a substantive body of work. You can buy the book on Amazon here (if you use this affiliate link, I get a few pennies and it won’t cost you any extra!).
As we near the end of a strange but surprisingly busy year, there are still a few workshops scheduled and there is still limited availability. The last workshop of 2020 will take place on 13th December and I’m sure we’ll be exploring a few seasonal angles. The programme for the new year up until April is live on the website and I will be adding dates for the second quarter of 2021 shortly. In the meantime, here are the spaces I have left over the next few months:
London (South Bank) – 28 November (2 places available)
London (Urban Landscape Workshop) – 29 November (1 place available)
London (Shoreditch) – 13 December (2 places available)
If you’re thinking about a workshop in 2021, the list is here – with more dates to be added soon.
Next year, as well as workshops in London, Liverpool, Hull and Blackpool, we will also be visiting Bristol, Weston-Super-Mare and possibly also Southend. Further afield, and Covid-19 permitting, I’ll be running workshops in Paris, Venice, Lisbon and Prague – and possibly also Bologna and Rome (you’re probably detecting an Italian theme here!).
I think I’ve said enough for today! Thanks for your support and please let me know if you have any questions.