Who else was saddened by the cancellation of the Photography Show? Okay, it was replaced by a ‘virtual’ version which was, of course, better than nothing, but the lack of our annual pilgrimage to the NEC left us feeling slightly bereft. However, with some buccaneering spirit, the show did go on and I was asked to give a presentation on behalf of Fujifilm based on ’10 Ways to Elevate Your Street Photography’. The video of my presentation is now on YouTube and you can watch it here. Let’s hope we’re all back in Birmingham with a big physical presence in September 2021!

People have been asking about my workshop programme for the rest of the year and into 2021 in light of the Covid-19 situation. There are plenty of workshops listed between now and April 2021 (and you can see them all here); these workshops will all go ahead as planned unless the Government rules otherwise and we will operate a very ‘safe ship’ during this period. As the picture becomes clearer, I will start to list workshops for more distant future dates but I’m holding off for a few weeks to watch what happens.

Thank you to everyone who responded with an expression of interest in workshop in Bristol and / or Weston-Super-Mare. This will definitely happen but probably not before next year. I’ll keep you all posted.

We have lots of new subscribers to the newsletter this month, so I’d like to say a very warm ‘hi’ and ‘welcome’ to you all. I hope you like the newsletter and I would be very pleased to hear from you with any suggestions or ideas for future content.

What I’m reading this month

I’m very pleased to have got my hands on a book called ‘Friction / Tokyo Street’ by the Japanese street photographer, Tatsuo Suzuki (published by Steidl, 2020). You may have spotted Tatsuo Suzuki in the news recently; like me, he was a Fujifilm X-Photographer (ambassador) but was removed from the programme because of his confrontational style of shooting. He is certainly ‘in your face’ in the way he works the streets but, to be honest, I’ve seen much worse and, although controversial, I find his style to be more quirky than confrontational. You can see the man at work here in this interesting little YouTube video.

So, what of the book? As you would expect of anything from the Steidl stable, it’s beautifully produced (it even smells nice) and it’s not cheap (though I got a great deal on eBay at £16). The images are full bleed and all in black & white, with lots of contrast and deep, inky blacks. Suzuki’s images exude energy, rawness and a true feeling of ‘real life’ – and this, to me, is what street photography should be all about. There’s clearly more than a nod to Moriyama in his work, which is no bad thing, particularly in some of the more abstract images where a sense of movement draws the viewer in. It demonstrates that a simple approach, using one small camera and unencumbered with masses of swanky gear, is an approach that works. I keep picking this book up and, to be frank, I see something new in every image with every look. I’ve no hesitation in recommending this, which can be found on Amazon here.

Street photographer in the hot seat: Barry Bottomley

Each month I feature one of my workshop students and this time it’s the turn of Barry Bottomley (on Instagram here), who I’ve known for about four years and who is a veteran of at least five workshops with me. Is he another Tatsuo Suzuki? Let’s see . . .

Q/ Why are you a street photographer?
A/ At school I was lousy at art but I really liked it. A school a  friend of mine had an older brother who was into B&W photography so I started playing around with it as a way expressing the artistic side of me which I had otherwise failed to do. So I learnt from him and saved up my paper round money to buy my first camera, a Zenith E 35mm film camera. I bought a book about photography and two of the photographers whose work this book featured were Henri Cartier-Bresson and Don McCullin. So that was it I was hooked. However, I have never thought of myself as a street photographer but rather as a photographer who uses the street as a canvas. I love being out on street with camera in hand and I am equally at home with architecture and urban landscape as I am with street photography in all it forms.

Q/ How would you describe your approach?
A/ On the whole I’m not sure if I have a distinct approach to street photography. I definitely prefer to operate in the background and like to linger rather than to be upfront and in people’s faces, and for that reason I tend to work alone. More recently, I have had a tendency to look for scenes with more narrative when out with my camera. The sort of approach associated with street tableau I guess. I look for anything that strikes me and then try to make sense of what I am seeing. Sometimes it works very well, sometimes I miss opportunities and other times I capture the moment in the split second, and other times I come away empty handed, but that’s all part of the experience for me.

Q/ Who has Influenced your style.
A/ One of the first things I learnt about taking photographs was how to expose and compose a photo, and then I learnt a little about light and shade and form along with a few other bits and pieces. So for years I relied on that and didn’t study and learn about other photographers, so consequently never really developed a style other than one which came from my haphazard ad-hoc way of working. It has only been in the last few years or so, and more so since Covid-19 and lockdown, that I have broadened my horizon. The first photographer whose work really struck was Saul Leiter for his abstract approach and use of colour. I have no shame when I spot a “Leiter” opportunity on the street and raise my camera. He really opened my eyes to new ways of looking at things which I hadn’t seen previously. The other is Joel Meyerowitz, once again for his use of colour but also for the way he portrays the street as a living and breathing and exciting entity to be with a camera, and it is from him that I have come to look at the street in a more fluid way, looking for a way to freeze it and the right time to capture the moment.

Q/ What gear do you use and why.
A/ I have two cameras, both Fuji, one an X-70 and the other is the X-T3. The X-70 lives somewhere pretty close to my hand and I would never be without it. For street photography it is perfect. Having an 18mm fixed lens camera has taught me discipline and given me more confidence on the street because its small size makes it easier to blend in as a photographer. But I wanted a bit more flexibility so got the X-T3 just before lockdown with a 16-80mm lens primarily for urban landscape and architecture purposes. 

Q/ What projects or longer term goals do you have in mind
A/ I have a few projects on the go but I have two which I am more focused on. One has been a long term project which I was hoping to have completed by now, but lockdown put a stop to it. In short it is a project, photographed at night and when it is raining, and is a photographic record of the street looking down from the top deck of the 91 bus which runs between Crouch End and Trafalgar Square. All things being equal I can complete this by the end of the year. The other is a record of people, places and events on Holloway Road. This was started in lockdown and is still a work in progress.

October workshops – a few spaces available

Bookings are starting to return to normal levels but I still have some availability in the coming weeks . . .

  • HULL – 10 October – fully booked (sorry!)
  • NIGHT SHOOTING (London) – 16 October – 2 places available
  • LONDON (West End, Soho, Chinatown) – 17 October – 2 places available
  • LONDON (Shoreditch / E London) – 18 October – 2 places available

Don McCullin at Tate Liverpool

I know, I know, I mentioned this in the last newsletter, but this is truly a MUST-SEE exhibition. It’s almost a re-run of the highly acclaimed exhibition in London and whatever genre of photography interests you, you should visit. It runs until 9th May 2021 and you can find all the info here. Please do me a favour – and GO!!

That’s all for now. I’ll be in touch in a day or two with a few more interesting titbits . . .

Best wishes,
Brian
brian@streetsnappers.com

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