Over the last couple of weeks I had some time off my day job so I decided to visit some friends in the UK and in Berlin (I had made a commitment to actually meet some people there face to face). So I’m going to share some photos and insights from three places I took photos at. Starting with London.
I’ve been to London many many times before and shot some street photography on a couple of previous times. Those occasions had been during the summer though so this was a different trip. I had found it very easy during the summer to take street photos with lots of high contrast colour and shadows, but this time was overcast, lightly raining and using some film.
When I went to London I met up with Michael Neale around the tate modern gallery (near to where he works). We only had a couple of hours during his lunch breaks but we strolled up and down the Thames and talked about London, photography, street photography, film photography…and er…photography (and maybe something else?)
We spent almost the whole time on the south bank. It’s not a bad stretch for taking photos as you get a fair amount of foot fall, but you can also isolate subjects. There’s also some stretches where you can get long shadows thanks to the lack of obstructions on the natural light (the benefits of a riverside). Seeing as I was shooting ISO 400 film in a Hasselblad (Yes, more on that later) and it was a dull day, the conditions weren’t perfect, still I found a couple of spots to take some images.
In general, I’d recommend spending a fair bit of time around the Thames, you get some good light and you can grab some nice historic backgrounds with the Tate modern, St. Paul’s cathedral and so on. But my two favourite spots were next to the Tate modern (behind is pretty great too) and down by the south bank centre. There’s a lot going on there include the graffiti wall and skatepark.
Obviously London is huge and there are so many places that could be mentioned. I’ve taken a fair amount of shots in Shoreditch (somehow…I blame hipster friends) and I’ve taken a few other random one offs in the centre but I can’t really say too much more. I hope I’ll have a chance to explore more of central London but it is such a large place, and not living there doesn’t help.
I’ve always found that people in London had very positive reactions towards being photographed. Most don’t seem to notice as they are very active. There was also the common reaction of “oh..they’re about to take a photo, I better not walk through the frame.” Certainly I’ve had very few hostile reaction in London. Of course, if you look for long enough (or go to the wrong areas and shoot the wrong people ) then you’ll find people who react badly to being photographed.
My worst experience (for the record) was when I took a photo of someone sitting on a fence from behind. My camera was completely quiet and I shot his back, yet as I was walking away he started shouting after me. I turned and politely said hi, and that was it. I’m sure other people have some worse stories and the longer you shoot, the more chance you have of having your bad experience.
Photographing with film
I was still photographing with film in London (for the most part), using a hasselblad is a very different experience, not just things like loading the film, but also the weight of the camera, the viewfinder and trying to meter. Adding in the fact that I was shooting with expired film (also a first) which meant I needed to overexpose the film by a stop to compensate. I did switch to my digital camera for a bit later on as things got too dark and I couldn’t get enough light (or depth of field). However, that was after I had left Mike and was walking around on my own.
This is the main reason I’ve waited so long to put this post up as I had to wait to get back to Poland, get my film developed and scanned and then onto my computer. The results truly surprised me with some that felt very old fashioned. I can certainly see where the look of some of this historical images comes from now.
Any insights into London?
If you have any other insights into photographing London I’d love to know them.
Also published on Medium.