London, as can all major cities, sometimes has a reputation of being brash, rude and unwelcoming. You’re more likely to receive a four-lettered tirade (I recently got my favourite, ‘if you ain’t gonna buy no f**king flowers, f**k off’. I chose not to correct the double negative.) than a hug, for instance. On a couple of recent photographic assignments I have had to head out onto the streets to approach and photograph people. The first assignment was street photography, the second street portraits. The essence of street photography is to capture what you see as the aesthetic representation of what you see around you. It really is ideal not to ask for permission first. People HATE this, and will make a real effort to avoid any kind of large camera pointed their way. I watched one guy pointedly cross the road before reaching me, then crossing back having passed me.
In the end, though, street photography was not a problem. Londoners are camera-haters, but they are above all too polite (or anti-confrontational?) to actually stop me and ask me why I had just taken a shot of them. I gained a little confidence from this and moved swiftly onto the next assignment – portraits. Myself and a couple of other photographers set up a street studio in a few locations over the course of two days – a black screen duct taped to the wall and a simple lighting setup. Grabbing people here was initially hard work, but once we had a steady flow of people stopping, it was all easy – when the potential subjects saw someone else there, they were happy to stop.
Overall, we were pleasantly surprised by the reception of our project, andLondonpeople aren’t as spiky as I expected. We didn’t once receive a four-lettered tirade and no one questioned our motives. Security guards only moved us on once and the police had next to no interest in us at all. If I am completely honest, it might have been more fun with a little more adversity. Maybe.
Anyway, here are some of the shots. To see more of them, have a look at www.willclarksonphotography.com/blog, as Harry won’t let me put more high res ones up… The spoilsport.
by Will Clarkson