The return to Street
Return to street
Overview and Introduction
It seems fitting that my first blog of the year would be the return to my Plymouth project, the one that has been so rewarding, so consuming and yet riveting, the one that has me so excited to return yet so apprehensive at the same time. Just like the juxtapositions I love to capture so much. I wanted to share my feelings and thoughts on this return, and the tools I used to move on with my nerves and have a great outing capturing the wonderful Plymouth in all its urban glory.
So while I am here planning my first outing back to Plymouth since the latest pandemic lockdown, I reflect on the last time I was photographing my project; back in December 2020 and it’s now the following April. I feel apprehensive about returning and capturing those candid images of people. There is not just one reason for these emotions, perhaps my brain overthinking, but over the last year there has been so much change and uncertainty, everyone is bound to feel some nerves, even when it is returning to something you love.
Due to the nature of my images, it carries the risk of receiving negative interactions with the public, this has always been in the back of my mind, but the rewards of capturing this city and its local occupants outweigh this fear. I also always aim to be respectful in the images, but also in my nature, I aim to showcase the weird and the wonderful, something many people can appreciate.
There is also the concern that I will spend hours searching for something unique, different, special to capture, and yet there will be nothing that I want to capture.
However, my aim is to not overthink situations, to not only look for the perfect image, but to also be kind to myself and to capture what interests me, to trust my instincts and make the most of what is in front of me. I do also aim to react quickly to changing light and framing of the image itself to help me create something I am proud to share.
The first step to getting ready is to get my camera equipment charged and cleaned, as I do this I remember that I need a new lens cap as my rubber one split last year. I won’t go in to detail about this here as I’m sure I could talk enough about this to make a separate blog! So, as I look up from my desk I glance over to my photography book collection, this is something I like to do to reconnect and be inspired. In that moment I can feel the excitement for my own project and my candid street photography style. I look for books that are of a similar genre to my own; street with a theme or long term project in a single location. The reason for this is I can struggle to relate to some styles of street photography when the project seems more random. I particularly enjoy the bold and colourful work by Dougie Wallace. Something I notice is he chooses to focus on a specific area of London which enables me to focus on the characters and unique situations more.
For my first day back, I plan to capture the pub gardens that will have recently been reopened. I choose this due to the hype of the COVID measures being lifted allowing people to be with others and socialise, this is a momentum moment which I hope to capture. It will also be useful to me in my line of photography that this takes place outside, allowing me to remain in the public area. I also realise that I haven’t photographed pubs as part of this project so it could provide a new angle, one very fitting to the COVID journey.
My drive to create new work and be once again featured in photography magazines is another motivational factor for me. In order to do this I look at the local news and conduct some research on Plymouth in to any events, protests or markets that might be taking place. This helps me to know the location I am focussing on and what I can hope to capture that day.
I am looking back at my work in order to remind myself of the emotions I have felt before, during and after previous shoots, in particular the confidence I have experienced. This helps me to feel grounded, appreciate my previous achievements and to remember that I can take candid images of people that are visually pleasing and worthy of being printed as part of a bigger project and my vision.
It is useful to look through my previous work to also observe the progression and development I have made, work that has been featured in exhibitions in London and Italy, as well as work published in books and magazines. I aim to capture something different after returning from COVID lockdowns for magazine publishers in order to present them with a different feel to my work, including a bridge between architecture and street photography. As magazines focus on different genres of photography, this will allow me to be more versatile.
Looking at other photographers work
As I’ve mentioned, I have been looking up at my range of photography books, before going out to Plymouth I often get such books out that inspire me and help to visualise my own project.
I have been following Nick Turpin’s work for many years and is one of the first I found that inspired me, in addition to Dougie Wallace. More recently, Nick has been photographing London’s financial district and how COVID has affected the way society has changed and in many ways adapted through this pandemic. This helps to inspire me to document these times as he has shown it is possible to continue with a vision, it has also been fascinating to see a busy city at its quietest, providing a unique view and angle on London, in a way this has made other cities, such as Plymouth, more relatable to those larger scale locations, allowing the viewer to notice the architecture and subjects in a new and cleaner way (no COVID cleanliness pun intended).
Planning for the future of my project
I want my work to be known for its style, I want the viewer to look at my work and know that I have taken those images. I find that established and well known photographers within the street community have a unique style, in which viewers can identify quickly as the work of a certain photographer.
I also plan to make a new body of work to then approach magazines with. As I have had work published previously, I want to inject new life into my project, change up the style and gain a new motivation and passion for my long term vision.
Results and vibes from my first session
When driving to Plymouth I started to feel a rise in my anxiety levels about the visit, which was slightly unexpected as I thought I would feel more excited than anything, although of course there is a level of excitement at my fingertips.
First of all I walked to my usual spots with the independent stores, where I struggled to visualise what I wanted to capture. Later in the day I felt more comfortable and I started to see more potential subjects and interesting architecture, was this because I was feeling more at ease and started to notice more with the right amount of vision? It’s likely, and this is always something I learn from.
My aim of photographing the pub gardens did not work out due to the queues. However the streets were busy, the sun was shining and there was a positive atmosphere, this meant I didn’t get too much hassle. There was just one incident of an individual who was part of a protest who got slightly angry thinking I was from a local paper, once I had explained, he settled.
Overall, I feel great, if you are feeling anxious about returning then I would recommend doing your research, jumping back in and enjoy whatever images you are able to capture, being kind to yourself and keeping your long term goals in mind. The images below are a few from this session that might make it to my project.
Keywords: camera, documentary, fuji, interview, leica, lieca, Matt, Nick, photography, portraiture, q, review, street, Stuart, Turpin
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