Candid Strangers 100/100

If you have read this blog you’ll know that I have a photo project that I started off doing to get me thinking a bit quicker about light, exposure and forcing my hand a little with my camera settings. You’ll also know that I did not want to carry this project over into 2015.

I am pleased to say that I have now completed my 100 candid strangers project on Flickr.

I have chosen a woman in a Burka, Burkha, Burqa, (sorry but I’m not sure of the correct spelling and the dictionary I checked with has all three spellings). The reason for using this image is not to be controversial. I have no intention of making any political statement but….. But is the ‘However’ and the point you know someone is going to say something that is most likely to be the contradiction of what they have just said.

That really is not my intention. The reason for this image is two fold:

1) The project is about capturing portraits of strangers. The woman is a stranger and always will be. We do not move in the same circles and we are unlikely to.

Even if she was my neighbour I doubt I would recognise her again.

We are all affected by politics and the lady and I may have many of our personal political opinions in common but I will never know. Something else we have in common….. We breath, sleep, eat & excrete (that is the polite version).

2) This is just from personal experience that I have found on the few occasions were I have tried to photograph anyone of a middle eastern appearance, be that male or female, it is a nightmare.

Other people will stand in my way, the subjects tend to spot me quickly and either cover their face or look away. The rare moments when I was not noticed by the subject, other bystanders would draw their attention to me by shouting and pointing.

I’m not totally sure what to make of it.

It could be down to recent wars and the current paranoia of anti terror laws and actions. If it is then maybe I should have been taking pictures of the people that were so keen to make the subjects I was photographing aware of my presence?

If I’m not photographing them or people they are with why would they object so much to me taking photos. That modern saying about CCTV and carrying ID cards “if you’re doing nothing wrong you’ve nothing to worry about” crept into my head a few times even though I do think we have far too much CCTV. I’d rather have police on the streets preventing crime than CCTV that in many cases is not really that useful. It was a short lived but recurring thought.

What does strike me as odd is that I have not had this from other people, whatever their nationality, colour, religion……. It makes no odds to me who I photograph. I’m photographing the people around me. The people that look interesting or are in a nice light. If you look through the 100 images this will be pretty clear that there is no hidden agenda.

So reason two is that this particular image although could be better has made me look a bit deeper at street photography in general.

Walk along Edgware Road between the A40 flyover and Marble Arch and I stand out like a sore thumb. White, middle aged and sometimes picked out as ex-forces or a police officer. I didn’t blend into the environment and that may be the reason for the issues. I am curious about this because I have seen other people taking photos and not getting any hassle.

Maybe it is because it is a DSLR and it is just a bit bulky for street photography.

I’ve been pointed into the direction of Leica or Fuji for street portraits and general street photography.

If its an area of photography I intend on pursuing I will certainly need to look more into the costs of buying another camera kit.

After all that waffle here is 100/100.

IMG_4644

As always, constructive comments are welcome and thank you for visiting my blog.

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James

Abbey Road, London.

In my quest to finish finish my 100 candid strangers project on Flickr I headed to a zebra crossing on Abbey Road in London with the intention of capturing candid stranger 99/100.

IMG_4659

It just a normal crossing and there are lots of them around the UK & there is nothing unusual about someone crossing the road. Think again!

IMG_4663

This zebra crossing at Abbey Road is kind of famous as it appears on a Beatles album cover.

I can not tell you how long I have spent sat in a car or on a motorbike waiting for tourists to take their photos. I would estimate hours and hours. Maybe even days!

Hell, it might even be a month of my life [yes thats an exaggeration] wasted sitting in traffic thanks to this rather standard british road crossing.

IMG_4655

IMG_4692

IMG_4658

IMG_4670

IMG_4675

As a motorist this section of road is extremely frustrating but sitting there as a photographer there was actually a palpable sense of fun. So many people were getting so much joy out of using the crossing.

If you want to get an idea of how busy this crossing can be, especially through the summer months, this link will take you to The Abbey Road Studios Camera. If you do visit the crossing why not wave into the camera and say hello to the world.

So folks, take your photo, have your fun but be sensible; if you look like you want to cross, motorists will stop.

Please also remember that people are trying to get to work, meetings, appointments or home, so think about avoiding rush hour because all you will do is get people frustrated. If you are there during rush hour try to be quick!

I have to say that after watching the little video at the start of my post and spending such a short time observing people at the crossing, I will never look at it in the same way. It definitely has a good vibe (when not sat in a car). I may even do another little project there?

Thanks for stopping.

Jim Jimmy James

Snaps

I might have said this before, if I have then I apologise for being repetitive. I don’t get architectural photography.

Thats not to say that I do not like it, I just can not get it.

Not that I have gone out of my way to read any useful hints and tips but when I look at architectural images I like, I’m just not that good at breaking down the image and figuring out what it is that I like and why they look so different from mine.

Occasionally I will just point at something and click my button just to see what I get, sometimes its just to see what sort of reflections I capture, other times it is to see what I spot in the image that I didn’t see while taking the photo.

Does that sound odd? If so, I have included a snap of reflections from two windows running along The River Thames, there is a little security tag on the brickwork where the security guard uses one of those bar code scanners. Easy to remove from the image if I wanted to but also something I hadn’t noticed until looking at the image on my laptop.

I normally just delete these pictures and only take them to force myself to look a bit harder when I’m in the position to take my time composing an image.

So its just a handful of images that I was going to delete but decided to add as a post so I can review my progress throughout next year. Yes that means I will be planning a few architectural shoots for 2015.

IMG_2737 IMG_2995 IMG_2999 IMG_3318  IMG_3400 IMG_3519 IMG_3532 IMG_3534

Thanks for looking,

Jim Jimmy James.

Learning from seeing

No images of mine here today. Its just a little reflective diary entry.

Ages ago I wrote a small bit on fashion and how I intended to go and see the David Bailey’s Star Dust exhibition.

I discovered rather mixed opinions of him as a person but generally everyone liked his work. After attending the show I can not say that I was overly impressed.

Please don’t get me wrong, he obviously knows what he is doing with a camera. I loved some of the portraiture but I walked away not understanding how his photography stood out from any other good photographer. Perhaps my expectations were too high.

What I did notice was that he has a very definite and natural style. Maybe that is why he is so highly regarded; the ability to capture the person rather than just the public persona that person wants us to see.

I meant to blog about this ages ago and for one reason or another it didn’t happen. Maybe I felt a tad self conscious being a novice and talking about such a well known photographer….But guess what…Even us newbies have an opinion.

I discussed it at that ten week class I was attending at the time and was met by gasps all around the room, one raised eyebrow with a rye smile and what I felt was an approval to go on speaking from the lecturer.

I wasn’t trying to be controversial then and neither am I trying to be now. I explained that I rather think circumstance and luck might have had more or at least an equal weighing with his ability as a photographer.

He has produced some iconic images of people that were in his social circle.. luck, circumstances and ability. Thats a good thing and I’m not knocking that. What ever happened after that would have been down to hard work, charming his client base, putting in the hours and ultimately producing the images.

The response from the other students of varying ages and abilities was almost amusing.

Saying I thought he was talented and got some great results was totally overlooked.

I felt like some thought I’d lost the plot by speaking about such a renowned photographer… Who was I to say such a thing. Well I am me, just a person but a person entitled to an opinion whether or not I’d ever even picked up a camera.

I don’t even think it was a criticism. I’m sure as hell positive the man wouldn’t give a toss what I thought and would almost certainly agree with me about the role of luck and opportunity, along with hard work being key factors.

What you do with that opportunity once your foot is in the door is down to you. David Bailey clearly did very well.

I still chuckle to myself about that moment in class.

Anyway I didn’t mean to ramble about all of that…..The reason I went to Bailey’s star dust was to learn.

I wanted to look at his images and feel inspired. Although some of the images failed to do this, I learned a great deal.

I think exhibitions are a great way for us to learn; we get to see what we like, what we don’t like and hear opinions of others so that we can learn what is generally appealing to the masses. It really is just a matter of taste.

The reason I’m making a note of it now is because I went to the World Press Photo Expo at the CCCB in Barcelona. I walked around feeling uninspired until I caught myself say something……. It then dawned on me that I was viewing these images in completely the wrong perspective.

What I said was something along the lines of “some of these are composed so badly, how on earth did they get shortlisted”.

A little further I spotted some images I had previously seen as part of a documentary exhibition in London and then something started to niggle at me; the thought I may have been looking at the images in the wrong frame of mind.

The winning image by John Stanmeyer started to make more sense and then I came across an image by a photographer called Goran Tomasevic (Serbia, Reuters). It won first prize for spot news stories; people were sheltering from debris and shrapnel from a bomb blast.

That was when it hit home. Very different circumstances and nowhere near as dangerous but just like my photo-essay that I did with The Royal Marine Commandos, I had very limited choice with regards to composition; these were news stories! Huh!!!! The clue was in the title!!

Feeling a bit of a tit, I went back to the first image and worked my way around the gallery looking at the images with fresh eyes and a changed respect for the photographers and the lengths that people will go to for us to see images of issues affecting people around the world.

Lesson learned: look with open eyes and look at the images in context!

Thanks for stopping.

Jim Jimmy James.

Photographic dilemma.

This is just a very short clip about Gordon Parks. It was part of a WordPress article by Photofocus.

There is a nice little story that starts at about 4 mins 30 secs into the interview and it reminds me of starting my first basic dSLR course. I managed to get a lucky break and was invited to photograph a DJ at the birthday party of an England rugby player.

I had no idea what I was doing with the camera and I didn’t have the knowledge or confidence to overcome the challenges of such a difficult environment. (Night Club setting). That was back in September last year.

While there I had an opportunity to photograph some people of interest but chose not to. I blogged about this at the time and made comment on how it would have been inappropriate of me to misuse the generous opportunity given to me by the DJ…..Its not what I was there for and I’d like to think if I approached this DJ again he would remember the integrity shown.

Soon after this event I also took some images of a number of street homeless and was asked by one female not to use anything where her face was showing. This is because she was escaping an abusive relationship. When I arrived home I deleted all the images with her face in view so that I never run the risk of using them in the future.

In both situations I would do the same again, it seems like the ethical thing to do.

Gordon Parks talks very briefly about trust. Since first picking up a camera I always thought integrity plays an important role in the responsibility of photographers and hoped that I wouldn’t get caught up in some dilemma about what to publish and what not to. For the most part I have not had any real concerns; I did feel uncomfortable taking some of my candid stranger shots but I get the impression everyone goes through this.

Now the following picture I took in Köln. It just looked like it would be a reasonably nice candid shot of a couple in a bar that I was going to use as part of a project on Flickr.IMG_4512-2

Then all of a sudden I had a little wobble regarding the ethics in photography.

What is the story inside this image? I don’t know, they are strangers.

What is the story I want you the viewer to see? Again, I don’t know. I just thought the light and the mood would make a nice image so I took a photo.

What if they are not a couple but have respective partners – husband or wife at home. What if they are a couple and ………. you see where I am going.

The image could tell a story of two friends, two colleagues, two busy people, a couple or an extra marital liaison.

I have no issue taking the image, its a public place. I am not betraying their trust because I know nothing of them, I don’t know who they are. Its just a candid shot of two strangers.

However, I wouldn’t want one of my images to cause any home disruptions so maybe I shouldn’t use it.

Then I throw into the mix the actual odds of either of these people or anyone that knows them seeing this image; yes I know that even though it is a different country the world is a much smaller place with technology, but the odds are pretty slim. However its now a dilemma because I gave it so much thought.

I shared my feelings on this with my fellow students on a class forum that is unfortunately not very active. Only one student replied. Her conclusion was pretty much the same as mine. Its in public go ahead and use it but if anyone can prove it is them and asks for it to be removed; remove it.

It took me a long time to come to that conclusion and I still wonder if it is really that simple.

The only other option is to stop photographing people and you’re all far too interesting for that to happen.

Thanks for stopping and reading.

Jim Jimmy James

Travelling light…with a light!

This is a follow up from my previous post regarding traveling light.

A recent visit to Barcelona left me thinking I should have brought more lenses with me.

After asking what the best set up is for a photographer to travel light, a few people have suggested a 35mm lens for street style photography and it is looking increasingly like a prime 35 is going to find its way into my kit bag.

However, sometimes its about taking an image that is further away and needing at least a 200mm focal length.

I also found that in some places I wished I’d had a tripod. Huh! I actually took one away with me but then I didn’t want to carry it around everywhere.

So moving on from the holiday snaps to gig photography. When I read about concert photography it seems to me that the ideal set up is two cameras with two different focal length lenses. After all there are numerous reasons you don’t really want to be changing lenses in front of a stage.

At gigs the light ranges from less than ideal to total crap and in many mid to large sized venues the general rule is “Three songs – No flash”. Non the less I have learned a valuable lesson…… Take a bloody flash with you!

When do you get invited back stage to hang out with a band?

When do you get an opportunity to photograph a band getting ready back stage?

When do you get a chance to get a good back stage portrait?

Not often but it can and did happen…. The Adicts are a punk band that have been around for years. I am in my mid 40s and I remember some of their songs since my late-ish teenage years.

I’ve always said that until I started learning to play bass and guitar that I was blinkered in my music taste and preferred old ska, two tone and the more heavy punk bands such as The Anti-Nowhere and so on.

I only really knew The Adicts from songs on the radio, friends mix tapes (Mix Tapes a thing of the past!) and one or two compilation albums. I liked their stuff but unfortunately they were never on my radar as a band I had to see.

I say unfortunately because I have missed out on years of great showmanship. A friend recently asked me to go and see them at The 100 club in London but I couldn’t make it. So I first watched them perform live in Berlin this year and was blown away. Musically tight, a bunch of lads on stage looking like they were loving every minute of it and visually…. How do I describe them visually?

A mix of clockwork orange and the joker, with a hint of mardi gras they were colorful and theatrical. Maybe it would be best described as comedia dell’arte.

I didn’t take many photos because I was so distracted I just wanted to watch the show unfold. Simply Brilliant!

I’ve been keeping an eye out for them performing in London since that first live show… Nothing.

So, my wife and I had some time off, we had plans to see a bit more of Germany at sometime and The Adicts were playing in Wiesbaden. That was it. We didn’t need another reason, tickets booked and off we went.

The venue was heaving and I had no chance of making my way along the front of the stage to try and get any images. As with the previous gig, the lively crowed were all singing along and the show was spectacularly spectacular.

There was of course the added bonus of being invited back stage with permission to take some images….. Great but guess what? I was travelling light with no bloody flash!!!!!

I took a handful of images back stage but the light was so dim it required a high ISO setting which left the images extremely noisy. Some could be saved with a quick black and white conversion but others will require a bit more practice with the post processing fine tuning.

I managed to get a few reasonable shots of the gig but it was difficult not to put the camera down and go and join in the fun with the audience. I have to say that I will definitely be seeing The Adicts perform again and they are at the top of my list of bands as a “Must See Band”.

Back stage with The Adicts. The only half decent light was over a broken seat.

Back stage with The Adicts. The only half decent light was over a broken seat.

IMG_3686 IMG_3690 IMG_3703 IMG_3704 IMG_3891 IMG_4328

On a personal note, they couldn’t have been more friendly, welcoming and engaging.

Sincere and warm hearted thanks to Monkey and the rest of The Adicts for their hospitality.

(Gents, if you happen to see this and you need a UK based photographer….)

Lesson learned: Travel light but take a light!

Kind regards,

Jim Jimmy James.

Love locks

Love locks create some debate; some hate them and some love them.

The idea is to symbolise a couples eternal love. Some don’t like the idea and would argue that they find it a symbol of oppression.

My personal opinion is that these love locks are simply a modern version of carving yours and your lovers initials or name into a tree or an old park bench. Is that romantic or just a simple act of vandalism?

Some cities remove the love locks and others just leave them alone. There are arguments that they are a form of vandalism and I have read articles suggesting the extra weight causes structural problems to these fences and bridges.

I can definitely understand removing locks if they are causing damage or weakness to structures and also when they are placed on beautiful or ornate bridges but on a recent visit to Köln (Cologne) we walked across a love lock bridge that crossed The Rhine; I think they added to the aesthetics of what would be a boring mesh pale green fence.

Love locks on a pedestrian and rail bridge in Köln crossing The River Rhine.

Love locks on a pedestrian and rail bridge in Köln crossing The River Rhine.

Spotted a young couple attaching a lock as I approached.

Spotted a young couple attaching a lock as I approached.

IMG_4603
IMG_4606

Young couple throwing love lock keys into The River Rhine. Cologne. November 2014.

Young couple throwing love lock keys into The River Rhine. Cologne. November 2014.

All images taken candidly at a much higher ISO than I would have preferred but using a flash would have alerted the couple that they were being photographed. I did approach them after and emailed them the images yesterday evening.

I wish them luck for their future.

Thanks for stopping.

Jim Jimmy James