Monday, April 04, 2005

Iraq, Iran, IKEA - what's the difference?

Originally uploaded by StefZ.

Getting bored with photography and Flickr now. Time to get back to some serious blogging. Yes, blogging, it'€™s not some silly, faddish techno craze like playing with Flickr is it?

The photo ennui thing set in strong last Saturday. Ian and myself had met up in Clerkenwell Green to catch the start of a migrants rights march that was planned to make it€™s way from Clerkenwell over to the East End.

The deju vu was so thick you could cut it, pop it between two slices of toasted soda bread and sell it at Borough market for three pounds a pop. Same demonstrators, same policemen, same photographers, even the same blinking costumes and banners. It was a migrants rights march wasn'€™t it? So how come there were people packing Stop the War, Anti-Globalisation, and Anti-Pollution placards, recycled from the last time we all got together about two weeks ago?

To cap it all there was only a handful of demonstrators and they were probably outnumbered by the combined police/ street photographer presence. Even more so than the Stop the War march last month, I sensed embarrassment in the police ranks at there being so many of them in attendance at so lame a protest.

The demonstration season is cranking up to full speed now. There'€™s an anti-racism march in town next Saturday. Presumably all the gang will meet up on that one as well.

I doubt if I'€™ll be there. I'€™ve had enough for the time being. It'€™s getting to the point where I honestly can't tell the photos from each demonstration apart.

Yet there are so many photographers at these events; professional and amateur. Why? I can only conclude that they turn up in the hope of catching some photogenic argy bargy. Attending a street demonstration potentially offers the chance of capturing some full-on violence, without going to the effort or risk of flying over to a war zone or even catching a bus to Tottenham. The problem is that these marches are now so over-policed and the general public so numbed by a spin-driven, consumerist lifestyle that the chances of any action are minuscule. Everyone'€™s watching Sky Sports or at IKEA on a Saturday afternoon and you'€™re much more likely to witness some hard core mob violence in IKEA these days than you'€™re even going to do watching a procession of lettuce-crunchers mumbling away to themselves in Clerkenwell.

We left the march and strolled around Kings Cross / St Pancras. Photography-wise the landscape improved, but only a little. We took the usual photos of street graffiti, abandoned sofas and council blocks. Eventually we found ourselves in yet another old cemetery. Oh yes, the uninspired photographers' friend.

At one point I got to thinking, 'why I do this thing?'. Watching Ian stalk an elderly, wheelchair-bound couple amongst the tombstones with a Leica, it was obvious to me that this is all a throwback to the primeval hunting instinct. You spend several hours creeping around, harnessing all your senses to identify and approach worthy quarry and then you return home with your trophies. In that respect street photography shares common characteristics with train spotting, stamp collecting and, er, hunting.

Lately, worthy quarry has been hard to find. Or maybe I'€™m just tired of bagging the photographic equivalent of a sackful of squirrels every time I go out.

The lowest point in the day came when I found myself photographing a sign that said '˜St Pancras Cruising Club'€™. It had no aesthetic merit whatsoever and I was only taking the shot because of the weak double entendre. Whilst taking the picture, a kind old guy came to the gate and offered to open it because he thought I was photographing the building behind the sign. I declined his offer as politely as I could, uttered some bullshit about abstract photography, took a hurried snap and walked away, feeling about two inches tall.

Is that what my hobby has degraded to? Photographing sign posts because they include unwitting references to gay slang?

No, back to the old blogging for me for a while, Blogger permitting


Anonymous said...


"Imagine all the people"

Your images of day-to-day London full of people 'hidden in plain sight' are the most interesting.

Marches, tourist-spots and cemeteries provide 'good cover' for our photographic intent, but the really interesting folks are found in-between.

Interesting street photography is candid, stealth-photography: a small camera held in the palm of the hand with the focus pre-set.

Try that on a busy high street: snap those Londoners 'hidden in plain sight' doing their job.

It won't be boring: the threat of assault alone will prevent that from happening :-).

So blog on ... and flickr too.

You do well at both. Thanks!!

Stef said...

You do, of course, have a point. I have discussed this with a couple of folks over the last week and, yes, we probably will revert to a spot of 'classic' street photography for a while with reduced kit. Thanks for the thoughts.