Telechargé par Daniel Hamzagic de Carvalho


I S S U E 10
• Advice and tips
from the masters
• Photography
to inspire you
• The essential
you need
One of photography’s most important roles is to create a visual
record of the society in which we live. Our understanding of what
life was like for people in any given time and place over the past
150 years comes largely from photos taken at the time.
Street photography is about capturing candid moments of
everyday life in public places, and is strongly embedded in the DNA of image
making – indeed, some of the earliest photographs ever taken were of street
scenes. It’s also a genre associated with some of the greatest photographers of
the 20th century, including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Martin Parr,
Diane Arbus and Vivian Maier.
Documentary photography is a related genre that’s more focused on telling
in-depth stories exploring events, issues, groups or individuals, usually with their
consent and participation. Some documentary photographers have dedicated an
entire lifetime to a single subject, but it could be as little as a few hours.
Both genres remain very popular today, and it’s not hard to see why. They’re very
accessible; you don’t need to jet off to some exotic location, and you don’t need
a lot of expensive kit. Just a single camera and standard lens will do, and often
the smaller and more discreet the better. They offer endless variety, too – telling
the many facets of a story may involve calling upon skill-sets in portraiture,
landscapes and even action photography.
This packed guide is a celebration of street and documentary photography, with
lots of practical advice, insights and inspiration from some of the world’s leading
photographers. I hope it inspires you to take to the streets with your camera, or
start a personal project. Good luck!
Nigel Atherton, Editor
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6 Stories of the street
Leading street photographers share their words of wisdom
12 Know your rights
Get informed about the legalities of street photography
18 Backlighting brilliance
Denis Thorpe’s important record of northern working life
22 Get the shot
Three experts reveal their street photography secrets
28 At the water’s edge
Four photographers who studied Britain’s piers and proms
34 The people person
How Niall McDiarmid attempts to tell the UK’s story in portraits
38 Something of the night
Mike Crawford talks us through his Nocturne project
42 The future of iN-PUBLiC
iN-PUBLiC’s role in popularising street photography
46 Never forgotten
How the late Tish Murtha’s important work is being revived
50 Street view
David Gibson on the ethics and frustrations of street shooting
56 Six steps to success
Peter Dench explains his approach to candid photography
60 The way we were
Homer Sykes on 50 years of documenting the British
64 Facetime
Dave Fieldhouse’s project looks at people on their phones
66 The shape of the city
Tony Sellen talks about his skilful B&W technique
70 Life without mirrors
Using mirrorless systems for observing everyday life
76 Sold up the river
Mike Seaborne’s document on the loss of the Isle of Dogs
80 Exploring new avenues
How three pros adapted during the Covid pandemic
86 Gilden edge
Peter Dench introduces himself to the work of Bruce Gilden
Dod Miller talks about his book, Birdmen
92 Street smarts
Why a smartphone is perfect for capturing life on the street
88 Miller time
‘Grandma with
Grandchild’ by
Alexey Titarenko
Stories of
the street
Leading street photographers share their
words of wisdom, while Geoff Harris takes
a look at current trends and best practice
Mobile phone
Smartphones are capable of taking
great street shots – they are light,
portable and discreet. Some
models have similar levels of
control to a camera.
photographer Eugène Atget was
taking images of a Paris he saw
expanding and developing quickly.
As well as capturing old buildings,
he was keen to record ordinary
people on the streets, and how they
lived their lives. Atget went on to
influence future generations of big
names, including Man Ray and
the surrealists, Henri Cartier-
Mirrorless camera
nly a few decades ago, the
term ‘street photography’
didn’t really exist. But
while more formally
posed portraits and urban or rural
landscapes were fashionable in the
19th century, a lot of early travel
and documentary photographers
were, of course, taking photographs
of street scenes. By 1897, French
Delivering great results without
weighing you down, mirrorless
cameras are a great choice for street.
The Fujifilm X-T3 can shoot 30 fps and
offers a resolution of 26.1MP.
Carry plenty of memory cards
and spare batteries with you
when you’re out shooting. If
your camera has a double
card slot, use it as backup.
Prime lens
A quality prime, such as the
Zeiss 35mm f/2.8, can be
great for street photography.
Instead of using a zoom, be
brave and move in closer.
Spare batteries
‘Untitled,’ Bondi
Beach, Sydney,
Australia, taken
by Marina Sersale
on an iPhone
Shoulder bag
A bag should be comfortable,
waterproof, and discreet. The
Billingham Hadley Small Pro’s
inserts can be removed to
convert it into a ‘casual’ bag.
Bresson, Diane Arbus, William Klein
and so on. Martin Parr, arguably
Britain’s best-known photographer, along
with David Bailey and Don McCullin, is
also best known for his street work.
Fast forward to the present day, and street
photography now tends to be seen as a
discreet, candid type of image making that
records the complexities and quirks of our
modern, urbanised age, often using visual
puns and wry juxtapositions in creative
new ways. Or it can go down a more
documentary road, with the emphasis
on recording the decisive moments of
modern life as it unfolds, or just interesting
characters you see on the pavement.
Smartphones have revolutionised the
genre too, and to an extent, everyone is
now a street photographer. This is not to
say that the craft of street photography
is easy to acquire, however, and there is
a big demand for tuition from experts.
is only fitting, as street photography is very
much a vibrant and evolving art form.
Their images not only record modern
society but also ask questions about it,
arguably making street work more relevant
than many other forms of contemporary
photography. Also, the ‘street’ itself will
often be different every time you visit it,
even more so in fast-developing parts of
the world such as China, Southeast Asia
and India. What approach you follow is
very much a matter of personal choice, and
Masters of Street Photography reveals diverse
ways of working. Some leading exponents,
such as Jesse Marlow, are drawn to the use
of abstract shapes and strong colours,
following a ‘graphic’ route; others, such as
Rui Palha, are more about capturing
atmosphere and emotion, with
‘Six Panels’ (2009) taken in Melbourne, Australia, by Jesse Marlow
‘Untitled’, Manhattan, New York,
taken by Ed Peters
Inspiration from books
You don’t need to sign up to a workshop
to enjoy street photography, however, and
there are some great books on the subject,
including one from Ammonite Press.
Masters of Street Photography does a great
job of exploring how 16 leading lights of
the genre go about their craft, and while
it can never be the last word on this very
diverse subject, it gives a great overview of
current trends and best practice. As editor
Rob Yarham explains, ‘Be it a decisive
moment or not, street photographs work
best when they capture the emotional and
context of their subject matter.’
This said, there is an incredibly diverse
range of street photographers included in
the book, who shoot in different locations
all over the world. This international scope
Public right of way
Pictures of people
If you’re on a public right of way – such as a
public pavement, footpath or public highway
– you’re free to take photographs for personal
and commercial use so long as you’re not
causing an obstruction to other users or
falling foul of anti-terrorism laws or the
Official Secrets Act.
Photographers can use their pictures of
people taken in public places as they wish,
including for commercial gain. While this is
reassuring, common sense does need to be
applied. A lot of pedestrians in the UK won’t
react favourably if you go right up to them and
shove a long lens in their face.
Sensitive subjects
Seek clarification
Know your rights
Take care where children are involved, and
you also need to be sensitive to cultural
and religious differences (when taking
photographs of Muslim women, for example).
For a fuller guide to your rights under the law,
see this excellent page on the Urban 75
website at
If you are questioned by a member of the
public, try to remain respectful and be
prepared to explain yourself. Most people will
question your motives out of sheer curiosity,
so don’t be too quick to judge. If someone
suggests you are breaking the law (and you
know otherwise), ask for clarification.
We’ve also put together a comprehensive
guide of your legal rights on our website at, which will give you a
better chance of staying on the straight and
narrow. Disclaimer: this article is not a
comprehensive legal guide, so always seek
specialist legal advice if you have concerns.
Advice from
the masters
Alan Schaller
‘There are certain things that can
be enhanced in black & white,
such as shape, structure, line and
even human expression. I made it my mission
to do something fresh – a modern twist on
B&W. I started off emulating others but found
my own direction once I had the skills.’
Alexey Titarenko
‘For long exposures you need to
work with a tripod. Shooting with a
tripod in the street may get you into
jail, even in New York. I developed strategies
for keeping a low profile!’
Marina Sersale
‘Be patient: if you wait long
enough, something interesting is
bound to happen. Be ready with
your camera or phone, and when you’re at
home do your homework. Study other
photographers who inspire you.’
Jay Maisel
‘Humour is the saviour in a horribly
conflicted world. I like to have a
good time, and to laugh. I’m not a
“funny” photographer like Elliott Erwitt, but if
I see positive stuff it’s going to get way more
play from me than something depressing.’
Martin U Waltz
‘Darkroom techniques are very
exciting artistic tools. For example,
reducing the silver adds depth or
light; toning, if used properly, can change an
image to what you’d call in music a major or a
minor key. And it’s the same for density and
contrast. But the process is very intuitive.’
Ed Peters
‘I most use 28mm and 35mm
lenses. They’re good for juggling
multiple elements. I also use
rangefinder cameras. Unlike a single lens
reflex camera, I can prefocus the lens, stop
it down and have a good idea of what will be
in focus. When I look through the viewfinder,
everything is clear and sharp, which makes it
easier to deal with complicated compositions.’
Dimitri Mellos
‘A photograph should be
emotionally complicated, both
in terms of the people depicted
and the emotions it evokes in the viewer.
I am more interested in images that pose
questions which remain suspended, rather
than ones that provide simplistic,
straightforward messages. I abhor crude
visual puns and simplistic jokey images.’
‘Untitled,’ taken by Alan
Schaller in London
powerful portraiture. As this
fascinating book reveals, it’s really
about capturing what you find interesting
and compelling about your subject
matter, be it in Birmingham or Beijing.
Spoiled for choice
In terms of equipment, street
photographers are spoiled for choice.
At the entry level, most modern
smartphones are more than capable of
taking great street shots, particularly as
the best ones now offer similar levels of
control to a standalone camera.
Meanwhile, innovative features such as
Night Sight on the Google Pixel phones,
for example, enable you to get great
results when the sun goes down. The
other advantage of using a phone is that
it’s nearly always with you.
Moving up a level, there is now a huge
range of light and portable mirrorless
cameras which deliver great results
without weighing you down or instantly
marking you out as a photographer; one
immediately thinks of Fujifilm’s nifty and
pocketable X series of APS-C mirrorless
models, or the classically designed and
compact Olympus OM-D line-up,
complete with sharp lenses you can fit in
your hand. While a lot of full-frame
mirrorless cameras are getting as bulky as
DSLRs, good options for high-resolution
images include the Sony A7 III with a
smallish prime, such as the Zeiss 35mm
f/2.8 or 55mm f/1.8. Your choice of lens is
obviously important, and while the great
street photographers of the past, such as
Cartier-Bresson, favoured classic 35mm
and 50mm primes, a reasonably discreet
zoom gives you more flexibility. There are
now many more mirrorless and compact
cameras with silent shutters too, which
makes the street photographer’s job much
easier. In many ways, gear is the easy part.
It’s important to deal briefly with the
elephant in the room (or on the street),
namely the legal aspects. Many potential
street photographers are put off by
worries about attracting the wrong kind
of attention, be it from aggrieved subjects
who don’t want to be photographed,
through to security guards and the police.
Others are just shy. Every country is
different, but in the UK at least, you have
more rights than you probably realise
(see The Law of the Street, previous page).
If you are in any doubt, or encounter
any problems while shooting, always
seek professional legal advice.
Finishing touches
Finally, get some business cards made. If
one of your subjects does take offence,
they will probably calm down when you
freely identify yourself as a serious
photographer or offer to share your
pictures with them (perverts and terrorists
are unlikely to offer you their card, right?)
Never feel you need to be shifty or
somehow feel guilty about following
the endlessly rewarding pursuit of street
photography. The photographers in
this book certainly don’t.
Masters of Street Photography
is edited by Rob Yarham,
published by Ammonite Press,
ISBN-13: 9781781453605.
It is available from all good
booksellers for £25 (hardback).
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Know your
Street photography would be more popular if
people felt more informed about the legal side,
reckons Damien Demolder. He updates us, and
considers street photography’s future
Street shooting
can capture a time
and a place
through fashions
and behaviour.
Shot on a Ricoh
GR lll
Protestors often value you shooting
them as it helps get the message out
There is no law that prevents us photographing anyone
in a public place, whatever you read online
am regularly told by other
photographers that shooting
this or that is illegal and that
they avoid street photography
because they don’t want to get arrested.
Sometimes it takes quite a lot of effort
for me to convince them that their fears
are unfounded, and it always makes me
wonder where these ill-informed ideas
come from and who spreads them.
Terror threats in the wake of 9/11 and the
attacks in this country for a while did make
life difficult for photographers, as suddenly
taking pictures in public places was seen as
a security risk by some police officers, and
lots of photographers were wrongfully
stopped. Fortunately, that time has passed.
It seems, though, the hangover from those
days of suspicion still has an influence on
some photographers – though not, it
seems, on the public. New vague rules on
‘data protection’ also complicated the
picture for a while, while recent poorly
thought-out moves by Twitter have also
brought up questions about the rights and
expectations of privacy of the public.
In truth though, despite all the noise,
nothing has changed. We can still
photograph almost anything we want to,
and we still need to be careful about the
context in which those images are used.
This article intends to examine the state of
street photography today, and to reassure.
in the street as this type of photography can
include indoor public places, cafes, beaches,
shops, parks, churches and anywhere there
is human activity.
For me, street photography includes
people. That isn’t an absolute rule, but
I would expect about 99% of my pictures
to include if not an actual person, their
shadow or some mark that a person is, or
has been, in the scene.
Street photography is important because
it provides social commentary for us to see
humanity as it is now – and when we look
What is street photography?
back, to see how it was then. As much as
The term ‘street photography’ covers a
street pictures can be amusing, visually
everything from photographing graffiti
stimulating and enjoyable to take, they also
on walls to in-your-face pictures of people
provide a historic record. And of course,
going about their business. Along the way it great art has its own intrinsic value.
takes in semi-architectural work, portraiture,
I have met photographers who question
social documentary, performance and a bit the ethics of pointing a camera at people
of fine art. Pictures don’t have to be taken
going about their business, and who suggest
that in itself is wrong. When they are
reminded that Cartier-Bresson was a street
photographer they say, ‘Oh yes, of course’.
It is easier to see the value in today’s old
pictures than it is to see the worth of new
pictures that will one day be old, and
where would we be without having had the
likes of Cartier-Bresson, Vivian Maier, Saul
Leiter and Dorothea Lange?
The fear
When I visit camera clubs for a street
photography talk, one of the first things
I ask is, ‘Who here shoots street pictures?’
Depending on the club, the number of
hands that get raised varies from none to
a very low number. This puzzled me, as
I’d been booked to talk about street
photography to clubs in which very few
photographers were practising it. After
a while, I tried following that question
Street photography doesn’t
need to be any more than
human life as it happens
with, ‘Who doesn’t shoot street
but would like to?’ – and then the
majority of hands would go up. With street
photography, it seems there’s a barrier that
prevents people who would really like to go
out to shoot from actually doing so. That
barrier is fear laced with uncertainty – fear
of offending people, and uncertainty about
how they stand with the law and ethics.
Regular readers of Amateur Photographer
may remember a period in which
photographers of all kinds were being
stopped by the police when taking pictures
in public. During that time, AP, and
especially its late news editor Chris
Cheesman, worked very hard with the
Home Office and police to establish exactly
what the law was on taking pictures in
public places, and ensuring that the
Drunk students
enacting Hogarth
pictures in Bath
– again, capture
life as it unfolds
message got out to the bobbies on the
beat. The fact was that despite there being
a heightened terror alert and a general
frenzy of suspicion, there were no laws
that meant it was illegal for anyone to take
pictures of pretty much anything they
wanted to. And when that message finally
got out, photographers were left alone, and
largely remain left alone today.
And if it is the fear of what the people
you are photographing will feel about it,
be reassured that if you use common sense,
they won’t even notice you are there.
Ethics of street photography
As Nick Dunmur of the AOP says, whatever
the rules and the law states we can and
can’t do, it is more important to make sure
we ourselves are happy with our own
behaviour. We need to self-regulate to
ensure that we don’t shoot situations and
people that leave us feeling uncomfortable
or regretful afterwards. The boundaries for
this will be different for everyone because
we all have different sensitivities – however,
the basic premise is that we really want to
avoid feeling ashamed of ourselves.
For me, this means I try not to exploit,
make fun of or humiliate anyone. That
doesn’t mean I can’t notice and
photograph funny behaviour, funny dress
sense or funny expressions, but it should
all be done to show the human condition
and our diversity – and in good humour.
Not exploiting people for me means,
for example, that I don’t shoot homeless
people – unless in doing so I can help
them. If I’m taking a picture of a
It is not illegal to photograph
children – and funny faces
can be highly rewarding
The legal angle
WE SPOKE to Nick Dunmur, the legal
advisor at the Association of Photographers
(AOP), for some general advice regarding
street photography. ‘To be clear from the
start, there are no laws in the UK
preventing anyone from photographing
anything, or indeed anyone else (note:
including children), in a public place. The
issues start with, firstly, defining and
understanding what exactly is a “public
place” and secondly from the use of the
resulting photographs. One cannot take
photographs of things for criminal or
terrorist purposes, for example, and one
should not use an image of an individual
to advertise a product or service without
proper permission from that individual
(often called a “model release”).
‘So, to reiterate, as long as the
photographer is on public land or in
a public space, then there is nothing
stopping them from making a photograph
of anything or anyone. It’s the resultant
use of that photograph that can cause
problems. However, it is worth raising the
issue of ethics here too – just because
one can do something, does not mean
disadvantaged person just to get the
admiration of my viewers then I’m surely
heading down the wrong path.
The trick here is to actually think about
what you are doing and to not be driven
just to think that because you’ve seen
pictures of homeless people taken by
other photographers that they are fair
game. You need to take the situation and
your intentions into account. I question
myself, and ask, what is motivating me to
take this picture. If the answer is anything
but pleasant, positive or loving, I don’t
press the shutter.
The Twitter ban
Twitter’s recent change in policy regarding
pictures of people whose permission
has not expressly been sought is at
Some buildings
can be protected
by copyright laws,
but that doesn’t
mean we can’t
photograph them
one should. This is particularly pertinent
when thinking about photographing people
and it is always worth putting oneself in
the shoes of the individual(s) about to be
photographed and considering, if the roles
were reversed, how you would feel.
‘Making photos of people on private land
is a different matter. One might be allowed
to make photos in a private space (an art
gallery, say), but because there is in effect
always some sort of contract between you
and the private space you are in you will
always have to comply with requests for you
to stop. If you don’t, you may find yourself in
breach of the terms and conditions of that
space you are in. In short, it will be at the
discretion of the owners of the private land
or space that you are in.
‘Even though a photographer may be on
public land if the subject is in a place that
a person has a reasonable expectation of
privacy, such as inside their home, making
a photograph of them might be a breach
of privacy law, such as it exists in the UK.
Privacy law in the UK is mostly a combination
of the Human Rights Act 1998 (which
incorporates the European Convention on
Human Rights) and case law (individual court
cases which establish precedents for how
a court may view or determine an action).
‘As far as buildings and other property
is concerned, buildings are protected by
copyright, just as other artistic works are (like
photographs), so whilst it is not illegal to
make a photograph of a building that is on
public display due to an exception in s.62 of
the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988
(the bit of law that governs intellectual
property such as copyright), it may be that the
building is also trademarked, which would
prevent the photographer from using that
image to promote another brand, service or
product. It should be clear that whilst the
making of a photograph is, generally
speaking, free from any encumbrance, the
use of that photograph is something that
needs to be considered carefully.’
first quite concerning. As is often the
case when businesses are trying to
protect themselves, they do so with a
sledgehammer when a nutcracker was
all that was needed. As a publisher, Twitter
is officially responsible for everything that
is posted to the platform and it doesn’t
want to have to deal with claims from
people who appear in pictures on the site
who don’t want to be there. The easiest
method of avoiding such situations is to
say that if anyone complains about their
appearance in a picture then it will be
removed from the site.
This is a pretty poor approach for more
than one reason. Firstly, it denies
photographers their rights to publish work
that was created well within the law, but
secondly it allows people caught in the act
of doing something wrong to prevent the
evidence being shared. In fact, I haven’t
heard of any cases where a picture has been
taken down because a regular person feels
their privacy is being infringed, but I have
heard of a lot of cases where complaints are
used to hide crimes, corruption and to
restrict the freedom of speech of journalists
the complainants don’t want to be heard.
I sympathise with Twitter’s sentiments –
‘There are growing concerns about the
misuse of media and information that is
not available elsewhere online as a tool to
harass, intimidate, and reveal the identities
of individuals. Sharing personal media,
such as images or videos, can potentially
violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to
emotional or physical harm. The misuse
of private media can affect everyone, but
can have a disproportionate effect on
women, activists, dissidents, and members
of minority communities. When we receive
a report that a Tweet contains unauthorized
private media, we will now take action in
line with our range of enforcement
options.’ – but disagree with the action.
In the end, the only way your Twitter
account will be suspended is if someone
in your pictures complains to Twitter.
The chances of a regular person seeing
themselves on your account is pretty slim,
and the chance is even slimmer of them
actually complaining about it. Most of the
issues with this policy seem to be in the
USA at the moment, and affect those
covering extremist political activity.
And it is worth remembering that Twitter
is not the only social media platform on
which photographers can post their images.
Breastfeeding mothers
It isn’t law yet, but photographing
breastfeeding mothers without their
consent will become illegal in the UK soon.
A section of the Police, Crime, Sentencing
This is a private space
that feels as though it is
public, so photographers
could be caught out
Some people are
happier shooting
pictures where the
subject can’t be
Shot in a covered
shopping arcade, this
is clearly on private
property – but no one
was bothered that
I was there
‘On private property the owners can make up the rules.
We need to obey them; if you’re asked to stop, you should’
and Courts Bill that’s passing between
the Houses at the moment aims to add
an amendment to the Sexual Offences
Act of 2003 to include photographing a
breastfeeding mother under the Voyeurism
section. If the bill passes with this section
intact it will be an offence to photograph a
mother breastfeeding a child or arranging
her clothes to do so, in a public or a private
place, if you don’t have her permission.
As the amendment will fall under the
Voyeurism section of the Sexual Offences
Act, a degree of sexual gratification must
be behind the act of taking the picture,
so if you shoot a scene and accidentally
include a breastfeeding mother in the
crowd behind your subject I doubt you
will get into trouble – though in theory
you may have to prove that you didn’t
do it on purpose.
While I’m not a big fan of anything
that restricts what we can and can’t
photograph, I’m also an advocate of not
upsetting, exploiting or making people feel
uncomfortable, so putting photographing
unexpecting breastfeeding mothers into
the same category as taking pictures up
skirts and under toilet cubicles is a good
move as far as I’m concerned. It is also a
move that will not have any impact on
what genuine street photographers do.
Private or public property
Although we can pass from public to
private property and back again without
really noticing when we’re out
photographing in the street, we need to
be at least conscious of the difference,
and of which areas are likely to be private.
I suppose most of us don’t think too much
about whether a shopping arcade in town
is private or public property, because for
most people it really doesn’t matter, but
in an arcade, street photographers can
be asked to stop taking pictures. There
might be signs up too that explain that
photography is prohibited.
There may not actually be a sensible
reason for the ban on photography and
if you ask, you might be told ‘data
protection’ or ‘privacy’, but no one will
be able to explain it more fully than that.
However, the reason isn’t as important as
the fact that when on private property the
owners can make up the rules. We need to
obey them and accept the consequences
when we don’t.
Usually, the worst that will happen is that
a person in a high-vis jacket will ask you to
stop taking pictures, so many feel running
that risk makes shooting in these places
worthwhile. If you are asked to stop, you
should, or go and see the manager to find
out if you can get permission to carry on.
It might be surprising to learn that many
buildings are private property not only
inside but also within a sometimes large
margin outside, too. In the city, the border
might be marked by a change of paving or
metal studs in a line on the ground. Other
areas that appear to be public might also be
private, especially in heavily built-up areas.
The Bishopsgate area behind Liverpool
Street station in London, for example, is
private property, even though it appears to
be public, and a significant stretch of the
South Bank along the Thames is also
private. This doesn’t mean that we can’t
take pictures in these places, but it does
mean if we are asked to stop by the owner,
or a representative of the owner, then we
should do so.
Commercial shoots in these areas will
need express permissions and usually
a fee is payable, but that isn’t required
for amateur/tourist photography.
The photographs of Denis Thorpe are an important
record of working life in northern England since 1950.
Keith Wilson hears the stories behind some of them
n the early hours of
26 September 1950, an
underground fire broke out
within the Creswell Colliery
in Derbyshire, trapping dozens of
miners working below. As the day
wore on and word spread about
the accident, families and friends
gathered for news. Standing in
the crowd was an 18-year-old
photographer from the local weekly
newspaper. His name was Denis
Thorpe. Working with a Contax
rangefinder camera borrowed
from his boss, Denis soon became
aware that he was witnessing the
aftermath of a mining disaster.
‘I just quietly wandered around
and photographed what I could
see,’ he recalls. ‘I don’t remember
seeing any other photographers,
but because I was a young man
and had this little camera, I think
people didn’t take any notice of me.
Then, I realised what an enormous
thing it was. You didn’t know at
that time how many people had
been killed and then you saw what
was happening around you – that
was such a moving thing.’ One of
Denis’s photographs from that day
shows an official reading out a list
of names to the sombre crowd – in
all, the disaster claimed 80 lives.
Some 70 years later, Denis still
wonders at the enormity of the day.
‘I don’t know how I did it – to be
there as a young man to see that and
Below: Waiting
relatives listen to
an official read a
list of names after
an accident at the
Creswell Colliery,
1950, which
claimed the lives
of 80 miners
Bottom right: One
of Denis’s earliest
showing his
mother Laura
ironing at home
in Mansfield
photograph it,’ he reflects, ‘but it
was important to me then because
a lot of my family were in mining,
so I suppose I could identify with
a lot of things that were going on.’
Surprisingly, none of the pictures
Denis took that day were published
in his paper, the Mansfield Reporter,
and it was only with the release of
his book, A View from the North, that
they were finally published.
Finding inspiration
The book is a major retrospective
of Denis’s life in photography, from
his first photos of family life while
growing up in Mansfield to his
celebrated press photography
working from the Manchester offices
of the Daily Mail followed by The
Guardian, for which he worked for 23
years. Now 89, Denis and his former
Guardian colleague, the late Don
McPhee, are recognised as two of the
finest recorders of working life in
England’s North during the second
half of the 20th century. But as a
teenager, Denis had no ambitions to
be a press photographer. He wanted
to be a reporter. ‘I obviously made
some impression on the editor of the
Left: Salford
street scene,
photographed for
a Guardian story
in 1979 about
the city’s
paper,’ he recalls. ‘He couldn’t take
me on as a trainee reporter, but said
the photographer needed an
assistant.’ So, aged 16, Denis began
his apprenticeship under Arthur
George, chief photographer of the
Mansfield Reporter. ‘I don’t think
I’d ever seen a press photographer;
I really didn’t know what they did,’
he says. ‘He used to take me out
with him on assignments. He was
a good teacher and I would just
observe what he did. All he had
was one of these Contax cameras.
He was very interested in 35mm
photography and none of the press
photographers did that.’
Denis also made trips to the local
library to study the technicalities
of cameras, film development and
exposure. ‘There were no training
schemes then, and no real books
on photography,’ he says, ‘but I did
discover Bill Brandt and I thought
that was wonderful. Then I found
the Art section and looked through
lots of art books and I got interested
in that.’ The French Impressionists,
in particular the paintings of Edgar
Degas, captured his imagination and
led to a picture that he now regards
as one of his first successes. He
remembers: ‘I’d seen the Degas
pictures of women ironing and they
reminded me so much of my mother
standing there ironing with a flat
iron, and then that beautiful light
coming in; that was one of my first
really successful experiments. I
thought, I can make a beautiful
picture like that with this small
camera. Amazing.’
Master of backlighting
In this early photograph, Denis’s
mother is backlit by the sun
streaming through the arch window
above the front door. Backlighting
has remained a hallmark of much of
his work since, most notably in two
of his most reproduced prints: a
steam-hauled train steaming across
the Ribblehead Viaduct in 1986, and
the silhouetted figures of a mother
pushing her infant in a pram across
a wet Salford Street, her older child
following behind. By this time,
Denis was shooting with a Nikon F2
and two Leica rangefinders, the M2
and M3, usually loaded with Ilford
FP4, his favourite film. ‘I would
always use prime lenses so I
Wells dressing procession, Tissington, Derbyshire, 1977
‘Colour can be very distracting
and take you away from the rhythm
of the picture and the structure
and the geometry’
A miner, lit by the lamps of his fellow workers, on the coal seam at Creswell Colliery
would use a 50mm on the M3
because the viewfinder was
exactly 50mm, and on the M2 I’d
use the 35mm f/1.4,’ he says. ‘Those
were my two super workhorses.
Then I’d use a wideangle for the
Nikon and a 200mm on another
Nikon, and that’s it. So, you might
have seen me walking around with
three cameras sometimes, but that’s
what people did – I don’t think I had
a zoom until the 1990s.’
With such a long inventory of
pictures to draw from, A View from
the North is filled with photographic
gems that enhance his reputation
as a true master of the black & white
exposure – finding the light in
scenes and situations that might
have seemed impossible in an era
when pushing film beyond ISO 400
was considered an educated guess.
One of his most powerful portraits
shows a miner working in the grim
darkness of a subterranean coal face,
lit only by the head lamps of his
fellow workers. For this photo Denis
returned to Creswell, descending
into the pit that had consumed the
previous generation of miners. ‘I had
the chance to go 20-odd years later
to the coal face at Creswell Colliery.
That was an emotional visit for me,’
he recalls. ‘It shows exactly how
people had to work in a three-foot
seam of coal – damned hard work.’
The miners’ strike
Our conversation leads inevitably to
the miners’ strike of 1984-85, which
ravaged dozens of mining villages
faced with pit closures across the
north of England, South Wales and
Scotland. As Denis was a son of the
mining community, what sort of
feelings and thoughts went through
Born in Mansfield in
1932, Denis Thorpe is
an award-winning
photojournalist. He has
worked for a number of
publications, including
The Guardian, for which
he covered assignments
across the UK, Europe,
the Middle East, China,
the Soviet Union and the
USA. Thorpe has won
numerous awards,
including the 1979
World Press Photo Gold
Medal and Ilford
Photographer of the
Year in 1988.
his mind while covering this story?
There is a long pause followed by a
sigh before he answers: ‘What sort of
feelings? Goodness. It was a difficult
one, really. There were a lot of
people who felt they should have
had a better say in things. Some of
the Nottinghamshire miners weren’t
in agreement, but I think most of
the miners felt “this is my livelihood
and it’s just going to be taken away
from me”. That’s what my family
did; that was their livelihood. I
remember one of my uncles; he was
at Blidworth Colliery, and the family
was there. I used to go and stay with
them in the pit village and we would
have lunch at the miners’ welfare,
so I was quite close to it. I suppose
I would feel quite sympathetic and
think that these people are being
robbed of their lives, really. I mean,
what are they going to do and what
did they do? People like Mrs
Thatcher never thought about
anything like that, did they?’
A steam-hauled train
crosses Ribblehead
Viaduct, North
Yorkshire, 1986
characteristic of the street
photographers who inspired him,
namely Henri Cartier-Bresson and
Robert Doisneau. Like them, Denis
also prefers B&W and considers
himself fortunate to have worked in
the era before colour became part of
the diet of daily newspapers. ‘I’ve
spent most of my career in black &
white,’ he says, ‘mostly because
that’s what newspapers wanted.
Colour can be very distracting and
take you away from the rhythm of
the picture and the structure and the
geometry. When you introduce
colour it’s something else, and I
could never cope with it. So, I’m
glad that black & white was the
standard for journalism.’
New-found love
Denis continued to photograph
miners and their communities after
the strike, including the book cover
image from 1989 of a group of
laughing miners leaving work after
their shift at Yorkshire’s Thurcroft
Colliery. ‘I think the joke was on me
but I don’t know what it was. They’d
come straight out of the pit from
their shift to the bath house and one
of them cracked up and all the other
ones got the same joke and they
were hysterical by the time they got
to me,’ he says. ‘There’s a wonderful
rhythm about the whole thing. I
don’t mind whatever joke it was
because it made a great picture.’
Black & white advantage
Another of his favourites was also
taken in 1989 and features a group
of primary school children linking
together in a line in a playground,
their shadows sharply defined by
a low morning sun. Denis was on
assignment in Bury with a reporter
and planning the day with the head
teacher in her office when he looked
out of the window and saw this
scene. ‘For me it has the beautiful
geometry one constantly strives
for, but there is also an extra bonus
with the running child on the top
A View from the North,
216 pages, with 220
images; hardback;
£25; published by
Bluecoat Press; ISBN
of the picture seemingly floating
above her shadow. You could never
choreograph such a satisfying
arrangement. Of course, it was the
lead photograph in The Guardian’s
education section the next day.’
This picture is also a testament
to Denis’s versatility, equally at ease
with the soft feature as the hard
news, while also remaining highly
responsive to the spontaneous
alignment of light, movement and
position that is the identifying
Denis continues to take pictures,
‘mostly family, landscapes and things
like that’, but a new-found love
involves photographing surfers off
the North Wales coast. ‘It’s absolutely
beautiful with a long lens to watch
some of the surfers,’ he says. ‘A bit
of action keeps me on my toes!’
He has also embraced the digital
era and managed to find a camera
that reflects his enduring love for the
rangefinder. ‘I have a camera which
is near enough to the rangefinders
I’ve used and that’s the Fujifilm
X-Pro2,’ he enthuses. ‘It’s beautiful
and the lenses are fantastic, so that’s
the camera I have with me now.’ He
then chuckles to himself: ‘So really,
it’s me going back to my beginnings,
using this camera that’s exactly like
a rangefinder!’ Something tells me
that Arthur George, his old mentor,
is looking down, vigorously
nodding in approval.
School children in
the playground,
Bury, 1989
Get the
Three top photographers share
their secrets for capturing
successful street images
Dave Fieldhouse
An award-winning freelance photographer
from the Midlands, Dave specialises in
landscape, street and architectural
photography for magazines and corporate
clients. www.davefieldhousephotography.
com, @davefphotos on Instagram/Twitter.
Shoot wide open
If it is our intention to create clean, crisp images, we
are going to need to allow a lot of light onto that
sensor. Not a problem during the day, but at night
a compromise needs to be made. This is where an
understanding of the relationship between aperture,
shutter speed and ISO becomes useful. As with all
genres, the photographer needs to decide what kind of
image they want upfront. For my street images, I want
frozen action, some sharp details around the focal
point, and as little noise as possible. This means I tend
to shoot in aperture priority at f/2, or wider if the lens
allows, and I let the ISO creep up to about 2500.
Be respectful
When shooting in a public
space such as the street,
there are very few laws
that protect our privacy.
That shouldn’t mean it is
a free-for-all to photograph
whatever we want. Every
street photographer has
their own ethical limits.
I refuse point blank to
photograph anyone
homeless or in obvious
distress, anyone drunk,
and anyone eating a meal.
These subjects are all
easy targets, but that
doesn’t mean I am happy
to take advantage of their
situation. Simply put, I
won’t take a photograph
in a situation where I
wouldn’t be happy to have
had my photograph taken
by someone else.
Follow the light
Illuminated advertising
boards, neon lights above
brightly lit bars or simply
the good, old-fashioned
streetlamp can all be
used to create
atmosphere and mood.
But more importantly
highlights and shadows,
without which our images
would lack contrast
resulting in flat pictures.
It’s also worth noting that
it is far safer to stay in
well-lit areas. Skulking in
a shadowy alleyway not
only looks like you are up
to no good, but it also
significantly increases
your risks when shooting
in an urban setting.
Create a little
There is no need to reveal
everything. Anonymity can
be used to tremendous
effect, one of the rare
times when leaving
something out of an
image can add to the
finished look. This is
particularly effective at
night where you can use
the shadows to hide the
features on a face,
drawing your attention
elsewhere in the frame.
Keep weight
to a minimum
Carry only what you need.
For me, that’s one body
and a single prime lens at
a focal length I am most
comfortable with (I like an
85mm on a full-frame
camera). Prime lenses
tend to be much faster
than telephotos, allowing
more light into the camera
when needed.
Make it interesting
The words ‘street photography’ can be interpreted in
many ways, but simply a random image taken ‘in a
street’ doesn’t cut it for me. I’m interested in the
people, the colours, the architecture and light. More
importantly, how the photographer has cleverly woven
these elements together to make an interesting image.
It might be the colour or style of clothes that a person
is wearing that matches the background or setting. Or
maybe the way the light leads the eye to a particular
element within the image. It might simply be a subtle
gesture or look. The best images are always the ones
where you can see exactly why the photographer
pressed the shutter release when he/she did.
Spare battery
Make sure you have a
spare, fully charged
battery. This should go
without saying, but it’s
often the obvious that
gets overlooked.
Linda Wisdom
A Panasonic Lumix Ambassador, and professional
photographer for 12 years, Linda is a self-taught street
photographer. Her unique works have been featured in
many publications, exhibitions, and hung in a 5-star London
hotel. See more at
and on Instagram @lindawisdomphotography.
Monochrome magic
Become invisible
If your objective is to make black &
white shots, but you struggle with
colour distractions, then change your
viewfinder or LCD screen setting to
black & white view mode. The human
eye is naturally attracted to colour, but
that can easily distract you from seeing
more human elements like emotions,
storytelling interactions between
people, shapes and light. This simple
shooting technique can really help
focus your eyes on details you may not
have noticed before. Don’t worry if you
are shooting in raw format, your image
files will still be in colour!
If you feel self-conscious shooting
strangers, but want to capture candid
photos without being noticed, try using
smaller and minimal camera gear, or just
your smartphone. Practise techniques
like using the camera LCD screen or
shoot from the hip instead of raising
the camera to your eye. If you want to
raise the camera to your eye, learn to
anticipate. Observe the people around
you and your surroundings. This will help
you keep the camera off your eye for
longer, yet allow you to capture that key
moment without attracting attention from
the subject before you take the shot.
Frame, shoot, go
Street photography can be fast-paced, especially when
things are unfolding right in front of you. You often only
get one chance to compose a frame before that moment
is gone, so you have to learn to observe, frame and shoot
fast. Using one prime lens allows you to get familiar with
distance for framing. Visualise what you want within your
frame, then move yourself into the best position to
eliminate unwanted objects or add things of interest.
Shoot in burst mode
Sometimes selecting the right moment to press the shutter release can be tough.
Instead, leave the decision-making for a later time. Choose burst mode (or continuous
shooting mode) and maximise the number of frames to choose from during selection
time. Burst mode works perfectly for fast-moving subjects and objects. Whereas
when shooting in single-shot mode and taking one or two shots, you run the risk of
capturing your subject’s eyes being closed, people not being in the exact spot in your
composition, not capturing the moment, or something passing by cluttering the scene.
Prime lens
A prime is an essential for
street photography. They
are perfect for low-light
shooting as they usually
have a larger maximum
aperture than a zoom
covering the same focal
length. The large aperture
also gives you lovely
bokeh, and the quality of
glass is much better
compared to zoom lenses.
Most popular are 35mm
and 50mm, but you can
go as wide as 10mm.
Lumix DC-GX9
Set yourself a theme
The next time you go out on a street photo walk, pick
a theme or set yourself a task or challenge so you
come back with a focused set of images. It could be
that you pick the colour red as a theme, reflections,
or sunlight and shadows, to name just a few ideas.
It will help you train your eyes, become more creative
in your approach, and may even lead to an ongoing
project over a longer period of time.
This small, mirrorless
camera offers silent
shutter mode, a tiltable
live digital viewfinder, LCD
touchscreen shooting for
candid shots and stunning
image quality with plenty
of interchangeable lens
Peter Murrell
Peter works as a facilities manager in London.
He took up photography in 2011, initially
focusing on architecture, but found his interest
veering more toward street photography.
See him on Instagram @p.murrell or
Travel light
The great thing about
street photography is that
you don’t need to walk
around with loads of kit.
Keep it simple. I use a
Nikon D700, which is not
exactly a lightweight
camera, but sometimes
you have to work with
what is available. There
are so many choices at
the moment in terms of
cameras, and mirrorless
in my opinion is the way to
go in terms of size, weight
and availability of lenses.
Have respect
for others
Be respectful of others,
particularly when on
private property or in
public areas with a large
concentration of people.
I have often been
approached by building
security staff objecting to
photos being taken of
reception areas and I’ve
often given assurance
that I would respect
their wishes. If you are
approached by a member
of the public concerned
you may have taken their
photo, be polite and tell
them how great they look
(it works for me!), which
often breaks the ice.
On two occasions, this
happened to me, resulting
in paid assignments. It
pays to be nice. Literally!
Light and shadows
Living and working in built-up areas like London creates
plenty of opportunities to make use of shadows that
will often have people passing to and fro. Keep an eye
on the weather forecasts as you can use strong light to
your advantage. When processing images, don’t be
afraid to experiment in darkening shadows to create
striking compositions. Make use of software tools like
Lightroom, and shoot in raw, which will give you more
flexibility when editing.
Be ready
Always walk with your camera and have it
ready to go. For outdoors I set it to 1/250sec
at f/8. Indoors at f/2.5-2.8 at 1/125sec
when travelling on the Underground or within
large spaces such as galleries or shopping
malls. I also set my camera to Auto ISO and
3D tracking for moving objects. Areas of
movement within the scene that create blur
or even some noise does give it, in my
opinion, that gritty/authentic feel. And it
doesn’t have to be technically perfect either.
Become a location scout! Keep an
eye out for backdrops like colourful
billboards, artwork, posters or
signage while on walkabout.
Shopping centres or art galleries
are great for these. Have patience
and wait for the right person(s) to
pass by as they offer good
juxtaposition opportunities.
Prime lens
Black & white does tend to draw you
more to the subject in question, but
colours also can make the photo.
Don’t feel you have to follow a trend,
but do what works for you. I once
tried to convince myself that
‘authentic’ street photography should
be black & white but then came
across Martin Parr. Enough said.
I use a 50mm 1.8G – it’s
super-light, sharp and
reasonably priced. Perfect
for street photography, it
enables a safe working
distance without being too
intrusive. I’m sure you are
aware that many of the
great photographers
swear by this lens. I used
to hate it due to it not
having the convenience of
a zoom but it has made
me a better photographer.
Camera sling
Saves having to dig the
camera out of the bag.
Hangs to the side, secure
and easy to draw close
when opportunities arise.
Southport Pier,
Merseyside, 2011
Kent, 1986
At the
In 2018, the National Maritime
Museum brought together four
photographers who studied
Britain’s piers, pebbles, and
promenades intimately.
Tracy Calder found out more
he first glimpse of the sea is always a thrill.
Released from the car, often hot and sticky
after a long drive, you make your way through
the dunes, grass whipping at your legs, salt
fizzing on your tongue. The sand is warm beneath
your feet, but carrying the obligatory cool box and
windbreak makes progress slow. Ascending the final
dune, your heart quickens as you anticipate the view.
One more step and you are at the top, marvelling
at the shimmering water stretching out below you.
Propelled by some primitive
urge, you drop your belongings
and race towards the water. The
first wave hits your legs and you
flinch at its icy touch, but when
the second wave arrives you find
yourself remarking, ‘It’s not as cold
as I thought it was going to be.’
A day at the seaside is a delicious
mixture of childish excitement,
rituals and nostalgia. ‘It’s a unique
landscape – somewhere you can
escape the rigours of everyday life,’
says Kristian Martin, curator at the
National Maritime Museum in
London. ‘It’s somewhere you feel
free and uninhibited, but it’s
somewhere democratic too. At the
seaside, you cast off the shackles of
everyday life and behave in a way
that you wouldn’t normally.’
To celebrate our connection to the
seaside, in 2018, Kristian brought
together four photographers who
know Britain’s piers, pebbles, and
promenades intimately. Their styles
may be markedly different, but
Martin Parr, David Hurn, Simon
Roberts and Tony Ray-Jones have all
found the seaside to be a rich source
of creative inspiration. ‘We selected
these artists because they resonate so
beautifully with one another,’ says
Kristian. ‘In some ways Tony is a
little bit of a linchpin to the
exhibition: David knew him, Martin
was highly influenced by his work
and Simon’s We English collection
takes direct inspiration from him.’
When Martin Parr was
commissioned to shoot the Essex
coast ‘he took over 1,000 images in
a week,’ laughs Kristian. ‘He gave us
a list of about 100 and we selected
20.’ Naturally, most of the images by
Tony were taken in the 1960s (he
died in 1972), but Kristian was keen
to bring these up to date too. ‘It felt
important to show some of Tony’s
iconic work, but we also went back
to the negatives and chose some
pictures people will be less familiar
with,’ he reveals. ‘Some of them had
been previously selected by Tony
because he marked up his contact
sheets to show the ones he wanted
to get printed.’
With images spanning six decades,
it was possible to see how our
relationship to the coast has altered
Above: Margate,
Above right:
Porth Oer
(Whistling Sands),
Wales, 2004
over the years, but most aspects
remain unchanged. ‘One thing that’s
obvious in Martin’s new work is how
people are using the seaside for
religious or cultural reasons, but at
the same time they are embracing
traditions such as picnics, ice creams,
and a paddle in the sea,’ says
Kristian. ‘There are encoded rituals
of behaviour that we know we are
going to follow. This comes across in
Simon’s work – he takes a step back
from the action and you can see the
relationship between different
clusters of people within the
landscape. I find that fascinating.’
Martin describes the seaside as his
‘laboratory’: a place where he can
put human behaviour under the
microscope. ‘He feels comfortable
here; he loves the vibrancy, joy, rich
colours and all the things associated
with having a good time,’ says
Kristian. Anyone who has seen
Martin’s book The Last Resort will
know exactly what he means:
colourful slicks of ketchup lining
hot dogs, fairground rides and
perms, and faces smeared with
ice cream and snot.
‘Our relationship to the coast has altered over the
years, but most aspects remain unchanged’
lifeguard walks towards the sea with
a sizeable boat on his head. ‘Tony
was fascinated by the pull the seaside
had on people,’ says Kristian. ‘I spoke
to his widow, Anna, and she said that
to begin with he couldn’t understand
why people were attracted to the
seaside so passionately, but when he
began to photograph them he began
to understand.’
Clearly these photographers have
more than just a love of the seaside
in common. Simon Roberts, for one,
admits that all three artists have
influenced his work to some extent.
He visited David Hurn as a student
Below left:
Eastbourne, East
Sussex, c.1968
Below right: New
Brighton, England.
From The Last
Resort, 1983-85
David Hurn, on the other hand,
prefers black & white for his coastal
candids. ‘David looks for the
extraordinary in the ordinary,’
says Kristian. ‘He is interested in
moments where people seem
uninhibited or unguarded.’ These
occasions can be comical: elderly
men sunbathing in overcoats,
a coach party sheltering behind
a giant windbreak, a game of cricket
played out in thick sea mist.
Tony Ray-Jones’s work has a similar
feel: children emerge out of cave-like
holes in the sand, women in their
Sunday best clutch their handbags, a
looking for help and was struck by
his generosity of spirit. ‘He was
happy to pass on advice to a new
generation, and that’s quite rare.’
When Simon decided to embark
on his ‘We English’ project, his first
port of call was Tony Ray-Jones.
‘He worked in America, and his work
in England was a response to his
time there with Lee Friedlander, Joel
Meyerowitz and other street
photographers,’ says Simon. ‘He
took that aesthetic, albeit black &
white, onto the beaches and public
spaces.’ Simon spent hours poring
over the late photographer’s contact
sheets, notebooks and diaries. ‘I felt
a connection with his work, even
though I shoot in quite a different
way’, he reveals. ‘I compose a
landscape photograph first and then
wait for something to happen so
that the picture forms over the
course of time. ‘I’m looking for
patterns of people within the frame.’
While shooting We English, Simon
was struck by how connected the
British are to their local landscapes.
Most of the people he spoke to on
Blackpool beach, for instance, came
from within a 20-mile radius. ‘Their
families had been coming to the
beach for generations,’ he says, ‘so
they were re-enacting an event that
is part of a history. I found this quite
warming – that people have a lot
invested in these places.’ Simon is
looking forward to seeing what the
next generation of photographers
makes of the British seaside. ‘I hope
photographers will say: “Well here’s
what people have done before.
What have I got to say that’s
different?”’ he says.
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Left: King Street,
September 2016
Trying to tell a country’s story in portraits
is no mean feat, but it’s what Niall
McDiarmid has set out to do – with great
success. Ailsa McWhinnie finds out more
hotographers frequently
go to great lengths to
capture their images.
Some camp on the sides
of mountains in the middle of
winter, driven by the desire to
photograph the first chink of light
as it breaks over a remote landscape.
Others risk their safety to travel to
inhospitable climates in pursuit of
rare wildlife. Then there are those
who have made their living from
photographing war zones, where the
risks so often outweigh the rewards.
Why is it, then, that the simple
act of approaching an ordinary,
unthreatening human going about
their everyday business, and asking
to take their portrait, is enough to
strike terror into even the boldest
photographer’s heart?
‘Every single one is an absolute
nightmare,’ laughs Niall McDiarmid.
This, despite him having spent the
best part of the past ten years
travelling the length and breadth of
Great Britain, stopping people in the
street and asking if he can take their
picture. We’re chatting over a coffee
and croissant in the garden of a
Clapham café. Having spent my
journey to London looking at the
images in his book Town to Town,
by the time I get off the train I’m
‘seeing’ his distinctive images
everywhere. They are in the young
woman wearing the floral trousers
who’s standing in a diagonal shaft
of light, and in another whose green
coat echoes the colour of the passing
Southern Railway carriages.
Niall’s move into street portraiture
was triggered by the financial crash
of 2008. Prior to that, he was a busy
freelance photographer, but as
austerity kicked in, commissions
gradually slowed and family life with
his wife and three sons took over. He
gave up his studio to spend more
time at home. Then, after a couple
of years, a switch flicked. ‘I suddenly
needed to get out and take more
pictures for myself,’ he recalls. ‘I
wanted to go back to where I started
back in the 1990s.’ And that
place was out on the streets. As
Right: Great
Portland Street,
Fitzrovia, London.
October 2016
his wife was at home on
Fridays, this became his day for
photography. So he headed out into
his home area, Clapham, before
setting his sights further afield.
‘After a while, I realised there was
little point in going out and simply
taking pictures,’ he recalls. ‘I really
wanted to have a style, so I decided
I would shoot portraits and they
would be in colour. Britain tends to
be portrayed as a rather monotone,
grey place, but it’s really not like that
– I’m interested in trying to make it
look not quite as drab as it’s been
made out to be in the past.’
Britishness in all its forms
Niall realised he had no desire to
create a London-centric fashion
blog, so had a rethink. ‘I needed to
look outside of London,’ he explains,
‘and I realised that nobody goes to,
say, Tunbridge Wells or Guildford or
Basildon to photograph people. So I
told my wife that I was going to go
everywhere in the country, and she
rolled her eyes – she’d heard this sort
of thing before. But with a bit of luck
and a bit of hard work, that’s pretty
much what I’ve done.’
A year later, as rumblings about
the possibility of a referendum to
consider the UK’s relationship with
the EU began to increase in volume,
Niall realised the time was right
to produce a body of work that
looked at Britishness in all its forms.
English Street, Carlisle.
October 2015
‘I just want people to look at the pictures, wonder
who the subjects are, and leave it at that’
Grainger Street, Newcastle. August 2017
‘I was interested in looking at people
from different backgrounds and
ethnicities, and building up a
portrait of a country that way,’ he
says. ‘Having said that, however, I’m
not really interested in telling
people’s personal stories or writing
anything down – I just want people
to look at the pictures, wonder who
the subjects are, and leave it at that.’
Hence the captions in the book
simply state the town and the date.
None of this means, however, that
Niall feels detached from his subjects.
On the contrary, he is acutely aware
of his responsibilities to them. This
was brought home to him in 2017,
when the Museum of London hosted
an outdoor exhibition of his work
and, sickeningly, some of the images
were daubed in racist graffiti. ‘It
wasn’t widely reported at the time
because I wanted to keep it quiet,’ he
recalls. ‘However, it was incredibly
hard, because I wasn’t expecting it
– even though I should have been,
because I’ve had a bit of abuse
online. The important thing, though,
was that people had been incredibly
kind and generous in agreeing to be
photographed, and I didn’t want
those who had racist graffiti sprayed
on them to become some sort of
“statement” for what I do.’
Wide-ranging subjects
There are those who have suggested
the work can be compared to August
Sander’s in some way, in that Niall is
making a list of sorts. If that is what
comes across, it isn’t intentional,
and he’s keen to stress he doesn’t
have a set plan about who he
photographs. ‘If you start to break
things down and categorise the
work, you lose some of the magic.’
That’s not to say he doesn’t aim to
photograph a range of people. On
any given day, he might find he’s
made portraits of, say, two or three
older people – after which he might
then look for someone middle-aged,
or for a person with a child. He does
encounter suspicion at times, and a
fair few people say no when he asks
to photograph them. Recently, for
example, he’s been working on a
project in the West Midlands – a
region known for its mixture of
cultures and ethnicities. ‘The more
settled white communities are the
hardest to photograph there,’ he
explains. ‘I’ve found them to be very
suspicious. But in some of the newer
communities, the people are fine.’
Holloway Road, London. March 2016
Warren Road, Minehead, Somerset. February 2017
Marketplace, Blackheath, Rowley Regis. May 2018
Lower Temple Street, Birmingham. June 2018
It’s all about the light
Over time, Niall has learned which
parts of a town tend to bear most
fruit, photographically speaking.
He avoids the busy centres, where
people are less likely to welcome
distractions, heading instead for
the ‘transitional’ areas that lie in
between the bustling commercial
hubs and residential streets.
And he’s not only looking for
interesting people – what’s going on
in the frame is equally important.
There might be a block of colour,
an interesting sign or a patterned
doorway that can be incorporated
into the image to make it more than
simply a record of a human face. ‘It’s
as if I have this algorithm in my
mind,’ Niall says. ‘I’m looking for a
person and a background, for colour
and shape, and am trying to slot it
all together somehow. It’s quite
difficult to be specific, though,
because if I see somebody and get
chatting to them, I can’t then drag
them half way across town just for
an interesting backdrop. I make my
pitch, take the shots – about seven
or eight – and that’s it.’
Somewhat surprisingly, given
how consistent Niall’s portraits are
in terms of style, they have been
shot using a wide variety of kit. He
started off shooting film, moving
from the fixed-lens Fuji GW670III
to a Mamiya 7 and then a Leica
M6. Then, he transitioned to the
‘incredible workhorse’ Canon EOS
5D system, but more recently has
been shooting with the Fujifilm GFX
50S, which he can happily use
handheld (he never shoots with
a tripod). Oh, then there’s also the
Leica M10 digital rangefinder that he
pulls out of his bag that’s sitting on
the floor beside us. Nobody could
ever accuse him of brand loyalty.
But how has he managed to
achieve such a uniform style with
camera gear that varies so widely?
‘The cameras now are so good, it
really comes down to the light,’
he states. ‘If you shoot in consistent
light, you can get very similar
results, no matter what you’re using.
I tend to shoot in flat light, as it
works better, so the summer months
are trickier – late spring and early
autumn are the best. I’m also very
keen that the pictures don’t look
particularly as if they’re on film
or digital, and that they’re very
straightforward. I try to make it
as non-defined as possible.’
To return to his first statement, at
the beginning of the interview, what
Niall McDiarmid is
a street-portrait
photographer who lives
in London and travels
across the UK to build
up a picture of modern
Great Britain. His three
books – Crossing Paths,
Via Vauxhall and Town to
Town – are sold out on
his website, but Town
to Town can be
purchased from RRB
Photobooks. See www.
to find out more.
can people who are new to the genre
do to make the experience of
shooting street portraits less of a
‘nightmare’? A lot of it comes down
to practice, taking a deep breath and
just getting out there. As he says, ‘I’d
be lying if I said it was as difficult as
it was at the beginning. It’s still hard,
but nowadays when I get rejected,
I get over it a lot more easily. I was
quite shy as a teenager, but once
I hit my forties I realised I was pretty
good at chatting to people. So if
I were to give one piece of advice,
it would be to ignore the technical
side and look for what you’re good
at – and in my case it’s that I’m full
of blarney, as they’d say in Ireland.
And you have to be kind. If you say
to someone they look interesting
– that perhaps you like the coat
they’re wearing – but without
being cheesy, a lot of the time
they will say yes.’
Nocturne 24, Haugesund, Norway
2008, Konica Hexar, Ilford Delta 3200
Something of
the night
Noted film photographer and
darkroom expert Mike Crawford
talks us through his Nocturne project,
shooting cities after dark on film
ome photographic projects
seem to be easy to start
and finish. It always helps
if there are plans for an
exhibition or publication, while
other work may be produced
primarily to see if an idea or theme
might develop into something
interesting. I also appreciate the
immediacy of photographing a
small series, producing a hand-made
artist’s book, or using online printers,
considering the project complete.
However, my series Nocturne, is
one best classed as ‘ongoing,’ and
one I keep returning to with new
ideas and images.
While based on the urban
landscape at night, it would be
difficult to present it as a text book
example of how to photograph the
city after dark. I purposely limit
myself in the equipment and
materials used, making things as
basic as possible. Indeed I don’t even
use a tripod!
What I do want in the work, if not
technical perfection, is a sense of
mystery, atmosphere and narrative.
I want the viewer to be taken on an
anonymous walk, exploring hidden
corners of cities, brief glimpses
observed as darkness encroaches
on their streets and buildings. The
images are often multilayered,
reflections and shadows used to
suggest stories within a story. Others
are purposely diffuse, unwanted
details subdued to leave just shape
and form. The series has been
photographed in different cities,
though initially just London and
Berlin, and presented so the viewer is
I have used the Konica Hexar for over
25 years. It is small, quiet and
inconspicuous compared to larger
SLRs, with an excellent 35mm f/2
lens. Perhaps a limitation, though
I appreciate it for this simplicity
taken on a nocturnal journey
through an imagined city.
Process and printing
Nocturne 39, London, 2012
Konica Hexar, Ilford Delta 3200
The visual characteristic of the work
is determined by the process. I use
a Konica Hexar AF 35mm camera
loaded with Ilford Delta 3200. It’s
a relatively simple camera, first
produced in 1993, which handles
like a rangefinder (except that it is
autofocus), with a high-quality
35mm f/2 lens. When I first bought
one in the mid 1990s, it had a certain
cult status among photographers like
Peter Lindbergh, and was sometimes
referred to as the ‘poor man’s Leica.’
I rate the film at 2000 ISO,
processing accordingly to lower the
contrast, and as I shoot handheld,
I’m usually working on low apertures
and shutter speeds. I want to be able
to photograph with a sense of
spontaneity and the camera is small
enough to take with me on trips and
not feel burdened with having to
carry a tripod and extra lenses. The
film is high grained and also prone
to a slight amount of irradiation.
This gives a glow to the brightest
highlights, ideal for emphasising
lights within a cityscape.
This is accentuated by the lith
printing process I use in the
darkroom, which intensifies contrast
and tone and enhances the texture
and grain. To add more limitations,
I print on outdated and discontinued
Seagull Oriental paper. Originally
manufactured in Japan, it became a
favourite for lith printing in the late
’80s, popularised by Anton Corbijn
and his printer Mike Spry. While a
version was later produced outside of
Japan for many years, the original
Oriental was considered one of the
most suitable and adaptable papers
for the process. Luckily I was able to
buy a large stock, though this is
slowly being reduced over time.
For exhibitions, I subsequently
scan the prints to produce
larger, digital prints. While there is
a purity to the original work, I am
limited to the paper size I have
(9.5x12in), and I appreciate the
further possibilities of working
digitally for final print production.
I have been asked why I shoot on
film when high ISO digital and post
production in Photoshop could
provide a similar result. A fair
question, and while I use digital for a
lot of work, I don’t see the point of
replicating the grain of film and the
texture and colour of lith printing
through filters and manipulation.
That is the inherent outcome of my
choice of materials and would see a
digital version as only a recreation of
an analogue process rather than a
natural process in itself. However,
digital does have so much to offer
low-light photography. Looking
through The Guardian’s Photographs
of the Year, 2021, it is noticeable
how many were photographed at
night or in subdued lighting, and
how impressive the selective use of
colour is in this work.
Visual influences
Proof prints and
I MAKE INITIAL edits of possible images from contact
sheets, though I find it invaluable to then make 10x8in
proof prints. These are prints made quickly on resin-coated
paper, just to see the image and decide which ones to lith
print. I usually wait till there are several rolls to proof and
then spend a day in the darkroom. With these, I can take
my time to consider which might be suitable for the project.
Some may be obvious, while others are filed away for
future consideration. I may later consider images I initially
rejected, though most don’t get past the proofing stage.
Aside from techniques, I think it’s
important to consider the creative
influences for the project. My
original intention had been just to
photograph the River Thames at
night, having experimented with lith
prints from Delta 3200 negatives.
Their muted, monochromatic tones
and luminous, sparkling highlights
reminded me of the work of 19th
century artist James Whistler and
particularly his nocturnal portrayal
of the River Thames. My project title
acknowledges Whistler’s influence
and the series of paintings he named
Nocturnes, which in itself referenced
musical compositions from the 1700s
evoking the atmosphere, moods and
melancholy of the night.
On reflection, perhaps I should
have chosen a less popular title, as I
have since learnt of similarly named
projects. What I did soon find was
the limitation of London as the only
subject and soon started to combine
photographs from other cities. The
first exhibition of this work was in
Germany. The gallerist had
particularly wanted to show just
photographs of London, and while it
worked very well, I thought it would
be too restricting to continue this
theme and wondered if some of the
subjects were too recognisable. From
then on I looked for more
anonymous images, purposely
drawn from a variety of locations.
An additional and perhaps more
distinctly visual inspiration, is the
1965 Jean-Luc Godard film,
Alphaville, that placed contemporary
1960s Paris at night as the supposed
setting of a future, dystopian city.
This gritty, black & white film noir
featured Lemmy Caution, a character
taken directly from French B-movies,
re-cast into Godard’s imaginative, yet
sometimes preposterous Nouvelle
Vague classic. I noticed in the film
certain similarities to photographs
I was taking, particularly in the use
of shadows, reflections and the
ominous presence of architecture
seen at night.
For a short while I tried to take
photographs directly referencing
themes and visual motifs from
Alphaville, but soon realised these
were too derivative and simply trying
too hard. In watching this film, the
viewer must accept the director’s
conceit that this is the future, despite
no props, costumes or sets normally
associated with science fiction.
Lemmy Caution takes photographs
throughout the film with a cheap,
1960s Instamatic camera (an Agfa
Iso-Rapid), and is told his camera
looks old. ‘I don’t like new
technology,’ is his sarcastic reply,
Nocturne 40, London, 2013
Konica Hexar, Ilford Delta 3200
Above: Nocturne 12, Berlin, 2012
Konica Hexar, Ilford Delta 3200
which again resonated with me and
my use of film and obsolete papers. A
further coincidental reference from
Alphaville is the brief title on the
opening scenes stating that the film
was shot on Ilford HPS Negative. This
was a 400 ISO movie stock that
cinematographer Raoul Coutard
uprated to 800, a 1960s equivalent of
my use of Ilford Delta 3200.
While my film choice allows for
low-light photography, and gives
the work an initial texture, I feel it
is the lith prints on Seagull paper
that provide the overall atmosphere
and character. It also unifies the
work, allowing photographs taken
at different times and places to
flow together with a sense of
narrative. However, as mentioned
previously, I have a finite amount
of material, so perhaps when
finished, this will be a fitting time
to call the project complete?
I have had four opportunities to
exhibit parts of the work so far, but
not yet a complete show. Ideally that
would happen should I get the
chance to make a publication. Until
then, I will continue working on
Nocturnes as time and resources
allow. There are processed films,
proofed and waiting to be printed,
and always new ideas for places
and locations to shoot.
Print sizes
PRINT SIZE can make a big difference
depending on the exhibition. One of my
shows was in Ljubljana, Slovenia, at the
Cankarjev Dom, a prestigious arts venue.
My preferred print size is usually 49x31cm
in a 70x50cm frame. As it was a relatively
large space, the curator thought I should
print larger at 73x47cm, displayed in
100x70cm frames. While I appreciated the
visual impact of the work larger, and it
certainly worked in the gallery space, I
think that for future exhibitions I’ll revert
to the smaller size.
Cankarjev Dom, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2018
The future of iN-PUB
Over the past 22 years, iN-PUBLiC has
played a major role in popularising street
photography as an approach, so where
does it go now? Its founder Nick Turpin
explains more
n 1990 I was a young
photographer working for
The Independent newspaper
in London, covering news,
features and shooting interview
portraits. I carried a camera with
me everywhere and always made
candid pictures of the interesting
and funny things I saw in between
my commissions. I loved how
extraordinary everyday life could
be and started to build up quite a
portfolio of these ‘observations’.
These pictures were different from
my commissioned work, they had
no real subject and they were each
self-contained little visual stories. In
1994 the picture desk handed me a
book to photograph for the
newspaper’s review pages – it was the
first edition of Bystander: A History of
Street Photography by the American
photographer Joel Meyerowitz and
Colin Westerbeck.
Flicking through the pages of
Bystander, I realised that I myself
was doing something called ‘street
photography’ and that there was a
long tradition and heritage of this
kind of candid public photography.
I suddenly realised that street
photography was a defined and
specific approach to documenting
the world, part of the documentary
tradition in photography but unique
in its own way. Around this time,
Above: by Natan
Below: by Nick
my printer introduced me to another
photographer, David Gibson, who
was also out on the streets shooting
charming humorous public scenes
and I realised that maybe street
photography wasn’t just some
historic activity of the past but
perhaps it was alive and kicking.
At this point, the internet was just
LiC street photography
a few years old but it was already
clear to me that a simple website
would be a great way to share our
passion for candid public
photography with a wide
international audience. When
David and I met Richard Bram, an
American in London shooting on
the streets, and later Matt Stuart, the
Below left: by Nils
Below right: by
Rob Hogenbirk
idea of forming a collective to
promote street photography
emerged. I remember sitting up in
bed one night with the name ‘in
public’ on my mind – it was the
place where we all worked and the
theme that bound us all together.
The next morning I registered and taught myself html.
In January 2000 I launched the
first basic site with the stated aim
to ‘Provide a home for street
photography, promote street
photography and to continue to
explore its possibilities’. Within three
months we had more than 40k
people a month visiting the site
to look at street photography.
baby out with the bath water.
When my position – that staged
and computational images were
not in keeping with the street
photographers’ approach – was not
supported by the majority of the
group it seemed the right time to
suspend the site and have a rethink.
This little crisis turned out to be a
wonderful opportunity.
I have always been interested in
where street photography has been,
where it currently is and especially
in where it might be going. What is
the point in constantly repeating the
past? Why do we still make street
photographs like the photographers
of 1920s Paris or 1970s New York or
even the iN-PUBLiC photographers
of the early 2000s? There is so much
scope to innovate and make progress
with street photography without
crossing that line into staging,
Above: by Nick
Below from left:
images by Richard
Baker, Jill
and Aniruddha
Guha Sarkar
manipulating, compositing or
computational imagery. This idea of
celebrating the best of traditional
street photography while pushing
and exploring its boundaries became
my remit for the new iN-PUBLiC.
I carefully chose and invited a
whole new group of photographers,
some highly respected for their more
traditional street photographer’s eye
such as the incredible Pau Buscató
from Barcelona, whose work is full of
surreal and witty observation; the
American Jill Maguire who captures
the American public at play at fairs
and festivals; and the extraordinary
Rob Hogenbirk from the
Netherlands who shows us a truly
bizarre vision of Dutch urban life.
Then I invited photographers who
are breaking the template, whose
work truly challenges the way that
a street photograph is expected to
Our launch coincided with the
arrival of cheap high-quality
digital cameras and within just
a few years street photography
was becoming incredibly popular.
By the time we celebrated our
tenth anniversary with a book and
exhibition, iN-PUBLiC had become
international with 20 members from
the UK, the Netherlands, the USA,
Australia and India. The collective
was being published internationally,
was doing workshops at London’s
Tate Modern and had a touring
exhibition with The British Council.
In a fairly short period of time,
iN-PUBLiC had achieved its
founding aim of promoting street
photography to a wider audience,
other collectives were being formed,
dozens of street photography
festivals were launched, mainstream
publishers like Thames & Hudson
were publishing street photography.
Street photography was back.
For the next ten years, iN-PUBLiC
continued to be a strong force, its
work was much plagiarised and a
situation arose where a lot of street
photography looked very similar
– so much of it had its roots in the
humorous iN-PUBLiC style that this
led to a number of often-repeated
clichés in street photography. I felt
that iN-PUBLiC needed a new remit,
it needed to lead the way again with
a revised reason to exist.
In 2018 a catalyst to change
occurred when one of the
members shot street images with
a smartphone app that grotesquely
distorted the scene and a second
member was caught passing off a
staged picture as a street photograph.
It felt like the group had lost its
identity and, in an attempt to make
novel new work, were throwing the
look. The anonymous British
photographer StreetMax21 who
creates busy city scenes where every
figure is perfectly placed in the frame
as if choreographed; the wonderful
Belgian documentary photographer
Nick Hannes, whose collections of
images together explore history and
culture whilst also standing alone
as individual narratives; Israeli
photographer Natan Dvir, who
takes a different formal approach
to each series of work, shooting
wide panoramic tableaus on New
York for his series Platforms or
juxtaposing giant advertising
hoardings with sidewalk scenes in
Coming Soon. Some of the new
members of iN-PUBLiC wouldn’t
have described themselves as street
photographers but they fall perfectly
into the new definition I use of
candid public photography.
Above: by Pau
Nick Turpin has been
a London based street
and commercial
photographer for
32 years. He founded
the iN-PUBLiC Street
Photography Collective
in 2000 and is an
Associate Lecturer in
Photography at Oxford
Brookes University. More
Instagram @in_public_
The candid documenting of the
public realm by photographers has
always evolved with changing
societies and technology. When I
first started out as a street
photographer in London, I knew all
the other street photographers
working in the city. Now there are so
many that I can barely take a street
photograph without another street
photographer in it.
The popularity of street
photography doesn’t make it any
less worthy a pursuit and there are
still only a very small handful of
street photographers who are
making genuinely interesting and
innovative work that contributes
to the history of this approach. In
some ways, the development of
iN-PUBLiC has run parallel to the
recent development of street
photography and the evolution of
my own work as a photographer and
iN-PUBLiC’s founder.
For my recent street photography
projects I have deliberately chosen
not to work with the traditional small
camera and 35mm lens so popular
with street photographers of the past,
and instead made images with long
lenses for my On The Night Bus book
and with an architectural tilt-shift
lens for my Exodus series. I am also
looking at a lot of candid public
photography from the borders of
street photography, where it meets
art, documentary or conceptual
photography. This is actually where
some of the most interesting street
photography is being made and
where I am constantly on the
lookout for new members for
iN-PUBLiC, in its 22nd year of
exploring the possibilities of
street photography.
When Tish Murtha died suddenly in 2013,
her work was still relatively unknown. Her
daughter Ella is on a mission to spread the
word – she tells Amy Davies more
discuss her mother’s legacy and the
work she’s been doing to preserve it.
After spending her childhood in
north-east England, Tish’s career had
a promising start – she studied
under David Hurn on the famous
documentary photography course at
Newport, and just before Ella was
born in 1984, Tish had exhibitions
at London’s The Photographer’s
Gallery and Newcastle’s Side Gallery.
Trying to sustain a living in London
with a young child in tow proved
too much of a challenge, however,
and eventually the pair would move
back to Elswick, Newcastle.
Ella explains, ‘I now know, doing
what I’m doing – nobody wants to
pay you for anything, and if you
can get someone to agree to pay
All the photographs on this spread are from the Youth Unemployment series
ocial documentary
photographer Patricia Anne
‘Tish’ Murtha was at the
beginning of what looked
like a very promising career in the
1980s. When her daughter Ella
was born, faced with life as a single
parent, everything changed.
Her photography career never
truly recovered and, tragically, on
13 March 2013, Tish died suddenly
from a brain aneurysm, just one
day before her 57th birthday. Ella
herself had a child under two at the
time. Now, Ella manages the Tish
Murtha archive – a full-time job. At
the end of 2018, images from Tish
Murtha’s extensive archive were
shown at Photo North in Harrogate.
While there, I sat down with Ella to
Top: The images
in the Youth
series were
captured between
1979 and 1981
Above middle:
The images were
shown at the
Side Gallery in
Newcastle in 1981
Above: Youth
released in 2017
Left: The images
were all taken in
the West End of
you, there’s all the invoice chasing. I
have the luxury of a partner – she
didn’t have that. It’s not the kind of
life you want with a young child, so
life took over and she ended up
having to claim income support just
to keep a roof over our heads.’
Creating a legacy
After Ella left home, Tish tried to
renew interest in her work. She
applied for grants from the Arts
Council, but was denied after being
told there was no interest in the type
of documentary work she wanted to
return to. ‘I don’t think she had a lot
of confidence,’ says Ella. ‘She
brought me up to believe in myself,
but when it came down to it I
think she lacked confidence in
‘Tish hated the internet, but in the end it has been
her biggest ally in getting the work out there’
her own work. When you’ve
been out of the photography
world for so long, when you’ve been
knocked down, I don’t think she
could see a way of getting back in.’
Although Tish never stopped
taking photographs, there were to be
no more exhibitions during her
lifetime, and it would have been all
too easy for her work to be forgotten.
Determined not to let that happen,
Ella first drummed up support via
Instagram, which eventually led
to the first book from the archive,
Youth Unemployment, being
published in 2017 by Bluecoat Press.
Despite Tish not being around, Ella
says she felt very much guided by
her ‘mam’ while making that first
book. She had handwritten notes to
work from, as well as an essay Tish
had written to accompany the Youth
Unemployment series. Ella recalls
one night, during the creation of
the book, ‘I don’t know whether it
was a dream, or whether it really
happened, but she was there in the
night, and she was not happy. She
said to me, sarcastically, does that
have to be the last picture? So as
soon as I woke up, I rejigged the
whole thing to make “Cops Piss Off”
the final image.’ (See previous page.)
Colin Wilkinson, founder of
Bluecoat Press, was there to sort out
the rest of the logistics, and as he
had successfully done with several
other books, raised additional funds
via Kickstarter. ‘That was a scary
prospect,’ says Ella. ‘The night before
we launched, it was like Christmas
Eve. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep.
When we launched it, straight away,
as soon as it went live, I was writing
thank you, thank you, thank you,
and by the time I’d written the last
thank you, the total had gone up
again.’ The £8,000 required to fund
the book was met, and surpassed, by
the end of its very first day.
Now, there’s a second book, Elswick
Kids. Launched in the same way as
the first, it also surpassed its funding
target within a matter of hours. ‘We
started it half an hour later, but it
was exactly the same length of time
overall – we raised £8,000 in 10 and
a half hours. I was more worried the
second time; I was more nervous
because we had such a lot to live up
to. It’s that confidence thing again
– you start doubting yourself. Even
though it’s been successful, I now
think, oh god what if people don’t
like it – you never stop worrying.’
Creating Elswick Kids was a
different process. With no captions,
no essays from Tish, and no real idea
of the intention behind the series,
Ella relied on her own feelings to
pick and sequence the book. ‘I like
photos that make me feel
something,’ she says. ‘If it doesn’t
make you feel something, I don’t see
the point. I like pictures that make
you feel as if you are there, or tell a
story.’ To accompany the imagery is
a short introduction by Ella; an essay
by Mark Richards, a local writer; and
a poem by Lisa Matthews, who also
Below left: The
images from
Elswick Kids were
never exhibited
Below middle:
Images were
taken while Tish
walked the streets
of the area
Below right: The
images tell of a
different time
– when children
had the freedom
of the streets
grew up locally. ‘That’s how I got
around the lack of Tish’s voice, and
hopefully Tish will come through in
the pictures. I’ve had to stand on my
own two feet, but I think it works;
it’s a beautiful – but very different –
book. There are no captions because
I didn’t want to impose my own
thoughts on the images.’
The power of the internet
The irony of these books coming to
fruition thanks to the internet and
social media is not lost on Ella. ‘She
line somebody else’s pocket. Now,
this is like a family business – I put
my energy into it and Dexter will
inherit it when I’m gone.’ In a
poignant twist of fate, Ella decided
not to return to work after her
maternity leave ended, meaning she
got to spend the last months of
Tish’s life in her company.
Celebrating a lifetime’s work
The images from
Elswick Kids were taken
in the working-class
district of Elswick in
Newcastle upon Tyne
[Tish] did not like the internet – she
was very old school. She refused to
have an “email number” and was
worried that people would steal
her pictures and use them out of
context. The idea that they would be
used for poverty porn – something
they were not meant to be – terrified
her. I think she would be shocked
that in the end the internet has
ended up being her biggest ally.
‘Although she hated the internet,
had she had that tool when she was
a single parent, when she was going
to people and saying “please look at
my work”, it would have been a lot
easier. Now when you post a picture
on Instagram or Twitter, it can go
viral and people will contact you.
Things have changed. I’m not saying
it’s been easy; I’ve still had to work
hard – but it’s been a lot easier for
me than she found it.’
In a former life, Ella worked in the
offices of a haulage company before
taking time off to have her son,
Dexter. ‘I enjoyed it, but at the end
of the day, you’re just working to
Tish Murtha was
a social documentary
photographer who lived
and worked in the
north-east of England
for most of her life. For
more information, visit
Putting together these books and
managing the archive has given Ella
a way of coping with her grief, as
getting to know a different side of
her mother. ‘It gave me something
to focus on rather than the fact she’s
dead,’ she explains. ‘I still don’t even
think I’ve really dealt with it, but
knowing she has left her mark on
the world and not just on me – it’s
great to know people are celebrating
her life and that her work hasn’t
been forgotten.’
As for what Tish would have made
of the renewed interest in her work,
we can only speculate, but Ella
hopes she would have been thrilled.
‘I think she would have been really
happy to know that people are
taking photographs now, inspired by
her work, because of her. So she
didn’t lose her career bringing up a
child – that energy she channelled
into me, I am now channelling into
pioneering her work, so it’s not been
lost. I’ve not had her coming in a
dream again and kicking off, so she
must be happy!’
For Ella, it’s easier to guess
what Tish would have made of the
current political climate. ‘I’m quite
glad she isn’t here to see the stuff
that is going on now,’ she says. ‘She
used to say to me years ago – “Ella,
think seriously hard about bringing
a child into this world.”
‘Brexit wasn’t even on the
horizon – she definitely would be
photographing stuff, but the thing
with my mam was that she would
get very emotionally involved with
whatever she was photographing.
I think it would have broken her
heart, really. Especially because
nothing has changed – no matter
how hard she tried, she really
believed that photography could
change things, but nothing has
changed; we’re exactly where we
were back then.’
Although Tish is not here to see it,
the interest in Tish’s life and work
continues to grow – we urge
you to have a look for yourself.
David Gibson, one of Britain’s best-known
street shooters, talks to David Clark about
the ethics, practicalities, frustrations and
joys of street photography
However, the one thing that links
these disparate images is that they
capture things that occurred
naturally and spontaneously in front
of the camera, and which the
photographer had the speed and
vision to see and record. Gibson
believes that the idea of arranging
images goes completely against the
spirit of street photography.
‘For me, not setting up images
really is the crucial thing,’ he says.
‘I’m a bit of a purist in that sense. I
get a bit agitated when I suspect a
photographer has set something up. I
think it’s cheating. I like to think that
the people who do it get found out.’
Images that inspire
Only a small number of the images he
selected for the book were taken by
high-profile figures such as Martin Parr
and Alex Webb; mostly they are
previously unpublished images, taken
by less famous photographers in
countries around the world, using
everything from Leicas to
smartphones. He says the most
important selection criterion was that
the images inspired him.
‘The pictures in the book had to be
great photographs in some way, but
they also had to set off something in
me. I chose ones that triggered
my imagination, which must be
hat is street
photography? The
exact definition of this
popular genre is tricky
to pin down and means different
things to different people. Even the
word ‘street’ itself is misleading. Some
would argue that it’s not so much
about whether the photography
is actually carried out in an urban
environment; it’s about the kind of
images you make. Street photography
is more of an attitude, approach or
frame of mind.
David Gibson, himself a street
photographer for three decades, offers
his own broad definition in his book,
100 Great Street Photographs. ‘The term
“street photography”,’ he writes, ‘can
be applied to any photographs taken
in a public space, with or without the
inclusion of people, which are entirely
natural, and not set up.’ He goes on to
add, ‘Street photography is real, it is
ordinary life made extraordinary by
a great variety of photographers.’
Accordingly, his book includes a
wide range of locations and subjects in
its 100 images – from inner-city streets
to rural and coastal scenes. Some of
the shots he’s chosen are the visual
puns or tricks of perspective most
people associate with street
photography, while others are more
thought-provoking and mysterious.
Richard Koci
Hernandez, Hanoi,
Vietnam 2013
Gibson has been honing his own
street photography skills and his
appreciation of other photographers’
work since the late 1980s. He says
his own inspiration to take up street
photography initially came from
looking at the work of great
photographers including Henri
Cartier-Bresson, but his camera work
took on its own momentum when
he became hooked on it.
‘A word I use all the time is
obsession, and that really is the root
of it all,’ he says. ‘If you’re obsessed
by photography, then you do tend
to look more. I’ve heard it described
as similar to developing a muscle – if
you keep exercising it, it becomes
stronger. Maybe that’s true.’
He says he prefers to work in a
busy city environment, and as he
lives close to London it’s the obvious
place to go. While he often returns
to the same locations out of habit,
he says, ‘It’s more about what’s
inside my head than the actual
place.’ His pictures show a highly
developed eye for shape, colour and
clever juxtapositions, together with
an ability to see humour in the
everyday world.
the premise behind any great
photograph – it must stimulate
and inspire, and make you think.’
Above left: Shin
Noguchi, Tokyo
Above right: Dan
Szpara, Tokyo
He has used a range of cameras
over the years, including a
Nikkormat, a Nikon FM2 and a
Canon EOS 5D. His current camera
of choice for street work is a
retro-styled digital compact, the
Fujifilm X100T, which has a fixed
35mm lens. ‘When it comes to
cameras, I’m old-fashioned in the
sense that I have to put it up to
my eye,’ he says.
‘For a lot of younger people doing
street photography now, the only
camera they have ever used is
a phone. Personally, I find it very
difficult to take photographs with
the image on the screen wobbling in
front of me. However, there are
Marcin Ryczek,
Krakow 2013
‘I think there’s been a power shift in the past ten
years, it’s like two worlds are coming together ’
advantages to using a phone,
because nobody takes you seriously
– they just think you’re a tourist.’
Gibson believes it’s essential for
photographers to keep pushing
their personal boundaries and trying
new things in their work. ‘My main
worry is repeating myself,’ he
continues. ‘My photography has
definitely changed over the years
and I take a lot more abstract photos
than before.’
He believes that digital
technology, smartphones and
sharing images on the internet have
changed both the quantity and the
type of street images being created.
‘There’s been a power shift in the
past 10 years,’ he says. ‘It’s like two
worlds are coming together – the
professional and the social media
world – and this non-professional
world is maybe, to an extent,
imposing a different taste. I
Alain Laboile
‘ALAIN IS an amazing photographer,’
Gibson says. ‘I found it difficult to
choose just one of his images. All the
golden “rules” of street photography
go out of the window with him. He
doesn’t do cities; he just photographs
his family on a farm in France. So he’s
very different from a lot of street
photographers, but he documents his
family in the tradition of street
photography. This photograph is truly
phenomenal in the way that the boy in
the background is framed by the arch
of water. That’s as good as it gets.’
Tavepong Pratoomwong
‘THIS PICTURE, by the Thai photographer most people refer to as “Pong”, is
quite surreal,’ says Gibson. ‘He was near a taxi rank, trying to photograph
one of the drivers putting eye drops in his eye. Then suddenly this other guy
started to perform for him, doing Michael Jackson’s moonwalk. Pong was
quite annoyed at first, but he went along with it and got a good shot out of
it. It’s not a conventional street shot, but when you look at that photograph
you think, what on earth is happening here? And if a photo keeps you looking
at it, it must be working.’
find that sometimes great
photographs that are more
subtle or complex will be overlooked
in favour of a simpler photograph.
‘I’ve noticed that with some of
my pictures. There are a couple of
my photographs which I know or
believe to be good, but they go
down like a lead balloon online.
Then other photographs I’ve taken
that are simple and not that good,
get loads and loads of likes. I think,
hang on, you should be looking at
my other pictures.’
Advice to aspiring street
photographers is notoriously
difficult to give. Gibson’s main
suggestion is that people shouldn’t
become obsessed by their own
photography. ‘Be obsessed by the
photography of others,’ he says,
‘then maybe some of that influence
will seep into your own work.
There’s a steep learning curve when
you first start, a period where you
just soak up and become obsessed
by the great photographers, and
that’s how people get going.’
He also says people should guard
against being complacent about
their work. ‘You should always
think that your photographs are not
good enough,’ he continues. ‘I think
there should always be sense of a
frustration. Frustration is healthy. Or
at least that’s what I tell myself.’
In these more guarded times, the
issue of being challenged is a
potential problem for street
photographers. However, Gibson
believes that if a photographer is
careful, the issue should only rarely
arise. ‘They shouldn’t get caught in
the first place,’ he says. ‘This is
another thing I’m very hot on.
Avoiding being caught is a very
Born in Ilford in 1957,
David Gibson studied
photography at Medway
College of Art & Design.
Since then, he has
combined his career as
a street photographer
with commercial work
and writing about his
craft. His book The
Street Photographer’s
Manual was published
by Thames & Hudson in
2014 and his book,
100 Great Street
Photographs, is
published by Prestel,
price £22.50. For
workshops and to see
more work, visit www. and
subtle but important thing to
learn. That’s where the mindset of
being half invisible comes in, and it’s
more difficult for some people to do
than others. If you’re constantly
having confrontations, you’re giving
the game away in some way, either
in your behaviour or body language.
‘I’ve been caught about four times
in 30 years. On one occasion, I had a
confrontation with some workers
and they had a real go at me and
started photographing me with their
mobile phones. They said, “How do
you like it?” And they were right!’
Gibson says it’s important to keep
taking pictures even if you’re having
a bad day. ‘It always takes shooting a
lot of images to get a good one and
that’s part of the mystery of it. I
always want the killer photos, which
don’t come along very often.’
But that sense of frustration is
an essential part of the street
photography experience; to follow
its spirit of non-intervention is to
photograph something that is
essentially beyond one’s control.
The joy of it all comes when
everything falls into place and
the elusive ‘killer photo’ results.
‘Sometimes I’m quite surprised
that the magic can still happen,’
Gibson says. ‘When I get a good
shot I think, “Wow, where did
that come from?”’
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Six steps
to success
Regular AP contributor Peter Dench
considers how his approach to his craft
could be used by wannabe street
wouldn’t necessarily tag myself as a street
photographer, but I often use the genre as the
building blocks of a reportage, exhibition or book. It’s
the easiest style to do and arguably the hardest to get
right, whatever right is. I have a set of rough guidelines that
I rely on to try to help me achieve successes on the street.
Man, Beer
and Baby
July 2008
GET IN! I believe you can
be more inconspicuous up
close. I like to be able to
respond to my subject if
necessary. Most people don’t
mind being photographed. I
always have a short, truthful,
clear reply prepared if anyone
asks what I’m doing: ‘Did you
just take a photo of me?!’
‘Yes, I’m doing a set of
pictures on the English at
play,’ or something like that.
I walked alongside this man
holding a baby for several
minutes. He was absorbed
in his thoughts and took no
notice of my lens. It probably
helped that the landmark
Blackpool Tower was nearby.
Hampton Court
Palace RHS
Summer Show
July 2008
GET DOWN! Never trust
a photographer with clean
knees, the late photojournalist
Tom Stoddart probably once
said. Street photography is
physical – kneeling, climbing,
running and squatting should
all be part of the workout.
At 6ft tall, if I’m down low it
takes me out of the eyeline of
the people I’m photographing
and helps to create a cleaner
backdrop. I rarely take a street
photo standing up straight. I’d
like to think the conversation
between these men went
along the lines of: ‘Hey Dave,
you wear your blue shirt with
white stripes, I’ll wear my
white and blue striped shirt
and Ray can wear his blue
and white striped shirt.’
Lay-By Sunbather
July 1998
GET TALKING! I’m not a big fan of
the jab-and-dash approach to street
photography. I sometimes have to
use it to get the job done, but find it
dangerous and disrespectful. I prefer
to photograph a situation unfolding, to
get a clearer understanding of what is
happening. When I’ve achieved the
pictures I’d like, sometimes I’ll have
a chat. This photograph was taken
in the Old Willoughby Hedge lay-by on
the A303 where I spent a weekend
photographing on assignment for the
Sunday Times Magazine. This chap
was sunbathing as ten-tonne trucks
thundered past and children played
badminton nearby. I asked him where
he was travelling to. He looked
confused. ‘I’ve come here for the day,’
he said. I said, why? He looked even
more confused. ‘Because they have
three sausages in their sandwiches
here and only two in Little Chef.’
Man in Gutter
GET HELP! I was shooting
a long-term reportage on
England’s relationship with
alcohol and decided to
make the trip from London
to Plymouth to photograph
along Union Street, which
had a reputation for being
a bit unruly. I jumped off the
train, took one picture, put
my camera away and got
back on the train. The
following week I telephoned
Plymouth police and asked
if I could accompany them
on their weekend patrol. It
was a much more sensible
approach and good to know
half-a-dozen officers would
respond to my squeals.
Smile 2moro will
be worse!!!!
Hull, April 2009
GET LUCKY! I saw Hull’s unofficial
motto daubed on the bridge and
thought it was a good shot but it’s
someone else’s gag. I wanted to
enhance the picture, make it my
own. I looked left and nothing was
happening. I looked right and saw
six nursery children being pushed
along by their carers. My legs
started to do an involuntary
Charleston. This is why I swing my
legs out of bed, leave loved ones
behind and spend money I might
not have for no tangible reward
– to get the shot!
Elderly Couple Kissing
Blackpool, April 2007
GET A ROOM! I dismissed this shot at first. I was
concentrating on how to cross the road and photograph
a group of party-goers. While I was building the courage,
I turned to my left and shot a few frames of an elderly
couple kissing, then moved on. Three years later I was
getting a set of pictures for exhibition together around the
theme of love and revisited the contact sheet. I thought it
was rather good. The tower, the Lost Children Centre sign,
the peeling paint on the weather shelter and openedmouthed kiss between the pensioners. After the Sunday
Times Magazine ran it as a double-page spread, I received
several phone calls which went something like: ‘Is that
Peter Dench?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Did you take that photograph in
the paper of an elderly couple kissing on Blackpool
promenade?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘I wonder if you can help, I think
that’s my dad but that’s not my mum!’ I always try to
take detailed notes when I’m out shooting on the street
– memories fade and facts get muddled. I checked my
notes and gave them the date and approximate time the
picture was taken. It turned out it wasn’t their dad. I liked
that people saw something familiar in the image. Google
recently ran the shot as a bus stop poster.
For the past 50 years, Homer Sykes has
been documenting the British. His newest
book covers the first 15 years of his career,
and he tells Amy Davies more about it
is now known as the London
College of Communication. While
he was there, he struck up
a friendship with the Magnum
photographer David Hurn, who was
lecturing at the college at the time.
A trip to New York and a visit
to the Museum of Modern Art
(MOMA), whose walls were adorned
with the work of luminaries like Lee
Friedlander, Robert Frank and Garry
Winogrand, further cemented
the path to what would become
a half-century of reportage
(and counting).
A life’s worth of pictures
I met Homer at 2018’s inaugural
Photo North festival. Considering
the festival has been co-organised by
the photographer Peter Dench, who
interviewed Homer for his 2012
book The Dench Dozen: Great Britons
of Photography, it was no surprise to
find him here. We conducted our
chat behind a stall where Homer was
displaying his extensive collection of
photobooks to date, as well as
promoting his newest output, My
British Archive: The Way We Were
1968-1983, also published by Dewi
Lewis. During the interview we were
interrupted several times by fans of
the photographer.
The new book features images
from the first 15 years of Homer’s
career, taking in a period in British
ew can boast such a wideranging archive of British
life than the Canadianborn photographer Homer
Sykes. Such is the breadth of his
collection that he has published
numerous books and has been
exhibited countless times – including
at the 2007 Tate Britain exhibition
‘How We Are: Photographing
Britain’, the prestigious gallery’s
first major photographic show.
Although he is arguably best
known for his work documenting
this diverse, quaint and downright
odd country, he has also seen his fair
share of overseas and conflict work.
During his 50-year career, he has
been commissioned to work for titles
including Newsweek, The Sunday
Times, The Observer, Time and just
about every publication noted for its
documentary photography.
One of his books, Once A Year:
Some Traditional British Customs – a
legend among those fascinated with
the genre, was first published in
1977 and charts some of the UK’s
strangest country customs. Almost
40 years later, in 2016, Dewi Lewis
reissued it thanks to huge demand,
bringing the imagery to a whole new
generation inspired by Homer’s
unique eye for storytelling.
Homer’s career began in earnest in
1968, with a degree at what was then
The London College of Printing, but
Top: A textile
Saltaire, 1981
Above middle:
Fulham, London,
Above: Spectators
at the Eton v
Harrow cricket
match, 1975
Left: Whitechapel,
London, 1974
history that was divided, frantic and
fraught with protests. It runs
through the mid-part of Harold
Wilson’s tenure as prime minister,
goes through Callaghan and Heath,
and finishes in the middle of
Thatcher’s Britain.
There are photographs from every
social strata here – poverty in the
East End, rich kids and their parents
at society balls, factory workers in
the north of England, New
Romantics at the Blitz Club in
Early inspiration
To take a big step even further
backwards, Homer’s interest in
photography in fact pre-dates his
1968 degree. He tells me with some
glee that he learned the basics from
a certain illustrious publication
called Amateur Photographer. ‘When
I was a schoolboy I had a Halina
camera and I learned how to
pan, to photograph people,
to do rayographs and bits of
experimentation in the darkroom
I had at school – all thanks to AP.’
In contrast to how some
documentary photographers work,
Homer takes a discreet, subtle and
respectful approach. ‘I’m not a
creator – I like to watch and observe,’
he says. ‘I give it some thought
beforehand as to what’s going to
be the “main” picture – I think
editorially, even when I’m shooting
for myself. I go for the bit that’s
interesting, that makes whatever’s
happening different. I always know
what I’m trying to achieve, even
though in the end I might not be
fixed on that idea.
‘My pictures are very tightly
edited. I like to believe I make
memorable pictures,’ he continues.
‘I certainly try to make pictures that
tell you about the event, but I don’t
in any way exploit them. I have a
very unflattering picture of a couple
of women at the Derby, and I was
thinking of putting one of them
online – but then I thought no, I
don’t need to do that – I wouldn’t
want to offend. I try to photograph
people as they really are, but it’s
Top left: Police
in Notting Hill,
London, 1976
Above left: A
National Front
demonstration in
Lewisham, 1977
Covent Garden and everything
in between. Each image has
a caption containing enough
information to give you an idea
of what’s happening, but leaves a
satisfying amount to the imagination.
Despite these images being
between 35 and 50 years old, Homer
says many of them are less seen by
people than some of his other work,
if at all. For this reason, Homer was
nervous – ‘I hope people will like it,’
he confesses.
Homer Sykes is a
Canadian-born British
photographer who has
been working in the
reportage and
documentary genres
for more than 50 years.
always a balance – I would never
publish a picture of somebody
picking their nose, for example,
because imagine if somebody
photographed me doing the same!’
It’s fair to say Homer is motivated
by a curiosity and desire to
document that which is both
different from what everybody else
photographs, and is far removed
from his own ‘very ordinary,
suburban, south London life’.
However, he admits that recently,
he is less inspired, and certainly less
motivated. ‘I’ve been doing this for
50 years. I don’t think I’ve changed
too much, but I don’t go out and
take pictures every day, or three
times a week, like I once did.
Thinking ahead
His days as a commissioned
photographer working for some
of the most successful news titles
in the world might be over, but
that doesn’t mean he has hung
up the camera. He may not be
shooting as often as he once was,
from what it was when he began.
‘The biggest change over the past
50 years is that now everything is
immediate, and the biggest change
in photography is that everybody
thinks they’re a photographer, so it’s
almost impossible to make a living
as one. The amounts that people
offer to pay you now are zero
compared to what they were 20 or
30 years ago. It’s very difficult for
young people today.’
A true love for photography
Brighton, East
Sussex, 1970
but he’s still keen to one day publish
a sequel to Once a Year. He also
busies himself with cataloguing,
maintaining, updating and selling
the pictures from his hugely
extensive back catalogue.
‘When I started redoing [the
traditional British events] in 2008,
I was suddenly amazed that there
were so many photographers, and
so many people with iPhones who
thought they were photographers,
I thought I just don’t need all of this.
I started thinking that what I need
to be doing is photographing those
events that have been completely
bypassed and forgotten about, and
are really obscure. I hope one day
there will be another book.’
Homer acknowledges that the
current market for photography is
a completely different landscape
Tourists and police at Stonehenge during a festival, 1979
My British Archive:
The Way We Were
1968-1983, Dewi Lewis.
After 50 successful years, it’s clear
that Homer is happy with his lot.
He still has some regrets, though:
‘When I was a young photographer,
I wish I’d spent more time in the
north of England. I’ve always been
London-centric really. I also wish
I’d spent time in Ireland, which is
not that far away but has some
wonderful traditional events.’
Our discussion draws to an end
just as Homer is about to head off
to give a talk in partnership with
John Angerson, another prolific
documentarian of the English. From
the corner of my eye, I can see a
crowd of enthusiastic photographers
gathering, keen to learn more from
this unassuming master of his craft.
A few weeks later, a copy of My
British Archive: The Way We Were
arrives and I’m able to see for myself
the care and dedication that has
gone into the creation of it. If you’re
as yet unfamiliar with Homer Sykes
and his work, the book makes for
a fantastic introduction to it, and
will almost undoubtedly leave
you craving more.
The book is available to buy now,
while you can see further imagery –
and get information on his various
other publications – at his
A ‘prettiest ankles’ competition in Marhamchurch, Cornwall, 1970
This painted wall
in the morning
sunlight caught
my eye. I waited
for a passerby;
his shadow,
with thumb
poised, made
the image pop
Perhaps the trickiest shot of the
project. Combining the timings
of the shutter speed and moving
train to create the look I wanted
took many, many attempts
Dave Fieldhouse shares the story behind his micro
street project on people on their phones
eedback is essential to developing
our skills, and social media for all
its faults can be the best place for
that feedback. It’s faceless and at
times can be cruel but also, occasionally,
spot on. When I posted a street photograph
and received the comment ‘Boring’ from a
photographer whose judgement I trusted,
I took a second look at the work I had
proudly displayed less than an hour earlier,
just as soon as I had calmed down. There
was nothing technically wrong with the
image: it was sharp enough; exposed
correctly (maybe a little high key); and
there was nothing wrong with the subject
– the guy against the wall – whatsoever
(see image on far right, middle row).
The fault, if that’s what we’re going to
call it, was the subject matter. People on
phones are largely detached emotionally
from the scene. There is a metaphorical gap
between the viewer/photographer and the
story within. A simple image of someone
on their phone just didn’t ‘do it for me’,
and I guess this was what the critic was
getting at too. I made an instant decision
to simply avoid photographing people who
were using a mobile device. And herein lies
the problem…
Spend any significant amount of time in
a major city and you will quickly notice
that everyone is on their phone. It’s a social
epidemic and a fact of modern life that we
simply cannot do without our gadgets. I’m
as guilty, and it drives me nuts too.
So, if I can’t avoid photographing folk
on their phones, and people are what
make the image, what could I do? This
sounded like a challenge and the makings
of a micro project right there; something
I thrive on! I started thinking about how
I could incorporate distracted people into
an image and still make it eye-catching
and noteworthy, while complementing
the subject.
Armed with a Fujifilm X-Pro2 and
XF35mmF2 R WR prime lens, I took to the
streets looking for stories. I played with
shadows, colours, motion blur, and when
the person wasn’t enough (through no
fault of their own) I turned my attention
to their surroundings and let some of the
marvellous modern city architecture bring
the interest. I have photographed in the
rain and in strong sunlight. I have
photographed people through the windows
of a moving Underground train (that took
quite a few attempts), and at night, using
the light from the handheld device to
illuminate the face.
Learning from failure
As with my landscape work, my first glance
at a new image is always to see what is
wrong with it, rather than what is right.
This is the only way I learn and hopefully
improve. In this instance, I focused my
attention on the man in the picture – the
subject of the image was 100% him, and
this was the wrong thing to do. I was being
lazy; spotted an easy, static target; and
forgot to tell a story or create mystery.
Avoiding the ‘boring’ image is essential
if we are trying to engage with the third
person, in this case the viewer. Self-critique
is one of the hardest skills to develop.
Of course, we love our own work, we’re
attached to it emotionally and have
invested time and effort to create it, but
some of the best photographers I know,
are also some of the most self-critical. ‘Is it
boring?’ is now the first thing I ask myself
when reviewing an image or scene.
I still have a lot to learn in the field of
street photography, but little failures like
that one image and the honest feedback
it received are examples of exactly what
we need every now and then to
progress in our art.
Look for
shapes and
on glass
This worked
perfectly as a
steely, stylish
mono image
Dave Fieldhouse
An award-winning freelance photographer
from the Midlands, Dave specialises
in landscape, street and architectural
photography for magazines and corporate
clients alike. See more of his work at
One of my personal
favourites from the
There was nothing technically wrong with this shot, but
essentially the comment received was accurate: it was boring
It was almost
guaranteed that
the first person
to approach this
scene would be
on their phone
Absorbed in the world
at our fingertips, we
often miss what’s in
front of us
Tony Sellen
Award-winning photographer Tony Sellen is passionate
about fine art, long exposures and London, the city he
calls home. He loves to travel, capturing architecture,
seascapes, landscapes and street images. Tony runs 1:2:1
workshops, licenses images and accepts commissions. To
find out more visit
of the city
Buildings are designed for people,
so including a human element in
your pictures can help you to tell
a story. Tony Sellen talks to
Tracy Calder about his skilful
black & white technique
‘I would go months without touching
the camera, but then I’d learn something
new every time I did pick it up,’ he
recalls. To hone his skills, he took up bird
photography, experimenting with depth
of field to get ‘a nice, blurry background’,
before deciding to attend a workshop
focusing on long exposures. ‘At first I didn’t
really understand what long exposures
were or how to use them, and I couldn’t get
my head around the maths,’ he recalls, ‘but
Prime lenses
Prime lenses force you to
work for a composition, but
the results are worth it. Tony
will sometimes shoot with a
24-70mm zoom and return
later with one of his primes,
such as the Zeiss MakroPlanar T* 50mm ZF.2.
doing the workshop made me realise that
you don’t really need to know that much!’
Find a style
Capturing wildlife remains a great passion
for Tony and he believes that if he’d picked
up a camera earlier (or lived ‘in the middle
of nowhere’) he might have made it his
focus. But living in London he felt his
options were limited. ‘What was I going
to shoot? An urban fox, a sparrow, some
hen Tony Sellen walks into a
building, his brain perceives
a mix of lines, shapes, light
and shadow. ‘Everything is
a picture to me,’ he reveals. ‘When I walk
into a hotel lobby, I notice the design and
the thought process behind the seating
arrangement.’ But it hasn’t always been
that way. In fact, Tony only decided to take
his photography seriously in 2014; before
then it was more of an on/off hobby.
Nikon D810
The Nikon D810 is Tony’s
main camera. When you’re
shooting in low-light
conditions, you need a
camera that handles noise
well – the D810 has an
ISO range of 64-12,800,
which makes it ideal.
pigeons,’ he laughs. Once he’d accepted
that his love for nature needed to be
satisfied outside the city, he was free to
concentrate on what was on his doorstep.
‘I realised I could get some nice long
exposures of the Thames, and I started to
enjoy photographing buildings too,’ he
recalls. ‘The more I looked the more I
noticed little details in the architecture.’
At this point Tony started to develop
a personal style. ‘The creative process
Above: Corkscrew
Nikon D810, 18mm,
1/250sec at f/6.3, ISO 100
Above right:
Only God Knows
Nikon Df, 35mm, 1/60sec
at f/6.3, ISO 800
Right: Walk the Line
Nikon D810, 20mm,
1/200sec at f/3.5, ISO 1000
Nik Silver Efex
When it comes to B&W,
using the desaturation
tool to remove colour
isn’t enough. Tony likes
to use Nik Silver Efex
due to its unique
algorithms and advanced
tools and controls.
The Unknown
Nikon D810, 24mm,
1/1000sec at f/3.5, ISO 400
began, and the compositions started
to fall into place,’ he recalls. Looking
at his geometric street compositions I can’t
help wondering if he has a background in
maths. ‘No,’ he laughs. ‘Although I do work
as an engineer for London Underground, so
who knows? I guess people are wired in
different ways – some people notice details
like lines and shape. I think it’s something
that’s always been in me and photography
has just brought it out.’
Celebrate black & white
While there is a smattering of colour in
Tony’s portfolio, you have to dig deep to
find it. ‘It’s always black & white, unless it’s
not,’ he laughs. ‘Having a style is important
to me and I don’t think there’s any place
for colour photography in the style that
I’ve found.’ While Tony has nothing
against colour – and he believes it will
always be more popular on social media
– he feels somewhat frustrated by the
ongoing trend for highly saturated images.
‘People see the colour and nothing else,’ he
suggests. ‘It annoys me because it’s often
“fake” colour achieved by pushing the
saturation up. It feels like the photographer
is trying to trick the viewer into believing
that’s what something really looked like.’
For Tony, black & white is ideal for
emphasising the sleek lines, polished glass
and reflective steel that he finds himself
attracted to. ‘You get that nice silvery finish
on some of them,’ he explains. Naturally,
the architectural landscape of London is
always changing, providing Tony with
limitless material. ‘I love old London,’ says
Tony. ‘I wish there was more of it, but
modern buildings are generally better
suited to my style of photography.’
Prime lenses
Prior to the pandemic, which Tony
admits has made him ‘a bit lazy’, the
photographer was almost exclusively
shooting with prime lenses. ‘They’re much
more challenging because you have to
really think about composition, where you
stand etc,’ he says, ‘but the results I get
with some of my Zeiss primes makes it
worthwhile – the contrast is amazing.’ As
a compromise, Tony will sometimes head
out with his Nikon D810 and 24-70mm
lens and if he finds something he likes he
will return later and reshoot with one of his
primes. Looking at the level of precision in
his work, I’m keen to know how much
pre-shoot planning he does. ‘A lot of the
time I just decide what day I want to go
out, check the weather and then decide
what I’m going to shoot,’ he explains. ‘If
it’s a bright, blue-sky day I might take my
infrared camera (a converted Sony A7R);
if it’s a nice day with fast-moving clouds
I might take my filters and shoot some long
exposures; and if it’s an in-between day
I might shoot some street stuff.’ Tony’s
‘pick the day and work with what you
get’ approach is refreshing.
Tell a story
Looking at Tony’s geometric street work,
I’m struck by the way he uses human
figures to add a sense of scale, drama and
occasionally humour. ‘Architecture is
designed for people to use, so sometimes
it’s nice to include a human element,’ he
Tony’s top tips
Be courteous
Tony rarely gets stopped by security, but if he does
he remains polite – if you get defensive and start
telling people your rights, it rarely ends well.
Sometimes they will say you need a permit, in
which case simply ask where you can get one from!
Pick a day
Don’t let the weather dictate when you go out –
pick a day, check the conditions and then decide
what to shoot. If it’s a bright, blue-sky day then
consider infrared, if there are fast-moving clouds,
then try experimenting with filters and long
exposures. Work with what you get given.
Accept human behaviour
Including people in the frame requires patience. If
your camera is on a tripod, people will often avoid
walking in front of the camera out of politeness! On
the flip side, sometimes people will act up in front
of the camera – it’s all part of the process.
Look around you
Tony enjoys photographing wildlife but living in
London he finds his options are limited. Sometimes
you’re better off concentrating on what’s directly
around you – in this case, architecture. The more
you look, the more you’ll start noticing details.
Tell a story
Foggy Faith
Nikon D600, 50mm lens,
1/80sec at f/5.6,
ISO 200
says. Generally speaking, he’s not a big fan
of the standard street photography that
fills many social media feeds. ‘I just can’t
relate to it,’ he admits, ‘Reflections in
coffee shop windows, wet pavements etc
– people say it tells a story, but does it?’
To make things more interesting,
he concentrates on a building first and
then considers whether or not a human
presence adds anything to the story. ‘Most
of the time the picture will work without
the person, but sometimes they add
something special,’ he explains. But
waiting for the right person to come
along can be frustrating. ‘Often you’re
just looking and hoping that they won’t
see you or pay you any attention,’ he
says. ‘You have to be patient.’ The figures
are so perfectly placed that I can’t help
wondering if they’ve been directed. ‘No,
no,’ says Tony. ‘I’m quite a shy person and
I wouldn’t do that. They are all candid
pictures. If you’re setting things up, asking
someone to behave in a certain way, then
it’s not street photography for me, it’s
just a staged image.’
Nikon D810, 105mm,
1/400sec at f/8, ISO 64
Notice how people interact with the architecture
around them and try to tell a story. Buildings are
designed for people to use, so it can help to
include a human element – doing so can provide
a sense of scale.
Damien Demolder
Damien is a photographer, journalist, judge and educator
who shoots almost all types of subjects with a wide range
of equipment. A former editor of Amateur Photographer,
he gives club talks and teaches photography across the
country. See
Life without
Small and silent cameras have long been prized in
street photography. Here’s why Damien Demolder
prefers mirrorless systems for observing everyday life
n truth, any camera can be used
to take pictures in the street. Some
time before I was born, hardy
photographers were using gigantic
wooden-plate cameras to document the life
and activity on the pavements of the world.
Even I have used monstrous mediumformat bodies, with flapping barn-door
mirrors, to record the buzz of city streets
in this century.
It is pretty obvious, though, that just
because a type of camera can be used to take
street pictures, it doesn’t make it the best
type of camera for the job. I’m not
especially old, but in my time I have used
just about every sort of camera to shoot in
streets. I have come to the conclusion that
models that are small, quick to use and
don’t make any noise suit me best. Those
models are, almost invariably, mirrorless
compact system cameras.
What’s so good about mirrorless?
All camera systems have positive and
negative points, but for street photography,
the benefits of mirrorless models far
outweigh the negatives. These cameras are
not all the same, of course, but in general
they share smaller dimensions than most
DSLRs and an ability to shoot without
making a racket that attracts attention.
Almost all mirrorless cameras have silent
modes that allow you to take pictures
with no giveaway sounds at all. This
Using a small camera
allows you to take pictures
Leica M (Typ 240), 50mm,
1/4000sec at f/2, ISO 250
A wide focal length is
great for including the
surrounding environment
Panasonic DC-GX9, 12mm,
1/100sec at f/1.4, ISO 3200
V Standard lens
I love the Panasonic Leica DG
Summilux 12mm f/1.4, but
Fujifilm has a nice XF 35mm
f/1.4R and Olympus has the M.
Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro.
V Wide lens
Wide lenses are great for
including the environment. I like
the Leica DG Summilux 12mm
f/1.4 for Lumix or the Fujinon XF
16mm f/1.4 R WR.
Mid-tele lens
I find long lenses don’t
retain a connection
with the subject.
I like a moderate
tele between
75-85mm, like
Leica’s DG
Nocticron 42.5mm
f/1.2 for Lumix.
V Small cameras
The Lumix DC-GX800 is an
amazing tiny model, and the
Lumix GX9 is a bit bigger but
more advanced. Fujifilm’s
X-Pro2 and the PEN F also
give first-class results.
V Slightly bigger
Slightly larger models, more like
DSLRs, include the Olympus
OM-D E-M1 Mark II and OM-D
E-M5 Mark II, Fujifilm X-T2
and Lumix G9 or G80.
not only means that in a quiet place
you can take pictures, but that if the
first frame isn’t what you wanted, you can
shoot again and again without your subject
moving out of your way.
Size and weight are important when you
are spending a day trying not to stand out.
Mirrorless cameras won’t put your back out
and can remain concealed in a coat pocket
or discreet bag. There is nothing like a giant
camera bag to advertise the fact that you
are taking pictures.
One of the other benefits is the ability to
shoot in live view without a massive delay.
I like to hold a camera away from my face
to take in the composition on the rear
screen. This allows me to take in the whole
image in one glance, which makes it easy
to see how elements within the frame relate
to each other. The other benefit is that you
don’t look like a proper photographer, so
people are more inclined to ignore you.
My favourite mirrorless models also have
touchscreen controls that make moving
AF areas around much quicker. In a fluid
situation, where you can’t be sure about
exactly where the subject will be in the
frame, it’s a godsend to be able to simply
touch the screen at the right moment and
have the camera focus on that spot – and
even trip its shutter at that exact moment,
which is seen in some models.
Using live view enables
you to hold the camera
away from your face so
you can take in the
entire scene
Panasonic DC-GX9, 25mm,
1/2000sec at f/1.4, ISO 200
The downsides
There are downsides to using mirrorless
cameras for your street photography, but
none of them are life-threatening. The
main one is short battery life, so you need
Why it works
Make use of strong
graphic shapes and
lines to create a
striking composition
Kodak P880, 10.8mm,
1/2500sec at f/8, ISO 100
This image was shot on quite a basic model:
the Kodak EasyShare P880 bridge camera. It
appeals to me because of its simplicity, the
graphic elements of the environment and the
immediately obvious subject. It also shows an
everyday scene in a manner we may not have
seen before, which helps to create impact
and a positive first impression.
The shot is of someone walking across the
Millennium Bridge in London – which doesn’t
sound very interesting in its own right. The
fact it was a bright November morning adds
a layer of frost on the glass and a strong
backlight to create clear shadows against an
illuminated panel. I studied the shapes and
looked for echoes and contrasts in the
surrounding area, and used the corner of the
Tate Modern to form a collection of triangles
and hard edges that work well with the
shapes and lines in the middle of the frame.
The man stands out partly because he is the
only natural form in a frame filled with hard
edges and angles.
Damien’s top
10 tips for street
Things to consider when out
on the streets shooting with
your mirrorless camera
A viewer will feel as close to the
subject as you were when you took
the picture, so get in close to make
viewers feel as though they are actually
there beside you.
Don’t take a bag – it will mark you
out as a photographer. I try not to
look like a photographer at all and I keep
my kit in my pockets when I can.
Use the rear screen rather than
holding the camera to your eye. This
allows you to be more flexible with your
viewpoints and enables you to see all
around you as you shoot.
Use contrast to make your subject
stand out from the scene: a bright
subject against a dark background,
or a dark subject against a bright
background, for example. Make sure
the viewer knows where to look.
Pay attention to light, noting its
direction and qualities, and
photograph it. When you make light
the subject, your pictures will improve.
To blend in, find the smallest
cameras you can. Small cameras
go unnoticed in most places and they
don’t weigh very much, so you can
carry them all day.
Short lenses make you get close
and they allow you to include the
environment, so the viewer can see
where you were when you took the
picture. This helps with impact and
conveys the sense of storytelling.
Make sure you know your
camera well, so that when you
need a feature, you are able to
access it quickly. There’s nothing
less productive than searching
through an unfamiliar menu system
while out shooting in the street.
Always have your camera with
you. Amazing moments will not
restrict themselves to your dedicated
photo days – they can pop up at any
time. Don’t regret not having a camera
with you.
Be selective about what and
who you shoot as not everyone
you see in the street is interesting,
and neither is every place. Wait, be
patient, and try to make your pictures
say something.
Get in close to enable
viewers to feel like they
are there with you
Panasonic DC-GX800, 12mm,
1/250sec at f/4, ISO 200
to carry spares. Most of the models I use
can get by on three batteries for a day’s
shooting, plus editing photos in-camera
and sending them to my phone on the way
home. Manufacturers’ own batteries can
often be fairly expensive, so you can save
a bit of money by looking for independent
brands such as Hähnel or Ansmann.
Another slight disadvantage is that you
have to be extra careful when changing
lenses to ensure you don’t get dust on your
sensor. Some models leave the sensor
exposed, so when there is nothing
blocking the mount, the sensor is open
to the elements. However, I’ve rarely had
much of an issue with dust, and certainly
no more than I have with my DSLR bodies.
The only other downside to shooting
with a mirrorless model is that some DSLR
users will look down on you as though you
have taken up potato printing. This is only
a problem if you worry about what other
people think. And, of course, the upside is
their expression when you show them
what you can do with your idiot’s camera.
our eye to see what is in the picture,
which tends to give the game away when
we are trying to be discreet. DSLRs can
also draw attention as they create quite
a clatter when the shutter fires. It isn’t
always the act of the shutter firing
that’s the issue, but sometimes it’s the
mirror flapping around and the sound
reverberating through the hollow of the
shutter box. In some places that sound
doesn’t really stand out, but in the
majority of situations the distinctive
sequence reveals that a photographer is
at work. My problem is therefore that it
makes it much harder to capture the
world in its natural state.
What’s so bad about DSLRs?
There is nothing bad about DSLR cameras.
However, the best-performing models tend
to be quite big and the best lenses quite
heavy. These systems might not feel too
big and heavy at the beginning of the day,
but by the end of the day they can. I’m
physically quite strong, but even I need to
rest when carrying around a bag of DSLR
lenses, and sometimes I want to go home
before I’ve finished shooting.
When using a DSLR to shoot anything
moving we need to hold the camera to
Make sure your
camera is ready
so you don’t miss
good opportunities
Panasonic DC-GX9, 25mm,
1/8000sec at f/1.4, IS0 200
I try not to do much postproduction as I don’t get much
time after a shoot, so I do what
I can to get the shot as close as
possible to the way I want it at the
time I take the picture. However,
almost always, there are things
for which software is needed.
I actually really like in-camera
raw-processing facilities that
allow me to skip the software
stage, but not many cameras
have a processing ability that
is extensive enough for this.
Fujifilm X-series models have
decent processing features
and those in the Lumix cameras
are excellent.
I always shoot in raw to allow
myself the best starting position,
and I usually use Adobe Camera
Raw and Photoshop or Phase
One’s Capture One Pro.
1 Lift tones
2 Adjust contrast
3 Boost colours
If I am generally happy with my exposure,
the first thing I do is deal with the mid-tone
contrast using the Curves tool. For a shot like
this, I’ll pull down the shadows and lift the
lighter tones to emphasise the difference
between the sunshine and the shade.
Next, I deal with other more subtle tools for
increasing mid-tone contrast – the Highlights
and Shadows sliders. I often use the Clarity
slider to help with the process, but almost
always draw the Contrast slider down so the
contrast doesn’t look crude.
Colour is important here, so I’ve added
a touch of Vibrance and a bit of Saturation
– but not too much of either as Curves has
already lifted the colour. I’ve also tweaked
the colour temperature by a few degrees to
warm the late-afternoon light.
4 Sharpen
5 Clean up
6 Resize
The way you apply sharpening depends on
the noise, detail and base sharpness of the
picture. This one is fine grained, so I set the
Radius low and increase the Amount.
I used an aperture of f/6.3 here and there’s
a visible dust spot in the sky. To remove this
I’ve used the Healing Brush in Photoshop,
but I’ll often use the standard Cloning tool.
I save images at their largest size and with as
little compression as possible. For Instagram,
Twitter or Facebook, I’ll resize to 1,920 pixels
on the longest edge to reduce the size.
In association with MPB
Amateur Photographer
of the Year Competition
of MPB prizes to be won
Enter the UK’s oldest and most prestigious photo competition for
amateur photographers. There are ten rounds, so you have ten chances
to win some great cameras and lenses from MPB!
up the
For centuries, the Isle of Dogs was home to a closeknit community of ‘islanders’. But in the late 1980s all
this changed, as Mike Seaborne tells Tracy Calder
obody knows how the
Isle of Dogs got its name;
one theory suggests it’s a
corruption of the Isle of
Ducks, which seems pretty feasible
given it’s a patch of land that once
regularly flooded, while another
claims it’s down to the number of
dead dogs that used to wash up
along the banks of the river here.
Whatever the reason, no one can
dispute that this peninsula, created
by a bend in the River Thames, is
highly unusual. What started out
as an area of marshland is now a
major financial district, home to
Canary Wharf and some of the
tallest skyscrapers in Europe. Visit
on a weekday and you are sure to
find city traders milling about where
cattle once grazed.
Mike Seaborne stumbled across the
Isle of Dogs in 1982. ‘I had been
photographing the decimation of
traditional industry outside of
London for a few years, and then I
came to work at the Museum of
London and discovered Docklands,’
he recalls. He was immediately struck
by the way the area retained much
Canary Wharf,
of its traditional industrial character,
despite being in severe decline (the
last of the docks here closed in 1980).
By the time he arrived on the ‘island’
it had been earmarked as an
‘Enterprise Zone’ and big changes
were afoot. On observing the empty
docks, derelict factories and
workshops, Mike became determined
to record the area’s industrial heritage
before the London Docklands
Development Corporation (LDDC)
arrived with its bulldozers.
It’s hard to believe now, but in the
early 1980s – before the LDDC and
Docklands Light Railway (DLR)
arrived – the island was relatively
isolated. ‘The Isle of Dogs is special
due to the nature of its topography,’
suggests Mike. ‘It’s surrounded by
Construction of
the DLR at Canary
Wharf, 1985
Geejay’s Solarium,
corner of West
Ferry Road and
Ferry Street, 1985
the river in a big loop, and back
then it was quite cut off.’ At the
time, there was just one bus on and
off the island, and most weekends
Mike could be found on it.
Geographically speaking, the Isle of
Dogs is a peninsula, but that hasn’t
stopped residents from developing
an island mentality. ‘People living
here have traditionally felt like
islanders – they call themselves
islanders,’ says Mike. ‘They are not
just part of the East End; they’re a
separate community.’
Before containerisation and the
subsequent closure of the docks and
factories, many islanders had been
working in similar trades to their
parents and grandparents, so
the prospect of big change was
very unnerving. ‘Nobody knew
exactly what was going to
happen, but it was clear that it was
going to be radical,’ says Mike. ‘The
traditional work would go, the
population would change, it was
obviously going to be massive.’ Mike
hoped to capture as much of this as
possible on film, but it wasn’t until
he met Eve Hostettler, founder of the
Island History Trust (IHT), that the
project really got under way.
The IHT was on a mission to record
the history of the island as far back
as the 19th century by collecting
oral accounts from descendants of
traditional islanders, and studying
their personal photographic
archives. ‘Once I realised there
was an archive of the past, Eve and
I agreed it would be great to create
an archive of what was then the
present,’ says Mike. Eve’s help
proved invaluable when it came
to gaining access to particular
buildings and making contact with
some of the islanders. ‘I couldn’t
have done it without her,’ admits
Mike. ‘I was an outsider – at that
point I didn’t even live in London!’
Mike decided to shoot black &
white film so that he could develop
and print the results himself. Mike’s
passion for black & white started
young, and he began to look at other
artists for inspiration. ‘In those early
days there were two photographers
whose pictures really wowed me,
and they were both called Don,’ he
laughs. ‘The first was Don McCullin
– in particular his series covering the
end of the Consett Steel Works in
north-east England. And the second
was Don McPhee – I loved the way
he used light, shadow, and tones. It
all felt so powerful and impactful.’
For a while, Mike wondered if
photography needed colour at all.
Farmer with his
cows, Mudchute
Farm, 1984
Mike Seaborne has been
photographing London
since 1979 and, until
2011, was Senior
Curator of Photographs
at the Museum of
London. Much of his
work deals with the
changing urban
landscape. Since leaving
the museum, he
continues with personal
projects. Visit www.
Once he began working as senior
curator of photographs at the
Museum of London in the 1970s,
Mike developed a fondness for
work from the ‘documentary
tradition’ starting in the 1920s.
He was lucky enough to meet
photographers from the inter-war
period, including Bill Brandt. ‘I just
really got drawn into the idea of
photography as a documentary
medium,’ he enthuses. ‘I like the
idea that you’re not looking for an
image, you’re trying to tell a story,
which usually happens over a
series of images and sometimes a
combination of images and words.’
Mixed feelings
From 1982 to 1986, Mike captured
the Isle of Dogs exclusively in black
& white (he has a second archive
covering the period 1987 to 1995,
which shows all the new housing
‘Death of a
funeral march
Wharf, West Ferry
Road, 1985
South West India
Dock, 1984
‘The community began
to organise itself and to
speak with one voice in
the hope of having its
plight acknowledged’
and developments such as Canary
Wharf shot in colour). ‘I was
photographing all sorts of things:
the landscape; dereliction; people at
work, school, at play, in community
centres, in shops,’ he reveals. The
islanders he met had mixed feelings
about the plans for regeneration, but
most had the foresight to realise that
work would now come from new
technologies, not the traditional
semi-skilled factory work they had
been used to. ‘Some people were
pessimistic, but for a minority there
was hope of a better future,’ he says.
When the bulldozers moved in,
the mood grew progressively darker.
‘Once the process of regeneration
began, more problems became
evident,’ says Mike. ‘Property prices
went up and the younger generation
faced real problems because the work
on offer was very different from the
traditional jobs they had expected,
and they didn’t feel like they would
be qualified.’ Many school-leavers
couldn’t afford to stay on the island,
as Mike explains, ‘Often they had
to move out of London entirely;
there was a big migration of the
younger generation.’
Over time, the community began
to organise itself and to speak with
one voice in the hope of having its
plight acknowledged. ‘They were
saying to the authorities, look, the
Docks have gone, you’re going to
build all this new stuff, but where
does the existing community fit in,’
The Isle of Dogs: Before
the Big Money is
published by Hoxton
Mini Press, £17.95,
ISBN 978-1-910566
-39-8. See www.
says Mike. When words failed,
some of the islanders took action.
In 1985, for example, the Death of
a Community march took place,
with ‘mourners’ accompanying
an empty coffin around the island
before staging a mock funeral service
at Canary Wharf. Not everyone
agreed with the protests (on one
occasion activists released a flock of
sheep and thousands of bees during
a presentation by the governor of
the Bank of England), but no one
could deny they attracted attention.
Despite the spirited protests,
nothing could halt the arrival of ‘big
money’ on the Isle of Dogs, and by
the late 1980s, construction of the
Canary Wharf skyscraper at One
Canada Square was well under way.
In 1991, the first tenants moved into
the tower, but many of the original
islanders were left feeling they
had been sold down the river.
new avenues
The pandemic has changed the very nature of street
photography since 2020. Steve Pill speaks to three
very different pros about new briefs, adapting
techniques, and what the future holds
Paola Franqui
Paola, also known as Monaris, is a Puerto
Rico-born photographer based in New Jersey,
USA. She is an Adobe Lightroom Partner and
Sony Ambassador. Her first photobook,
Momentos, was published this summer by
Setanta Books.
Capturing human
interaction is central
to Paola’s work
Sony A6000, 19mm, 1/800sec at
f/2.8, ISO 100
Paola Franqui’s photographs are
a product of her environment in
the best possible sense. Whether
shooting a Parisian boulevard or
a Tokyo subway, she manages to
capture the spirit of each place via
a series of telling moments that play
out like stills from a long-lost 1970s
film. Her most frequent subject is
Manhattan, which she infuses with
a timeless romance and the outsider
perspective of a Puerto Rico-born
photographer living an hour away
in New Jersey. ‘I don’t think there’s
any place like New York City. The
characters, how it feels, the smell,
the chaos,’ she says.
‘Photographing the city at the
beginning of 2020 was very
challenging because it was so quiet
– that liveliness, that spark was
gone.’ Paola delights in human
interactions, so the lack of visible
smiles among masked crowds proved
particularly difficult. ‘You had to try
harder to find something else, that
extra thing that’s going to make the
photo work,’ she says.
When a full lockdown prevented
regular jaunts to New York and
beyond, she began to look through
her archive, enjoying the world
vicariously through her images and
picking out forgotten frames to edit.
‘I’m very big into colour grading and
I would spend hours and hours a day
just trying to bring things back to
life with different colours and
different editing styles. That was
something that kept me sane.’
Paola’s aim is to record fleeting
moments that capture the
environment and atmosphere
Sony A7R III, 55mm, 1/160sec at f/1.8, ISO 100
This period of self-reflection also
resulted in Paola’s first photobook,
Momentos, published by London’s
Setanta Books. ‘What I said to them
at the beginning was that I wanted
this book to be like a movie: from
the first page to the last, I wanted
to tell a story; I wanted all of the
images to speak with each other.
And I think the way they did it was
very successful.’
The cover image, ‘Until We Meet
Again’, is typical of Paola’s approach:
sepia-tinged colours, an exacting
composition, and the photographer’s
own image inserted into a complex
interaction of reflections. That final
element was inspired by Vivian
Maier, the reclusive nanny whose
vast street photography archive only
emerged after her death in 2009.
Paola discovered Maier’s work at
a point when she had grown
disillusioned with her own output:
‘I was immediately obsessed. I was
like, “How was this person real?”
I bought all of her books and I would
spend hours looking at her work.’
Maier also indirectly inspired No
Film Wasted, a second Instagram
account through which Paola and
her wife, Laura, post scans of
mid-century film slides. ‘Every
time we go thrifting, we try to find
more,’ she says excitedly. ‘Our
collection is crazy; I don’t know
what I’m going to do with them.
I have maybe like 10,000 slides
and I’m not going to stop.’
That passion for photography
has been evident ever since Paola
first started shooting street on
an iPhone 5 nine years ago and
Instagram has proved a valuable role
in her development – not only in
terms of building an audience of
more than 325,000 followers, but
also because most of her commercial
clients first found her via the social
media platform (see @monaris_). As
an ambassador for both Sony and
Adobe Lightroom, Paola also feels an
I constantly
switch lenses.
When I get too
comfortable, I need
to do something
Be respectful.
If I take a photo
of someone and
they look at me,
I immediately smile
to show I’m not
doing any harm.
Study other
work. It’s a way of
finding inspiration
to make something
for yourself.
Paola spent hours during lockdown picking
out images from her archive to edit with
different colours and editing styles
Sony A7R III, 24-70mm, 1/160sec at f/4, ISO 100
added responsibility to capitalise
upon her increased profile in the
industry. ‘I’m working for females,
for Latinas, for queers,’ she says
proudly. ‘I want to pave the way
for more female photographers
because I know how hard it is for
us. We have to work extra hard.’
While Paola is clearly putting in
the hours, she has certainly found
a way of making her photographs
seem effortless.
Neil Hall
West Midlands-born Neil is a staff photographer and video
journalist for the London bureau of the European Pressphoto
Agency (EPA). In 2020, he was named Arts & Entertainment
Photographer of the Year at the BPPA Press Photographer of
the Year awards. See more of Neil’s work at
photographers/neil-hall and
WHEN daily life ground to a halt
for many of us 18 months ago, it
largely remained unchanged for
Neil Hall. As a staff photographer
for European Pressphoto Agency
(EPA), he continued to commute
across London every day while
his classification as a ‘key worker’
meant his daughter stayed in
school. Nevertheless, while Neil’s
routine appeared much the same, his
output did not. ‘The job of a news
photographer is often to show
or reflect the world – therefore
obviously as the world completely
changed, the nature of the pictures
you take and how you take them has
completely changed,’ he explains.
‘In effect, we became pure street
With public life on hold, the
41-year-old was given a much
broader brief to seek out visual
clues and signifiers that would
illustrate how daily life was
changing in unprecedented ways.
‘The trick is to remember that what
is happening today might not be
happening in a week, so you’ve got
to have that historical eye on the
situation,’ he explains.
Neil quickly went from
documenting masked shoppers
running home with armfuls of toilet
roll to shooting deserted London
streets at what should have been
rush hour. While the silence of an
empty Piccadilly Circus was striking
at first, he says, the resulting
photographs were ultimately
unsatisfying: ‘Unless it’s a very
clever piece of visual design, street
photography needs people in it to
humanise it and tell the story –
because stories are about people.’
Once people began to return to
the city, they brought with them a
fresh set of challenges. Government
restrictions on daily exercise meant
that photographers were eyed
with greater suspicion, further
exacerbating an already fraught
dynamic between public and press.
‘Certainly, in the last five years, with
the explosion of social media, people
have become more aware of what
can happen to a picture,’ says Neil.
‘And with that comes a significant
mistrust of photographers, more so
than at any point in history. If you
look at some of the great photos that
Henri Cartier-Bresson captured, you
probably couldn’t take those now in
quite the same way.’
Verbal attacks have become a
regular occurrence. ‘I always find
that people like social documentary
photography except when they’re
in it,’ he notes drily. To help in this
respect, Neil set aside his trusty
Nikon D6 for the silent shutter of
the mirrorless Nikon Z 7. However,
he is adamant that there is much
more to photography than good
kit. ‘A picture isn’t just about the
technical aspect,’ he says. ‘Anyone
can learn to paint to a reasonable
standard, it doesn’t make them
Picasso. You can swallow a thesaurus,
but it doesn’t mean you’re going to
be Hemingway.’
Neil’s appreciation for the
more elusive qualities of street
photography took shape in 2003
when, as a young archaeology
graduate, he visited two landmark
London exhibitions: Walker Evans at
the Photographers’ Gallery and Tate
Modern’s Cruel and Tender. ‘That
was a mind-blowing experience for
someone who didn’t have a great
background knowledge of
photography,’ he says.
Neil promptly took a job at his
hometown newspaper, Tamworth
Herald, working his way up via
freelance shifts with the nationals
and six years as a stringer at Reuters,
before joining EPA in 2017. As his
working day now settles back into
a more regular routine of sporting
events and political summits, it is
still the simple challenges of classic
street photography that continue to
motivate his practice. ‘It’s like trying
to capture a rare butterfly while
you’ve got a large bell around your
neck,’ he says. ‘It’s really difficult but
when you get it, it’s more satisfying
than anything else.’
Neil was keen to include people to humanise scenes, to tell
the story unfolding in front of him Nikon D5, 1/3200sec at f/3.2, ISO 125
Stick to
for street
photography. You
are just as likely
to screw up as
you are on
manual focus,
but it’s faster.
My go-to
lens for
wide shots is
a 24-70mm.
Anything wider is
so beyond the
normal field of
vision that it
becomes almost
like an effect.
If you are
trying to tell
a story in a
single frame, you
must pick a
point of interest.
As a rule, I shoot
quite wide open
– usually f/2.8.
Neil was tasked with
capturing moments
representative of how
daily life was changing
during the pandemic
Nikon D5, 70-200mm, 1/800sec
at f/4, ISO 400
Shooting deserted
London streets at
rush hour soon
became the new norm
Nikon Z7, 24-70mm,
1/250sec at f/5, ISO 64
Craig Whitehead
Under his Sixstreetunder handle, Cambridge-based Craig has
become one of Britain’s leading street photographers. He
teaches workshops with Skill Share, and he is working on a
follow-up to his first sold-out photobook, New York. Explore
more of Craig’s work at
and purchase prints via
IT’S STRANGE to think, now that he
has amassed more than 250,000
Instagram followers, but Craig
Whitehead only turned to street
photography by chance. The
Cambridge School of Art graduate
picked up a camera purely as a
creative outlet during his lunch
breaks from work, while even his
specialist subject came about by
necessity. ‘The only option was to
shoot the city because that’s where
I happened to be,’ Craig explains.
‘If I had been based in the
countryside, I’d probably be
a landscape photographer.’
Craig’s only real experience of
street photography at that stage was
the unflattering flashgun portraiture
of Magnum photographer Bruce
Gilden. He tried imitating a similar
style, shooting wide and close, yet
quickly realised this was not for him.
‘I’m not going to stick my camera in
someone’s face while they’re biting
into a burger, it doesn’t interest me,’
he says. ‘I’m definitely more in the
camp of trying to make art.’
During his degree, Craig used
multiple sheets of tracing paper to
carefully build his illustrations and
he takes a similarly layered approach
to street photography. Rather than
focusing purely on people, he is
more interested in the scene as a
whole, so he will select interesting
backdrops or objects to shoot
through first, before identifying
repeat patterns of behaviour that
allow him to pre-empt how figures
might enter into the frame.
He views the process as a numbers
game – and he fancied his odds
better with a camera. ‘You could
work for a week on a couple of
illustrations and hate everything
you’ve done; whereas I can take
1,000 photos in a day and it
doesn’t matter if I don’t use 999
of them,’ he explains.
That matter-of-fact attitude
extends to editing and an approach
that might alarm photojournalistic
purists: Craig thinks nothing of
removing unwanted details that
have strayed into shot, such as wires
or bag straps. There’s a similar
amount of artistic licence used in
colour grading, as he pushes the
saturation and often skews reds
towards the slight orange-bias of
Kodachrome film. The avoidance of
what he calls ‘known colours’ is the
key to preventing pictures from
looking false or overly worked. ‘It’s
the skin tones that give it away,’
he explains. ‘If people like blue
highlights, you can tell as soon as
you see a face in there. But you can
play around with colour a lot if you
protect those indicators.’
Craig agrees that his appetite for
street photography is bordering on
an addiction and it is clear that he
has been suffering withdrawal
symptoms. ‘In the past 18 months,
I just haven’t been producing,’ he
admits. ‘It sucks. That feeling of just
surprising yourself and getting a shot
that you never expected is the entire
reason to keep going out and doing
it, so not having any of that for the
best part of two years is awful. I’ve
had to accept that everyone is in this
same situation, it’s not just me.’
The extended lay-off has given
Craig time to reassess his practice.
He cites Saul Leiter and Ernst Haas
as the ‘Old Masters’, and he is
keen to emulate their broader
interpretation of the subject.
‘Why am I pigeon-holing myself
completely to street?’ he asks
rhetorically. ‘They didn’t think like
that, they just shot what they
wanted – especially Haas. People
hold him up as one of the street
photography masters, but half of his
work doesn’t even have anyone in
the frame. It’s just beautiful art.’
Suitably inspired, Craig intends
to adopt a more generally creative
approach, trying his hand at
different subjects and alternative
techniques, like multiple exposures.
‘It’s a good time to refresh and
experiment,’ he says, that addiction
showing no sign of abating.
Craig likes to push
saturation in post to
emulate the orange tones
of Kodachrome film
Craig will often find an
interesting backdrop first and
wait, pre-empting where people
might pass through the scene
Don’t fret
about having
the newest kit. It
doesn’t matter
what a camera
can do, as long
as you know how
to get it to do
what you want.
around, stalk
your subject a
bit. Eye-level,
stood where you
are is almost
never going to be
the best version
of that shot.
Get up close
to a subject,
just once. Even
if you never get
that close again,
knowing that you
can when the
moment arises
is really
Shooting through objects
to give the appearance of
layers can often be seen
in Craig’s street scenes
Before the pandemic,
Craig enjoyed the
thrill of capturing
the unexpected
Gilden edge
Peter Dench introduces himself to the work
of iconic street photographer Bruce Gilden
and his book, Cherry Blossom
’ve never deep-dived into the
work of iconic street photographer
Bruce Gilden. I’ve not leafed
through a book, read an interview,
strolled around an exhibition or sat in an
amphitheatre to hear him talk. That either
makes me the best or worst person to
write this article. I have seen Bruce Gilden,
behind the Super Stage at The Photography
Show UK 2016. My presentation followed
his. As he sat silent in the semi-darkness,
I could hear him breathe. The only thing
I could think to say was, ‘Thanks for
warming up the crowd.’ It could’ve gone
either way. I’ve heard him described as
difficult, a bully, blunt, but what about the
work? It was time to get my Gilden going
on, to take a taste of the Marmite man.
*One week later.* Wow! That was brutal.
There may be a shortage of Optrex in the
N8 area of north London. My entry point
into the kingdom of Gilden was Cherry
Blossom (Thames & Hudson 2021), named
after a photograph in it of a lady sat by a
tree wearing a cherry-blossom kimono,
delicately holding fried chicken. Apart from
that, there is nothing delicate or flowery in
the book, by my count, his 19th
monograph. Sixty-six black & white
photographs, including classics from the Go
series, his exploration of Japan and mobsters
the Yakuza, and 34 unpublished photos.
The first image in the book is appropriately
complex: a young man and woman are
photographed pressed up against the glass
of a train or subway car. The man’s left palm
splayed in the middle of the frame as if to
imply, Halt! His right hand clutching a
packet is forced into a thumbs up. Neither
of them is smiling, the man looks into the
camera. There is the chaos of reflection at
the top of the frame; Paddington Bear,
pictured on a bag, exits bottom right.
Some street photographers employ the
tactic of photographing people behind
glass, in vehicles or in shops. This could be
construed as cowardly. There’s nothing
cowardly about Cherry Blossom. It brings to
an end Gilden’s chapter on Japan that he
started over 20 years ago. Working with
multiple interpreters to arrange access, the
images open the door to the Yakuza and let
the viewer peek inside. There are tailored
suits, tattoo sleeves, twisted faces and so
many cigarettes you can practically taste
them. Each image in the book is a complete
story of a bigger picture of Japan. A
homeless man stands bare-chested in a
cardboard box, a coat hanger positioned
on the side; a motorcycle gang shine their
headlights out of darkness, a heavily
scarred man lies in the road, a woman
with a face full of smile lies on a towel.
Most of the online videos and interviews
I watched show New Yorker Gilden dressed
in a light bucket hat and sleeveless jacket
with deep pockets, a fisherman of the street.
His photographs hook the viewer in front
of things they wouldn’t ordinarily see. If the
intent of photography is to show us what
we think we know about in a different way,
then Gilden is extraordinary at it. Viewing
his archive often feels uncomfortable and
cruel, at other times, hopeful, honest and
emotional. Occasionally they are beautiful
and funny. They are always challenging.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that boyhood
Gilden wanted to be a boxer; he weaves
and ducks around his subjects, jabbing his
Leica-held right paw, a flash bursting from
his left. I wasn’t surprised to learn he toyed
with the idea of being an actor; his subjects
are often herded into view, unknown
auditions for the cast in his play. Gilden
wanted to be a lot of things, but admits
if he’d lived seven lives, he’d have been
a photographer every time. I wasn’t
surprised to learn the father he idolised was
a gangster figure and his mother led a sad
life, was institutionalised and eventually
killed herself. There’s a lot of hurt in
Gilden’s images, the effect his parents had
on him is tangible. I wasn’t surprised to
hear his favourite country was Haiti, a
country with a history of tumult. Sparring
with Gilden’s archive I learned a lot and
will go back to learn more. First, I’m going
to walk through a meadow, talk to birds,
sniff flowers, chase butterflies, and
maybe write a poem.
Bruce Gilden
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Bruce Gilden is a
multi-award-winning iconic street photographer
with a unique style. His work has been extensively
exhibited and published worldwide. In 1998, he
joined the prestigious Magnum Photos Agency.
All images on this spread: Bruce
Gilden’s unflinching pictures of
Japanese culture were all taken
in the late 1990s
Peter Dench talks to Dod
Miller, the modest man
of photography, about his
book, Birdmen
n Romania, the
hotel was right in
the middle of the
revolution. I arrived,
got a room, got in the lift to my
room and there were a couple
of soldiers with machine guns
in there – we got off at the
floor the foreigners were on.
This guy from Reuters news
organisation started shouting
at the soldiers to get out; he
didn’t want them using our
hotel facilities. I rang room
service for a couple of fried
eggs, some toast, brandy and a
couple of large coffees. Finished
breakfast, went outside, shot a
few rolls of film, popped back
to the hotel, had some lunch,
half a bottle of red wine and
went back out. I thought, this
is ok,’ explains photographer
Dod Miller, sitting next to
a giant vase of wilting pink
lilies at his home in south
London. Dod’s impactful black
& white photographs shot on
assignment for The Observer
of tanks in Palace Square,
civilians fleeing sniper fire,
food being delivered during
a firefight, a funeral and a
young soldier sleeping during
a lull in fighting, received an
Honourable mention in Spot
News, Stories at the 1990 World
Press Photo Contest.
Dod won’t be best
remembered for these award-
Romanian revolution: A soldier during a lull in the fighting, 23 Dec 1989
winning images of revolution.
He won’t be best remembered
for the 1991 Photo Contest
Honourable mention
photograph of a pro-democracy
demonstration in Moscow, or
his 1991 Photo Contest
Honourable mention for a
photograph of former UK Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher. He
won’t be best remembered for
his brilliantly observed
reportage of UK cigarette
smokers alone or in small
groups, in doorways or on
rooftops and balconies after
a European Directive restricted
smoking inside the workplace.
What he will definitely be
remembered for is his
photographs of people dressed
in aviation-related attire
chucking themselves off various
piers along the south coast of
England in attempts to win
cash prizes.
From 1971 to 1978 the south
of England’s annual Birdman
was held in the seaside resort
of Selsey. A completed distance
of 50 yards would scoop a
£3,000 prize. The competition
migrated to Bognor Regis pier
and by the mid 1980s had
attracted European teams and
the attention of television
crews. In 2008, the competition
was moved to Worthing after
the demolition of the end of
Bognor pier. The inaugural
Worthing Birdman was
Birdman Dinosaur
Take Off
Sir Richard
Prop Head
‘Sometimes, I only shot a few frames and thought, I’m
going to have a pint and some fish and chips and go home’
won by Birdman stalwart
Ron Freeman, who
travelled a distance of 85.9
metres off Worthing pier. The
following year it was won by
Steve Elkins who flew 99.86
metres, falling within a feather
of the 100-metre target and
£30,000 jackpot.
Dod first experienced the
human projectiles in 1994: ‘I
think it was a commission
because I shot it in colour. I
always know if I shoot things in
colour, I wouldn’t have done it
for myself.’ He then started
doing it for himself, swapping to
his trusted Rolleiflex and Kodak
Tri-X 400 film. ‘The great thing
about the Rolleiflex is, unlike a
Hasselblad where you have to
take backs off and put slides in,
you just open the back, put the
film in, shut the back and carry
on, put the film in your pocket
and that’s your day out. Some of
the times I went, I only shot a
few frames, had a look around
and thought, I’m going to have
a pint and some fish and chips
and go home. Occasionally, I’d
take my family and we’d just all
hang out on the beach for a bit,
treat it like an afternoon on the
south coast.’
Dod’s square-format pictures
capture with cinematic clarity a
man with a propeller on his
head and another with flippers
on his feet. There are scenes of
spectators on the beach and
Birdmen crashing into the sea.
Thirty-nine images feature in
the 84-page book published by
Plague Press (available via
Setanta Books), a publishing
enterprise created by street
photographer Matt Stuart. Matt,
who used to assist Dod from
time to time, appears in one of
the photographs strolling along
Bognor pier.
Another photograph features
a behemoth of modern flight,
Sir Richard Branson. ‘He nicked
the idea off of me. I went down
to Gatwick with an art director
I was working with to suggest
Virgin could use some of the
Birdmen pictures for their PR.
They thought it was funny but
bottled out in the end as they
didn’t like the idea of people
throwing themselves off piers.
I didn’t hear anything more,
then about two years later,
Virgin sponsored the event. I
think it was Branson’s birthday
and he had a massive tent in
Bognor Regis, a bar in it with all
his family. I met his mum. They
flew one of his jets over the end
of the pier,’ claims Dod. Was he
ever tempted to take the plunge
himself? ‘I always said I would
do it when I get a book
published as I always thought it
would happen at some stage,
but I’ve changed my mind.’
We move into the garden to
allow Dod’s puppy Winnie, a
Bull Mastiff cross, to bound
around. The temperature is
ticking into winter and I zip
up my coat. Dod, dressed in
sandals, purple socks, Italian
designer corduroy and flat-cap
doesn’t flinch at the chill. You
wouldn’t expect him to. Born
in 1960, Dodik (later shortened
to Dod) grew up in Moscow
(his British father was assigned
there as a Reuters journalist).
His brother and sister were
born in Moscow but being the
first born and his mother
initially nervous of Russian
hospitals, she flew back to
deliver Dod in Norwich.
Perhaps that’s where his sense
of humour comes from.
Dod spent the first decade of
his life pinning on his badge of
young Lenin before heading to
school or popping on his red
cap of the All-Union Leninist
Young Communist League
Komsomol youth movement.
The Romanian revolution:
Food is delivered during a
firefight, 23 December 1989
Beach Birdman
Summer was spent in camps
outside Moscow fishing and
collecting mushrooms. When
he returned home to his
parents, it took him a while
to resume conversations in
English. ‘Of course now my
Russian is absolutely diabolical,’
he grins.
Via a few years living and
mostly surfing in South Africa,
Dod and his family settled in
London. His father wanted to
return to Moscow but with
diplomatic tensions between
London and Moscow at
red-alert, it was a nyet. Dod,
with a slight and slightly
unfortunate South African
accent for the time, went about
building a darkroom at his
school and started
photographing punk bands
for his portfolio.
‘I was going to go to the
London College of Printing to
study photography and then
heard about a job on a local
paper down on the south
coast, the Hastings Observer and
Sussex Express, a job that was
paid, had a camera allowance
and a Ford Fiesta, how cool is
that! I had a really great boss.
I’d been there two weeks before
he went off on a holiday and
basically left me to it. It was
very entertaining.’
You won’t find too much
online about Dod; there’s a bit
about the Network Agency he
joined in 1990 and a bit more
on the Messum’s Art Gallery
website which sells his prints
and hints at his financial
successes as an advertising
photographer. His official
web-page biography simply
reads: Dod Miller lives in
London and takes a few
pictures now and again.
‘I’m totally analogue. One day
I was looking online and typed
in my name and this box
appeared with my name. I
thought f***ing hell! I really
have arrived, but when I went
and had a look a week later,
it had gone, I’d literally been
and gone.’ I’m sure with the
publication of Birdmen, his
online box will be back. This
modest man of analogue
photography has diligently
gone about his craft for decades
and isn’t obsessed with legacy:
‘I’m quite happy, this book will
do nicely thank you very much.
I had a brilliant job for about
15 years, raising a young family,
nobody writes too much
about the legacy of that.’
Birdmen, £35, is published by Plague Press 2021 and available via Setanta Books.
The Romanian
revolution: Tanks in
Palace Square, 23
December, 1989
The Romanian
revolution: A young
conscript searching
the skyline for
snipers, 23
December 1989
A smartphone is the perfect tool
for capturing life on the street.
Amy Davies discovers why in
this guide
ften the key to good street photography
is becoming one with the street. Being as
unobtrusive and unnoticeable as possible
is the name of the game. As pretty much
everyone – photographers and otherwise – has a
smartphone in their pocket these days, they have
become the perfect way to avoid standing out when
taking pictures in public.
Shooting with smartphones allows you to react to
situations as they happen, whether you were preparing
for a street photography session or not. You will always
be ready to photograph the scene in front of you, but
that doesn’t mean you can’t improve your approach.
You should find inspiration from the photographs on
these pages – all of which have been photographed
using nothing more than a humble smartphone.
Modern smartphones are extremely well-equipped,
usually featuring at least two lenses that work well for
typical street photography. In this guide we’ll be looking
at general tips for shooting with smartphones in a street
environment. It stands to reason that if you’re shooting
with your smartphone on the street, you might also
want to edit your work while on the go and share it
via the plethora of social networking apps currently
available. For that reason, Damien Demolder shares
his tips for editing directly on your smartphone, and
although there’s a good chance that you already have
a smartphone of your own, you’ll find our
recommendations for photography-orientated devices
at the end of the piece, which you might want to
consider next time you’re shopping for an upgrade.
Dimpy Bhalotia
An award-winning photographer based
in both London and Bombay, Dimpy
Bhalotia is best known for her street
photography work, all of which is taken
using a smartphone – in her case, the
iPhone. She is the IPPAwards (iPhone
Photography Awards) Grand Prize
Winner, and has also won the British
Journal of Photography’s Female in
Focus Award. Her work has been
published in a variety of international
publications including The Washington
Post, Forbes, The Guardian, BBC News,
GQ magazine, Elle, NPR, The Telegraph
and much more. In 2021, she was
named as one of the 30 Most
Influential Street Photographers of the
Year. She focuses more on the
philosophy of street photography,
rather than getting bogged down in
technical aspects – for which a
smartphone must surely be perfect.
Look outside your
‘Explore the different mediums of art
and craft. Read books outside the
subject of photography. Photographing
organically means not just sticking to
what you already know. Sticking with
what you are already familiar with will
only suppress your creative vision.’
Know yourself better to
develop your own style
‘I travelled a lot around the world and arranged my
thoughts together to figure out what makes me happy. As
I discover myself, and what I like, it helps me to develop
my style. It is very important to understand oneself. Your
work always reflects who you are – so let the energy of
self-understanding be reflected in your work.’
Capture the
‘Acute observation and perception,
and living consciously in the present,
is the key to capturing moments on
the street. When taking pictures,
I merge into the crowd, letting no
moment miss me – this always helps
to capture the unpredictable moment.’
Damien Demolder
Know the
Regular contributor and former AP editor Damien
Demolder is a keen exponent of using smartphones,
being particularly keen on using them for street
photography. He says, ‘Smartphones are great for
this type of photography as we always have them
with us, and they allow us to capture moments we
would otherwise just have to look at. They are not
only available when we can’t be bothered to take
a “real’ camera but also when it wouldn’t seem
appropriate – such as a trip to the doctor’s or the
loo (I once shot a man dressed as a chicken in the
loo at Stansted Airport). Smartphones also help us
to blend in, so other people won’t pay us any
attention. A “proper” camera can sometimes make
it obvious we are photographers, and clearly real
photographers don’t use their phone to take
pictures – this means you’ll be ignored when out
with your phone.’
Be in control
‘Smartphones don’t really understand what atmosphere is, as they are
inclined to make happy bright exposures that average people will be
pleased with. Learn how to use exposure compensation, if you have it,
or to meter from a bright area to influence the exposure. My street
photography relies a lot on the way shadows look and I have to take
control of the camera to make it do what I want it to. I can shoot in Pro
Mode, which offers raw files and exposure compensation, or tap on
the screen in normal Photo mode and drag my finger down to deepen
the exposure. I try to work in Portrait mode when I’m just shooting
JPEGs, as this gives me softer contrast and more moderate colour.
Left to their own devices, smartphones will produce too much contrast
and colour saturation. This is then hard to correct.’
Keep it straight
‘Street photography often contains some
architecture in the background or foreground,
and we all know getting buildings straight is
very important if we aren’t shooting a
dramatic angle. When we are in a hurry
we can easily forget this and end up with
slightly wonky backgrounds and falling-over
buildings. With the wide lenses that
smartphones tend to have, wonkiness will
be exaggerated, so do your best to avoid
it at the shooting stage. Of course these
things can be fixed afterwards, but this
means losing pixels and also a crop that
your composition may not welcome.
‘Some smartphone lenses are a bit
primitive and will distort at the edges, so
when you straighten a picture in software
you can end up with some strange effects.’
‘A lot of street
photography is action
photography, and
capturing exactly the
right moment can be
critical to the
success of the
image. Most
smartphones have
some sort of lag
between the shutter
button being pressed
and the picture
actually being
recorded, so you
need to understand
what that lag feels
like. It may vary
according to the
mode you are using
– my phone records
the moment before
I hit the button in one
mode, and well after
it in another. With
practice I’ve learnt
how far in advance
I need to hit the
button to get the
picture I want.
‘I have also come
to understand which
shots are impossible
for my phone to
capture, so I save
myself stress by not
attempting them and
concentrating on
what it can do.’
Editing your street pictures on the go
Damien Demolder explains a simple way to boost your street shots, all within your smartphone
Editing the street pictures you take
with your smartphone is as crucial
as it is with pictures you shoot with
any camera, so find an editing app
you like that offers the controls you
need. I tend to use Pixlr and
Photoshop Express, as both provide
detailed controls of contrast, colour,
shadows, highlights and the ability to
add ‘looks’ if you want to.
Here’s a shot I took while waiting in
the queue for Sainsbury’s. I liked the
shadows of the late afternoon and
the structure of the paving, along
with the feet sticker and the actual
feet. It’s called Social Distancing For
Dummies. I didn’t have time to
switch to Monochrome mode, so
shot it in colour and tried to use the
exposure controls to make the most
of the shadows. The picture recorded
is still too bright though.
I took the picture
into Pixlr and
used the ‘agnes’
preset to turn it
black & white. This
preset boosts
contrast a bit too
much and showed
that the picture is
a little brighter than
I want. I used the
Exposure control
in Adjustments to
make it a fraction
darker (-12).
Shadows in the
Adjustment menu, I
pulled the slider all
the way down to the
left to make the
shadows as dark as
I could. Even then
they needed to
come down a bit
more. Before I did
that though I pulled
the highlights down
a bit (-10) to
introduce detail to
the brighter areas.
Pixlr has a
function called
‘auto contrast’,
which adds contrast
to micro details that
crisps things up. It
can overdo things
and you can’t
regulate the effect
so I use it with
caution. Here though
it has enhanced the
texture of the stones
and sharpened the
edges of the
When I shot
this I was
concentrating on
getting the sticker
straight and didn’t
notice it wasn’t level
with the paving
joints. So I used the
rotate tool (1.2°) to
partially correct
this. On correcting
it completely I lost
too much of the
sticker to the crop
and the sticker
looked wonky.
I saved these
settings and
re-opened the
Adjustments menu
and, returning to the
Shadows slider, I
again dragged it all
the way to the left
to make them as
dark as I could. This
was about right as it
gave the shadows
plenty of body and
added a lot of depth
to the image.
I lifted contrast
a tad. I usually
pull contrast down
and use the shadow
and highlight sliders
to create impact;
but here, in pulling
down the exposure
at the beginning
of the process I’d
created rather grey
highlights. This
contrast boost
adds sparkle
without losing
any tonal detail.
Eric Mencher
LA-based Eric Mencher shoots
exclusively with an iPhone. He says,
‘Back when film was not only king but
was really the only option, I was a
Leica devotee. An M6 loaded with Tri-X
was my constant companion. In
today’s photographic epoch, also
known as the digital age, I am an
iPhone devotee. It is my camera and
companion. Now, I dirty my thumb not
in developer, but on my iPhone screen
as I select, edit and tone my images
using Snapseed, Hipstamatic, and
iPhone filters. The Leica was simple
and intuitive and the iPhone – for me
– follows in that same tradition. While
at times I miss my Leica, when I
photograph these days I try to take
advantage of what an iPhone is and
how it operates.’
Explore your phone’s
different settings
‘It’s worth exploring the advantages of
the different camera modes your
smartphone generally provides, including
options such as panorama mode and
night mode. Shooting at dusk with the
camera set on the Vivid filter can be
incredibly striking, while the various
“lighting” filters in portrait mode can
provide a distinctive look. Spend time
getting to know the different options
available – both iPhone and Android
models will have various modes other
than the generic “photo” mode to
Try shooting onehanded
‘For all kinds of shooting, but in
particular, street photography, I use
either the native iPhone camera [app] or
Hipstamatic. I typically hold the camera
in my left hand and use the volume up
button as the shutter release. That
makes it a one-handed operation
(allowing me to break the cardinal rule
that Bresson so vehemently espoused
– do not carry parcels), which is much
quicker than using the regular shutter
Get the exposure right
‘Because the cameras in smartphones
typically have very small sensors, it’s
imperative to get a good exposure in
camera when you can. It’s worth using the
exposure lock. For iPhones, you can access
this by long pressing on the screen in the
native iPhone camera app and
manipulating exposure compensation by
dragging the slider up and down. For
Android the process is very similar, or you
can often access an exposure
compensation setting in “professional” or
“advanced” modes. If highlights are burned
out using a smartphone camera, it’s very
hard to get them back – but it’s much
easier to get details back from shadows, or
darken shadows for added drama. For this
reason, underexposing your images slightly
– ready for editing later – can be helpful.’
‘Shooting at dusk with
the camera set on the
Vivid filter can be
incredibly striking’
Best smartphones for street
Our pick of the finest smartphones to appeal to photographers
Apple iPhone 12 Pro
O £999 O
With three different
lenses to choose
from, you get good
scope to shoot
street scenes from a
variety of
perspectives. Also
particularly handy
for street
photography is the
way the native camera app makes use of the
additional lenses to show you what’s going on
outside the frame – useful for spotting the
decisive moment. With very little lag and a new
‘ProRAW’ mode, the iPhone 12 Pro is a fantastic
creative tool, but it would be nice to have some
more advanced shooting options within the native
camera app.
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
O From £1,149
O samsung.
Probably the best
smartphone camera
currently on the
market, this
high-end model
from Samsung
boasts four
different focal
lengths. The zoom
lenses could come
in handy for discreet street photography, while the
large and bright screen makes composition a
delight. We particularly like the extensive native
camera app which boasts a number of different
shooting options, including an impressive Pro
mode which enables raw shooting.
OnePlus 9
O from £829 O
Co-developed with
Hasselblad, the
OnePlus 9 Pro has a lot
of useful features for
photographers. One of
its standout features is
the 48-million-pixel
main camera which is ideal for picking out fine
detail in street scenes. There’s a triple-lens
selectable set-up but a fourth monochrome
camera is used for creating better black & white
shots, which some street photographers might
also find helpful. An excellent optical zoom lens
and a range of extensive features in the native
camera app, along with a reasonable price, make
the OnePlus a smart option for lots of reasons.
Sony Xperia 5 II
O £799 O
Taking some of its
prowess from its range
of ‘proper’ cameras,
Sony’s Xperia series
includes a lot of
appealing features for
photographers. The
Xperia 5 II is a solid
mid-range option that
comes in at an attractive
price but still has a
significant number of
high-end specs. A useful ‘Photo Pro’ mode is
comprehensively featured and includes the ability
to record in raw format, while functions such as
Eye AF can come in handy when photographing
people. Unlike some other models featured here,
it’s a relatively small size and includes some
physical buttons on the side, making it a discreet
option compared to some others, too.
Google Pixel 5
O £599 O
A great-value option, the
Pixel 5 is akin to a basic
point-and-shoot camera,
but it does the job, and
does it well. There are
only two lenses – which
in comparison to others
is a little lacking – but
you still get wide and
ultra-wide options. The
fast processor means
that there’s very little lag
when using the camera,
making it well-suited to fast-paced street
photography. You can shoot in raw format, but the
native camera app is reasonably simple (and
arguably limited). It’d be nice to have a bit more
flexibility – plus an extra telephoto lens – but the
price makes this an ideal option for those on a
stricter budget.
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