Eatwell Farm Lavender Harvest 2017 by Ed Walker

Joyce stacking the Lavender in the drying shed at Eatwell Farm

Joyce stacking the Lavender in the drying shed at Eatwell Farm

I’m at my brothers’ farm at the moment, during my visit they have their annual Lavender harvest. Over the course of a weekend the farm crew use chainsaws to cut the lavender and place it on the top of the bushes and members of the CSA give their time to come and bunch and hang the lavender in the drying room. In return they get a weekend at the farm, fed and watered very well indeed and a camp fire with smores.

I shot the event using my Sony and 35mm lens and applied the same processing as usual but with added saturation to really make the lavender pop. Please share if you like and tell me what you think in the comments.

Stacks of newly cut Lavender.

Stacks of newly cut Lavender.

The crew cut the Lavender.

The crew cut the Lavender.

CSA members bunch the Lavender.

CSA members bunch the Lavender.

A CSA member bunched up Lavender.

A CSA member bunched up Lavender.

Bees buzz around the Lavender.

Bees buzz around the Lavender.

A CSA member bunches Lavender.

A CSA member bunches Lavender.

Lilly collects the bunches of Lavender for drying.

Lilly collects the bunches of Lavender for drying.

Cameron bringing the Lavender into the drying room.

Cameron bringing the Lavender into the drying room.

CSA members hang the Lavender.

CSA members hang the Lavender.

Lunch in the farm house.

Lunch in the farm house.

Smores

Smores

Campfire and the end of a long day.

Campfire and the end of a long day.

Half Way Through - Wimbledon Dogs by Ed Walker

I’ve been thinking of taking pictures of Dog Racing for a while. When I came back to the UK I kept reminding myself to look into it and it was only at the end of February that I actually did. I found out that Dog Racing in London was in it’s last days, Wimbledon Stadium was to be demolished and made into a new football ground. After it is gone, there will be no more Dog Racing in London.

That left four meetings until that world was gone forever so it is perfect for a mini project. I had never been to the dogs before, or even a horse race, so I had no idea what to expect. However, the pictures I could see online made it look perfect for my style of work and the lighting conditions seemed ideal.

I have just processed the pictures from the second week of visiting the stadium and I am half way through the project. So it seems a good time to get my initial thoughts down and record the progress.

Week one was simply a recce to see what it was all about and what kind of reception I would get taking pictures. In this kind of situation I tend to start long and get closer and closer until I get push back. There are two parts to the stadium, the inside and the outside. Inside there is a bar and restaurant and betting facilities. There are also benches which you can sit at and drink and face out the big windows to see the action. Underneath this indoor area is an extended bookmakers area but I have yet to explore this. Outside is the terrace? Paddock? I don’t know what it’s called but it’s where most people stand, drink, smoke and bet while they wait for the next race.

When the race starts the dogs are led out and are paraded along half the length of the first straight which is, I suppose, to let you have a good look at them and decide who to bet on. They are then walked back down the straight to the traps and the lights go down inside the stadium and on the outside crowd as the betting stops. The mechanical hare comes around the corner and when it has passed the traps the dogs are off. The race lasts 30 seconds if that. Sometimes there is a clear winner, but most of the time it’s not, which leads the crowd to turn around and look up at the screens inside the stadium and wait for the winner. Once this has been announced the bookies are back on paying out the winners and the process starts again for around 10-12 races in a night.

From my point of view the most engaging area of the whole event are the bookies who stand on boxes in front of their LED screens taking the bets and giving out winnings. The red light of the screens and the overhead lights that let them see what they are doing is just crack for my style of photography. Red light pours over the people lining up to bet and the bookies are perfectly lit against the darkness of the stadium. Harsh shadows and contrasty images are a plenty and I love it.

The crowd are a mixture of regulars, stag dos, work outings, families and couples. They are great subjects as they are socialising, betting, drinking and generally having a great time, most don’t even notice me taking pictures. The ones that do don’t seem to mind. I have yet to get really close and I’m still thinking about whether I should talk to people so I can get super close.

The first week I spent shooting the bookies, the dogs and a few of the crowd. The second week I spent most of my time getting crowd shots, there were a few groups of guys in vintage suits. I have a few good pictures of the dogs but I need a different camera to get the ultimate picture and I have been thinking about what I am going to try and achieve from the final two meets.

For the first time I’ve started thinking about narrative, something that has never possessed my work before. The observation has always been key to my work and even my car boot sale pictures didn’t tell a story. This feels different though, maybe it’s because it will soon be gone. The story is about the people, the bookies and the event, it’s about the night.

So I have started to think about a shot list, another first for me. Some shots I can see but haven’t been able to get. Others I know are there but haven’t seen or been able to visualise. An example of that is the wide crowd shot, all the images I’ve taken up and over the entire mass of people have been flat and mundane. From the side they are looking out to the track and from behind they are facing away from me. The shot is from the centre of the stadium looking across the track back at them looking at me, but I won’t get that. So I have to think of a way to capture them en mass, in action.

I am also thinking about what to do with the project when it is done. There is no shortage of photographers at the meetings so it’s clearly something that is a project for many other artists. Some of them will just post their pictures on Instagram, others might try and get them published, entered into comps or an exhibition. I am trying to think of a life for these pictures after the bookies, crowds and dogs have gone.

But in the meantime, I have two more meetings and aim to get the most out of them and complete what will be for me the shortest project I’ve ever done.

Saal-Digital Photo Book Review by Ed Walker

I recently saw an advert on facebook for a free photobook in return for a product review. I filled in the form and promptly received a voucher code and the instructions to post an honest review on my Facebook or Blog, so here it is.

The first port of call for any of these book printers is how you are going to make your book. The usual way is to provide their own software, which usually range from abysmal to awful. As a proficient user of InDesign I much prefer to be given templates to produce it in the software I know. The Saal-Digital website had only two options, download their software or use a web based system. I downloaded the software and feared the worst but in fairness it was relatively easy to use and no where near as bad as others I’ve struggled with.

I chose a 28x19 landscape book, glossy without padded cover which allowed me to have 30 pages within the £40 budget. There is no mention of paper weight anywhere within the software. My Spotlight series was all printed in high Gloss but you can choose all configurations of cover and inner finish.

Once finished you complete the transaction within the software and then leave it to upload all the images and everything went smoothly.

The book arrived about 4 days later in a cardboard sleeve and sealed in a plastic bag and the first impressions are excellent. The book is hardback bound and the cover is beautifully thick and well printed. I have used two other book printing companies before, Blurb and Bob Books and the Saal-Digital cover is a step up in quality.

The first and last spreads are bound to the cover which is obvious but when I opened the book I wasn't expecting it so it threw me slightly but what was really surprising was the thickness of the pages. I think these are the thickest pages I’ve ever seen in a photobook, they must be at least 350gsm. Printed with my almost black images on gloss they really feel superb and give the book a feel of quality I haven’t ever had from a photo book company. The pages also open flat, so if you wanted to bleed images across them they would look fantastic.

The image quality was superb, my pictures of people in New York against almost black background printed as good as the prints I had produced at Adorama and other professional printers. Deep colours, not too saturated and crystal clear.

So if you are looking for a premium photo book, and at £40 + P&P for 30 pages this is not for everyone, but if you are wanting to archive a project or give someone a very special present I would recommend Saal, I shall certainly be using them for my project books from now on. I might get some prints made too.

http://www.saal-digital.co.uk

My Photography in 2016 by Ed Walker

New learning, new light and New York City were the main themes of 2016. I started the year in the USA and only briefly came back to the UK at the end of January, after that I spent an the rest of this intensive year concentrating on my street photography.

When I was thinking about how I was going to tackle NYC in early 2016 it was obvious that going back to school would probably be the best option. I took a course at International Center of Photography called 'New Colour Projects' headed by Christine Callahan. You can read my in depth blog post about it to find out more but it basically taught me two things, 1) Print your work and 2) Edit hard. For the course I created a pretty straight up street photography project. 

What happened next, under Christine's mentor-ship was far more surprising. On my way to class one day I shot a guy against a dark background, the sun was beating down the street and he was perfectly lit while the wall was in darkness. Then on a trip to Portland I also took a picture of a vintage girl walking across the street, again she was in direct sunlight while the background was in darkness. Thirdly I was on a trip to Governor's Island and took my 50mm lens, which I hadn't used in the while, and on the way back took some pictures in Wall Street of the people leaving work. Again in bright sunlight but with the 50mm on f1.8 the backgrounds were not only dark but out of focus. These three events accumulated into 'Spotlight' a project which in retrospect I'd been building up to since I first started shooting Borough Market in 2010.

Close up portraits of stylish, interested and sometimes eccentric people, all in bright sunlight but with a dark and 'bokeh' background. It was incredibly challenging, I spent around 250 hours over the summer months in midtown attempting to capture the right people at the right time in the right light.

Not happy with making my project as difficult as possible I decided to add another element to it. For a long time I've heard that to get by in the photography business you need to also do video. I'm not really interested in making movies and so I had tried to think about what I would do if I were to make a video. When I thought about the process of getting these pictures and the outcome it was clear that no one would be able to understand the time and effort that goes into it, so why don't I use video?

The result was not only shooting for 2-3 hours a day in 100 degrees fahrenheit but also having a chest strap, stabilizing gimbal and Gopro filming all that time too. Editing was a challenge and I had to learn lots of new skills in Adobe Premier and edit the movie a couple of times to get it right; but the finished item was worth it.

I entered my series into the LensCulture Street Photography Awards and became a finalist, it was a great honour and really cemented my view that I am headed in the right direction.

After Spotlight finished in September I took a break but also used the time to think about where I could go next with my work. I didn't want to just stop doing my Spotlight series as I felt it was so different to most other street work out there, but I wanted a new angle. So I set up a new Instagram account and started throwing up all sorts of experiments with focal length, lighting and location. By the end of November I had 15 shots which represented a new  project using a wider angle lens but using the same lighting.

So what a year! Full of learning and new experiences. I’m going to be moving forward and trying to capitalise on those things that have edged my photography forward in 2016 and try and add a new dimension in 2017.

 

New York Spaceships by Ed Walker

When you take a photo stood at the base of a skyscraper looking up and flip the photo 180 degrees; it looks like a Star Destroyer from Star Wars flying overhead. You also get a completely new perspective on buildings, the details, the scale and the textures are fascinating.

I took my first pictures in this ‘Spaceships’ project in London, 2011. I was working at IPC and their building has a very interesting shape and also fins all over it to regular heat and light. It looks like an abstract Sci-Fi mothership. I used to walk around it and into it every day and when I took a picture at its corner and flipped it the result was abstract, interesting and somehow epic. I took a few more pictures like it but left it at that.

Fast forward to New York 2016 and I’ve spent the summer shooting my Spotlight project and it has come to a close. The period of shift between major projects is hard, you kind of feel lost for a while. You know you needed to stop what you are doing but you don’t know what to do next. I’ve dealt with this by picking up small ‘throwaway’ projects that I’ve been meaning to do. Things like my shots of New York City Foodcarts, or my Classic cars shots but something I had been meaning to pick up again was the Spaceships. I only did 5 pictures in London and they were picked up by a blog at the time, so this must have legs!

The great thing about these pictures is that the subjects don’t move, they are ambivalent about having their picture taken and really the only thing you need is the weather. Finding good subjects is an interesting task. Something that looks great from 3 blocks away can disappoint at it’s base while a wonky weird building you didn’t even notice can have a structure and texture that makes for a great shot.

I imagine that they are different types of spaceships. From small freighters to enormous cruisers that we see in the opening sequences of Star Wars. They can be straight up with clean beautiful lines but others can be jagged and be under construction making them look like battered old pirate ships.

It’s been like a palette cleanser, something I can do that shifts your focus enough for it to be a rest for your creative mind. The result is actually something a great deal more interesting, architecture photography in New York is quite a thing and I hope, with this project, to add a slightly different and new perspective to the buildings that make up this city.

You can see the rest of the ongoing project here

Roy DeCarava and me by Ed Walker

What I love about Roy DeCarava’s work is that his pedigree in painting and printmaking is evident in his work through his use of light. He understood print and ink and how that can be used on paper to convey light. His works are geometric, use bright foreground lights and at other times very dark with only minimal details. This shows an understanding of how this will be represented on the final print of the image, he is thinking about the end result as he is shooting the picture.

His work of jazz musicians is striking and grabs the light with both hands to use it in the most inventive was possible. He represents his subjects in silhouette with harsh lights behind them, he is creating a screen printed poster of an artist just as much as he is creating a photograph. His composition is already thinking about typography, even though none appears.

And yet in other shots he uses the light in it’s most minimal way possible, just capturing enough to show you the scene and nothing more; the players are sinking into darkness.

His subway shots can be dark and foreboding, same with his street portraits of Harlem. People peek out of shadows and barely reveal themselves.

Another aspect I love is his approach of concentrating the meaning and visual language into a wonderfully tight, rich image. This is not a documentary photographer showing you life and how it really is. This is an image maker telling a story with just about the right amount of light, in just the right place to inform, leaving the rest of the space to sit in luxurious, thick darkness. Sometimes street photographers criticise shallow depth of field images as out of context with the street and not honestly showing the reality. It’s clear that Roy DeCarava would have dismissed that as nothing to do with what makes a great image.

After shooting a summer of work with people in the spotlight, I’m draw to this approach, looking at the darkness and also looking into dark spaces where people are. Isolation and quiet are where my camera is being led at the moment.

As the nights draw in I’m drawn to shooting at dusk and only using the lights of the city to create images that allow people to sit within the darkness. I’m currently experimenting with the silhouettes that the setting sun creates, the doorways where people stop and storefronts which boom light out onto the dark street.

It’s a completely different time and space to where I have been for the past 6 months but the result should hopefully be a continuation of where I’ve been with similar themes, it’s interesting how something so different can also be the same.


 

Spotlight 1 - a street photography video by Ed Walker

For a very long time I’ve had an idea for a video based on my street photography. When I shoot I always listen to music, often electronic, so the streets have their own soundtrack.  

When you watch street photography videos online they are usually made by two people, a street photographer and someone following them shooting the action. I didn’t want to do this because I shoot alone and also I wanted the video from my point of view.

I started experimenting late last year but found it technically difficult because of the shaky movement you get when you walk. I tried to clip a Go Pro to my bag and hold it tight with my left hand while I shoot with my right but it got in the way, it was simply too much to think about. What I needed was a system I could completely forget about. I went looking for something that would keep the camera steady but I could strap to myself and film without getting in the way of my stills camera.

Eventually I discovered the Feiyu Tech FY-WG 3-Axis Wearable Gimbal which I bought and promptly bricked trying to update the firmware. After returning it to China and getting it fixed I bought a chest strap and started walking the streets with it.

The difference between filming with it and without it is night and day. While it certainly isn’t perfect it lets me shoot without worrying about the footage I’m going to get. It’s a pretty fragile piece of kit and is easily sent into a tail spin but for the price it does the job beautifully.

Editing was very much trial and error. In early trails my edits were far too long. I wanted to evoke the busy sprawling chaos of Midtown. Fast cuts set to music allowed me to cherry pick the moments when something interesting happened and unusual people came into view. Initially when I cut to the photograph I held it for much longer. Cyndi suggested that they should be shorter and also cut back to the person walking past me. This not only gave the image context but it allowed you to see their reaction as they left the frame.

I’m very happy with the result. It’s exactly as I imagined when I came up with the idea over two years ago in London. It’s a great addition to my Spotlight series and I hope it gives people an insight into what I’m doing and how I capture my images.

You can see Spotlight here

Bruce Davidson and me by Ed Walker

Bruce Davidson’s series on the New York Subway in the 70’s is spectacular, I really wish I’d discovered it sooner…

I always consider when I started shooting people on the London Underground to be the single most important moment in my photography. Up until that point I had been taking pictures of Borough Market and general street work. The shot of the girl in headphones on the Victoria Line forever changed the way I shot people and brought be directly to where I am now, so it’s amazing that I had never came across Bruce Davidson’s Subway series.

 

Shot in the 1970’s when the New York Subway was covered in graffiti and was a significantly more dangerous place to travel, his work is visceral and exciting and you feel genuinely scared for his well being. Reading the introduction to his book and listening to him talk you realise that it was through his calm and measured manner that he achieved the shots he did.

 

Most of the time he asked permission before he took a picture, showing them a wedding album full of prints, with only odd occasions where he would shoot before speaking to them. Even then, he would speak to them afterwards and explain what his project was about. Travelling long distances, and often during the night, it’s amazing he only got mugged a couple of times, and even that didn’t put him off.

 

It raises two issues for me. Firstly, my desire to shoot on the Subway myself. How can I bring something different when this iconic work has clearly achieved everything it set out to do with the Subway of the 1970’s? Today it is a very different place. Dramatically cleaned up, it is a much safer place to be, so finding an angle on how to represent it would be a challenge.

 

Secondly, it poses the question - would I change my approach? I currently shoot on the streets of New York while I listen to music and never speak to the people I take pictures of. On the bustling streets this isn’t an issue but on the small crowded subway cars I really don’t know if this is an approach I can take.


It’s been something I have considered for a long time. There is even a course at ICP about street portraiture which tackles the issues regarding approaching people and asking to take their picture. I’ve always thought that the way I shoot is deeply ingrained in who I am, my work, and the comment I’m making, so to turn that on it’s head is scary.

Electronic Sound Magazine - Vince Clarke by Ed Walker

I have been unbelievably fortunate to meet some amazing musicians whilst working for Electronic Sound Magazine. Up and coming stars like Karin Park and LoneLady as well as synth pop God Gary Numan, but the most personally affecting one for me was Vince Clarke from Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Erasure.

Growing up in the eighties my music of choice was acts like New Order, Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode and Erasure. All synth pop titans. So it was an absolutely pleasure to be asked to go to Vince Clarke’s Brooklyn home to take pictures for an article about his collaboration with Paul Hartnoll of Orbital.

When Neil Mason from ES mag contacted me he said we would be going into Vince’s Synth Dungeon and he wasn’t wrong. Wood panelled and completely fitted to house dozens of synths and other electronics, it was quite a sight. A table sat in the middle with his computer on and lots of spot lights all around, it really couldn’t have been a more perfect setup to shoot one of my musical heros.

If you’ve read the other blog posts about how I approached shooting the other artists for Electronic Sound you’ll know they are a mixture of pure terror and completely flying by the seat of my pants. This time I was more prepared.

The writer I was working with was Mat Smith (documentaryevidence.co.uk) and I asked him if this time he could do the interview before we take the pictures. The reason for this was on previous shoots I’ve usually hung around after I’ve taken the pictures and listened to the writer speak to the artist and for some reason (probably because I’m not yet that skilled at warming up my subjects) I’ve felt that after listening to them answer some questions about their work, I could take much better pictures of them.

So this time I sat and listened while Mat talked to Vince. It was also a good opportunity to take come pictures of the synths and of his conversation with Paul Hartnoll who was on Skype.

The other thing I did differently was bring my personal photography style much more to the forefront. I’ve been shooting people in bright sunlight against dark backgrounds in Manhattan and I really wanted to see how I could, in some way, replicate that in a studio setting. I showed Vince my work and we switched off all the lights and just used a small studio light I’d brought with me and tried to get a similar result. It was somewhat successful, I suffered from the usual problem is trying to do everything way too quickly and not purposefully slowing myself down. I feel like the subject is getting really bored but I completely forget that someone like Vince Clarke has sat in many photography studios and me taking twenty minutes instead of ten is no sweat. This is key in my next shoot.

The experience was fantastic, the shots were good and it was amazing to meet the architect of so much of my favourite music. I’d love to do it again and take a lot more time over it, but that’s all part of the learning process.

Get your copy at electronicsound.co.uk

Garry Winogrand and me by Ed Walker

When Christine said I was the son of Winogrand, apart from the astonishing compliment of being compared to one of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century, I actually realised I didn’t know a great deal about him. When I started to look at his work, watch interviews and read about his life, a man appeared who had a startlingly similar ethos towards photography as me.

Born in New York, in the Bronx in 1928 he spent two years in the army after High School and then went to study painting at Columbia University. Whilst there he was introduced to a 24 hour dark room by a fellow student and never looked back. Still living with his parents he escaped home by walking around the streets and shooting, scraping money together to develop and print. This was a man with a clear vocation and he found it early. From then on he was a photographer, working in editorial with a brief stint in advertising before devoting himself to his personal work.

The most interesting thing for me about his work is that he clearly doesn’t know why he is making it, he just is compelled to. Not only that, but he doesn’t care to know why he is compelled to make it, just that he is. When I was going through a bad patch in London I spoke to Gina Glover of Photofusion and she asked me “Do you have to take these pictures? If you do, then you will” It’s something that has stuck with me and drives me on when the pictures aren’t coming. When you watch Winogrand being interviewed it’s clear he has no interest in the lofty theory of what he is doing, saying time and time again that the only thing that is important are the pictures.

I love his New York street photography of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Sheer energy. Visceral and combative. Shots are presented at weird angles that are often used to squash as much into the frame as possible. There is enormous movement and people are clearly aware of his presence. This goes right to the heart of what I am trying to achieve. My work is directly related to my difficulties relating to people and I can feel it with Garry’s work too.

His most famous quote is ‘I take pictures to see what things look like photographed’ and I can really identify with that, as a designer I am fascinated by how we can use photography to capture a two dimensional copy of the real world and how that changes it, especially people.

He shot what he saw but it’s clear that that isn’t the whole story, failed relationships and a disorganised life must have coloured his shot selection and edits. In quotes he appears to be quite a pessimistic character but the people that knew him say differently, I think this contradiction is evident in his work which sometimes takes the form of visual jokes and jibes at the world.

The most astonishing part of Winogrand's story are the tens of thousands of unprocessed films and hundreds of thousands of unedited pictures. This is something that I cannot understand. For me the processing and editing are as important as the shooting, it’s all part of the story. When asked about his enormous backlog and chaos he said ‘I have no filing system, I’m helpless’.

However this doesn’t take away from his amazing achievements. He moved photography forward and created an aesthetic that at once looked casual but at the same time incredibly calculated and precise. His detractors used a term he hated - ‘Snapshot Aesthetic’ - but he argued that a snapshot was rigid and prescribed like a family photo. His work was fluid, always changing and moving. The narrative didn’t seem important to him, it was a moment captured between four edges. I am very sad I never got to meet him, I really think we would have got along famously.

Spotlight and Ray Metsker by Ed Walker

One of the highlights of last year’s trip to New York was this picture.

Shot against the background of a street in shadow it captured this gent in perfect isolation. Every hair, wrinkle and fold in his coat caught with what must be the ultimate spotlight, the Sun.

It was very different from the rest of the pictures I was taking, usually straight on and often I wouldn’t be satisfied unless the subject and I had eye contact. This was quiet, solitary.

When I took the New Colour Projects course at International Center of Photography in February it was a picture I showed at the start of the course. However my usual type of shot quickly became the focus of the project I completed throughout the 5 weeks only coming back when I created my final piece.

In week 4 I shot this picture, the sun behind me and walking up 7th Avenue. Because of the angle of the light and the dark background it achieved a somewhat similar result and again it peeked my interest, it felt different.

Then in the last week on my way to the class I grabbed this shot but I never showed it or published it as it was simply too different to everything else, but again, on this new theme.

After the course I went to Seattle and didn’t get much chance to shoot but grabbed a couple of shots one of which again felt like a relation to those previous shots and it was becoming clear that there was something in this that I needed to explore explicitly.

When I had organised to meet up with Christine Callahan for some private mentoring sessions I only had a few shots to show. So on a visit to Governors Island, where I had switched my lens from my usual 35mm to my 50mm I grabbed some pictures in Wall St. It was late afternoon and the sun was really strong. The bottom of Manhattan is not on a grid like the rest of the island, it’s a crisscross of streets and perfect for isolating the Sun with backgrounds in shadow.

So this was now a thing, when I showed the shots to Christine she recommended I look at Ray Metzker. Studying in the 1950’s at the Institute of Design in Chicago. His early work comprised of darkroom composites, multiple exposures and collage, often compiling them in camera with bits of paper he introduced to the scenes he was photographing. However during that time he also took high contrast shots of cityscapes with people bathed in light while the rest of the shot was in almost complete darkness.

You can see the rest of the images here: http://www.laurencemillergallery.com/exhibitions/ray-metzker2

These works really speak to me, there is a loneliness of a city and quite possibly nowhere like New York. With so many people usually split between residents at work and tourists it’s loud and brash but many people seem alone, trying to get to where they are going and Metsker’s work takes those people and singles them out, gives them a spotlight.

When I think about my work I’ve been attempting to do something similar all along. My original shots of women on the London Tube were so close there was very rarely anyone else in shot, then subsequently the shots I’ve been taking use shallow depth of field to pull individuals out from the crowd. They say photography is a mirror so make of that what you will.

With all that in mind I shot these picture this week.  My work before was difficult enough - finding the people, being in the right spot and grabbing a fleeting moment - now I have to find all of that but with the perfect lighting.  It’s a hard life ;)

New Colour Projects at International Center of Photography School by Ed Walker

So for the past 5 weeks I’ve been taking the New Colour Projects course at The School of the International Center of Photography tutored by Christine Callahan. I haven’t done a photography course since I learnt how to shoot on manual with Dave Hodgkinson back in the dark ages of 2009.

Christine’s course jumped out at me because I’m not interested in learning technical skills or any kind of processing or printing skills.  What I’m most interested in is where I take my work and how to form a cohesive project. Even though from the description I had no idea what to expect, I decided to jump in and take her course.

There were 6 students and from the get-go it was clear that this was going to be about looking, critiquing and editing. Something that was terrifying at first, but eventually became incredibly liberating was we were not allowed to present our work. Instead, we put it up on the screen or wall and the group discussed it without us saying where, when, how or why we took the pictures. It was a technique which set the work free, and it was masterful.

The first week was about our past work that had brought us to the course. Fifteen images of our choosing. I selected the best from London, some of my Car Boot Sale images, a couple of the St Pancras Piano and a few from my short time in New York.

The second week we were asked to go and shoot fifteen more, bring them in, and project them on the screen.

But it was the third week that things really changed.  The assignment was to go away and shoot 36 pictures and get them printed at 4” x 6”.  Not only do I very rarely print my work, but also, my output hardly ever exceeds 10-15 pictures in a week. It was actually a quite stressful assignment, but it forced me to be more proactive and also actually start a project I had been thinking about for a while.

 

When you come to New York there is something on the streets you cannot miss, they are everywhere and they are all the same but all different. There doesn’t seem to be a specific name for them, so I nominally call them Street Food Carts. They are most interesting at night because they have lights, big scrolling text displays and the menu sprawled all over the front of the cart.

So I took 15 pictures of the carts and pulled together 21 images from my street work. In my last blog post I had just discovered 7th Avenue and so I’ve been revisiting that area every day around lunchtime and it proved to be a great basis for my project.

I turned up for class armed with 36 pictures that I thought were pretty good, and the first thing Christine says after confirming we had taken 36 shots was, “Okay, now put 15 on the wall”. Holy shit. Everyone looked at each other and you could tell we were all thinking the same thing...we slogged to get 36 pictures at all!  As it turned out, this was simply the first stage in getting us to edit our work. There was one olive branch, she looked through our rejects and rescued the ones she thought were good.

I ended up with maybe 18 images on the board. This was interesting in two ways. Firstly  I don’t print my work so the only way I usually see it is one after another on a screen, in contrast, Christine’s method gives you a view that allows you to compare and contrast; a new experience. Secondly, not only had I chosen the first edit, the group then went through them and edited them further. Now, as Christine said, we have the power of veto because it’s our project, but I only really used it a couple of times because this was new and it was exciting to work like this. As they say, “kill your darlings” so I generally went with the group consensus.

The fourth week was the same with the only difference being that we brought in the previous week’s edit and displayed it next to the new images. At the end of the session we were also asked to talk about how we thought we would like to package the collection.  An exhibition? A book? A zine? I talked about an idea I had been thinking about where I would blow the images up to life-size which would mean each print would end up being a different size. So I was set the task to take one of my images and print it life size for the final week’s critique.

 

I decided to print the image of the lonely man, which is the first image on my website. I measured the width of my head and worked out the percentage increase and blew the image up and it ended up at 51” by 32”. Not small. I chose Duggal to get it printed which is on 23rd street and after looking at the example prints they had in the shop decided to have a Digital C-Print on Glossy.

 

In the final week we displayed our final prints and I also printed up some of the images that I had shown on the first week that I felt should be part of the project. I also had a couple of new shots and as before I put up the entire collection, old and new. The set came to 30 images and I asked the group to lose ten pictures and this final edit forms the collection on my site called “New York Street Photography Winter 15/16”. I’ve only added a couple of images I forgot to print up for the class edit, but that I feel should be in the set.

 

So, in the end, this experience has changed me significantly.  Not only have I met some great photographers, been forced to get it together and produce a lot more work than I am used to, but it’s taught me to be even more laser-focussed on what makes a good project. I’m confident that the images that were discarded for this project will rise again in another one, and the experience has given me lots of new ideas. It’s also taught me that when Dave Hodgkinson said ‘A picture is not a photograph until it’s printed’  As much as I hate admitting it...he is absolutely right ;)

New York - February 2016 Pictures by Ed Walker

I flew back to New York at the start of February after spending three weeks back in London. I didn’t really shoot in London too much because, well I’m not really sure why, I only really got one picture I liked at Brixton Tube, but it was a good one. DSC05078

Coming back to New York was strange, after such an amazing two months before Christmas in which I stepped out my comfort zone, framed my shots differently, pushed the button at times I normally would never have; my photography felt fresh again.

So that’s the good news, after such a good first trip, settling back in on my return was hard. The first day back it snowed which, obviously was fabulous, but it didn’t result in anything amazing because I was having too good a time in the snow.

It was a full week of mediocre shots before I was on Times Sq on a very windy afternoon. With the light in front of me a woman confidently walked towards me and I fired off at least six shots and she passed me smiling. Her coat, lit from behind, her expression and her confidence made the shot.

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The following days images were good, I tried to step back, widen my view and capture groups, people alone in the city and more than just my standard close up portraits.

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Then it snowed again.

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This time I was ready and made my way to Times Sq, I’ll do a separate post about Times Sq because it is very interesting simply for the fact that New Yorkers hate it. The snow was stunning combined with the electronic billboards lighting everything up. So many people were there, taking pictures and enjoying the weather that it was very easy to grab shots.

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The next 6 days were relatively uneventful, I feel like I fall back on a standard image type and more and more become unsatisfied.

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Because New York is on a North facing grid it means that as the sun moves from East to West it creates fabulous areas of dark and light. Walking Northwards up 7th or 8th Avenue in the afternoon creates an effect not unlike the work of Bruce Gilden, who shoots with a handheld flash. It’s similar because the subject is lit brightly by the sun but the background is in darkness and the result made me excited again, something fresh for me.

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March looks like a very interesting month.

Street Photography in New York City by Ed Walker

DSC04674 Almost to the day 12 months ago I blogged about how I was going freelance, changing my life and embarking on a new journey, one which would bring my photography to the fore and reorganise my priorities (if you haven’t read it read it here).

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Well a year is simultaneously a long time and also no time at all. A lot has happened over the past year and yet I’m still shooting, seeking out new subjects, exploring different projects and striving for essentially the same thing. What has changed is that I am no longer aiming for a Photography MA, although this possibly could happen in the future, it’s unlikely. I won some great freelance clients and survived the summer up in St Albans but money was tight, I started to take on contracts and did a couple of great stints at Pearson but the game changer was in November when I became homeless, put all my stuff in storage and flew to New York for two months.

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I had no idea what to expect, New York was nothing like San Francisco, which was the only other city in America I had visited. In some ways it was just how you see in the movies, in other ways it’s just different enough from the UK to make it odd. The tourist areas were incredibly touristy, and that was fantastic, Times Square was like shooting fish in a barrel and fantastic for every manner of citizen of the world, all wide eyed looking at the astonishing electronic billboards. The hipster areas like Williamsburg are so hipster it really puts Shoreditch to shame. The handlebar moustaches, wide brimmed hats and waistcoats were very plentiful.

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The result was a breath of fresh air for my photography. Not only was New York immensely enjoyable to shoot in, it was easier to find the kinds of people I look for. I love well dressed and interesting people, generally young but occasionally older, I seek out the dapper members of a crowd and New York has them in spades. Wandering down Broadway, 42nd Street, Grand Central Station all resulted in characters and situations that I could only dream of in London.

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For the first couple of weeks I was jumping at the chance at any shot I could grab because I was so scared of not finding what I wanted and this expanded my shot range and then when I realised the cool people were absolutely everywhere I relaxed and utilised this wider, more experimental approach with everyone I encountered.

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On the 5th of February, exactly a year after my original post, I’m flying back for another three months, this time efforts are going to be taken to a whole new level, galleries will be sought, photography clubs and meetups will be attended and new projects undertaken, this is New Me 2 ‘Coming to America’.

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My photography in 2015 by Ed Walker

2015 was a year of development, being published and taking pictures of people playing Pianos. It was also a year of taking what I had learned in an underground car park in Edinburgh and applying it to my street work. It's also the year I move my work from Flickr to Instagram, a much more vibrant community of varied photographers. 15668270273_b13478a539_o

This was the first great picture of 2015 for me, on the Circle Line choosing the right moment to take the picture of this awesome scaffolder. I got on and saw him, hesitated and then someone came and stood in front of him, so I resolved that when they moved I’d shoot, and I did.

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St Pancras has these types of scenes all the time but this couple were really going for it, completely unaware of who was watching. The picture is made by the woman in the background.

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I rarely stand and wait for people but this guy in Kings Cross looked so good I had to capture him, it took a couple of minutes for him to look up from searching for his ticket to notice me.

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This year’s alternative project apart from my street work was St Pancras Piano. When I was commuting every day past the 3 pianos in the station it was clear I needed to take pictures of the wide range of people that played them. Most photographers shot from the back, I chose to shoot from the side. My hashtag #stpancraspiano got picked up by the regular piano players on Instagram and soon lots of photos began to appear by other people using it.

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2015 was also the year I started to shoot for Electronic Sound magazine, an iPad mag for the synth electronic music scene, spanning everything from classic Moog to new artists like Karin Park. I was sent down to the venue and told by Neil Mason, the Commissoning Editor, to just do what I do.

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My street work has become wider, as in I have stepped back and aim to get a little more context to the photo than just a head a shoulders.

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This is my picture of the year. A holiday in Helsingborg in Sweden, a fantastic Air BnB house with a pool, outside eating area and a pizza oven, the lights however were not so good, leading to iPhone lighting and a shot which looks like a Caravaggio painting (and quite possibly a Taylor Wessing entry for 2016).

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Shooting Gary Numan was a highlight of 2015, frantic, very stressful and the time flies by like a blur but the result is a really honest portrait, I daren't ask him if he likes it though.

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New York! The last two months of 2015 have been spent in New York, I came here to shoot and I’ve been very happy with the results. I was so worried about not getting the shots I wanted that I shot outside of my normal comfort zone and went for subjects I never would have gone for in London.

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Times Square is my new favourite place to shoot. With such a varied group of people and lighting to die for it’s perfect for moments like this which look staged but are anything but.

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As I raised my camera to my eye I hesitated thinking that this shot was not going to work. However, with all the other people looking left at the traffic, the couple looking up at the astonishing electronic billboards and the only person actually looking at me is the photographer, I think it kinda worked out.

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The light in New York is amazing, the grid layout means the sun creates amazing shafts of light while leaving the background in almost complete darkness. This well dressed guy was waiting at the lights, holding his coat closed from the November wind, creating a perfectly lit moment of quiet.

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The lighting in and around Times Square creates amazing pools of reds and greens as the adverts wash everyone with colour.

So another year of firsts, new projects, new people, new locations. It feels like I am still working towards something and at the moment I’m enjoying the journey and not worrying too much about the destination.

Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/edwalkerphotography/

Gary Numan - Electronic Sound Magazine by Ed Walker

I think the most important thing about shooting someone like Gary Numan is that I feel like I need to slow down. You are obviously nervous about taking a pioneer of electronic music’s picture, but I always feel like I’ve done it too quick. When it’s happening your mind is going 100 miles per hour and you are adapting to your surroundings and making it up as you go along. Next time I’ll try and stop and remember that you need to make the most of the time you have. Even  though I was prepared with my Nikon and Speedlight, Sony and reflector I never got the reflector out and the shots with the Speedlight were not up to scratch because I didn’t think through the situation before it was too late. I even knew what picture I wanted to take and although I got the shot in the end it was a close call. However, each time you learn something new and take away another experience that feeds the up and coming projects…

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Get your copy at www.electronicsound.co.uk

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LoneLady - Electronic Sound Magazine by Ed Walker

LoneLady1 The Barbican is a fantastic venue for pretty much anything they want to do, so a series of gigs in their arts space sound like a fabulous idea, in theory...

Electronic Sound asked me to go to the Barbican to take some pictures of LoneLady, who by her own admission is not really an electronic artist, she sounds to me like a mix of Joy Division and, well actually I don't really know. She was resident in a small studio space near the gallery and in there she had been recording and practicing. The space was packed full of recording equipment, laptops and a big analogue synth. This belonged to another artist on the bill that night, Wrangler, who Electronic Sound asked me to shoot as well.

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When I arrived I met the PR and she told me Julie (LoneLady) was pretty tired and could I make it as quick as possible. When I was introduced to Julie she was quiet and clearly tired and probably nervous about the gig that evening. The lighting in the studio space was just how I like it, low and ambient and there was also a lovely red desk lamp which helped colour the mood too.

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We started by shooting Julie in front of the massive synth which Neil from Electronic Sound had specifically told me to make sure I get a good one of. It's a beautiful wood panelled machine with loads of inputs and knobs and lights so fabulous to shoot someone in front of. I'd been taking pictures of it on it's own and had pointed the red lamp over the top of it to alter the look and when Julie came in to be photographed I left it where it was so it was pointing over her shoulder at me.

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Once we had a few shots in the studio I took her out the the foyer area where there were loads of amazing concrete pillars and rough textures, we shot by the lifts and in front of big signs using the available light. I still need to work on my directing of subjects, I'm so used to getting one or maybe two opportunities to shoot on the street that I forget that with portraiture I can take my time!

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After that Julie went off to rest and Benge from Wrangler came in to be interviewed and I took the opportunity to take some shot of him playing with the synth and a couple of portraits too.

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Once the interview by Danny Turner had been done it was time for their sound check. The space was truly a gallery space with white walls which had projected movies on and in the centre a square plinth which the artists were going to play from. All the equipment was set up and while they were doing their sound check I got some great shots, these turned out to be much better than the actual gig.

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When the evening came around the people started milling into the gallery space something became abundantly clear, this is a gallery and not a music venue, which means there were hardly any lights. Also the PR told me that Wrangler has specifically asked for the lighting to be low. The result was that despite my best efforts I didn't get a single live shot of Wrangler I was happy with. When Lonelady came on the lighting was slightly better meaning I got one or two usable shots but I really wasn't happy with them. In retrospect I should have taken my tripod and in future I will because if I had I might have got something I was a little more happy with.

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The result was that I was very happy with the portraits but not at all happy with the live shots. I should have been more prepared, I am so used to thinking that both my Sony and my Nikon can handle anything that when they can't I am taken by surprise; not next time!

Get your copy of Electronic Sound here!

Karin Park - Electronic Sound Magazine by Ed Walker

ESmag_Karinpark2 Neil Mason is the commissioning editor at Electronic Sound Magazine (electronicsound.co.uk) and approached me about shooting an electronic musician they were featuring called Karin Park. He’s been watching my street work on my Flickr and blog for a while and encouraged me that he wanted me to do a similar style of thing for the feature.

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I went to Olso in Hackney with the writer Danny Turner in the afternoon for the soundcheck and met the band which consisted on Karin Park, her brother David on the drums and bass and Juno on the keyboards. I started off by shooting Karin in her dressing room applying some makeup and chatted briefly to her about her music, I find this kind of interaction hard as it's quite intimidating and the whole patter of a portrait photographer something I’m not used to but as a former model she was an excellent subject, knowing just what to do to give some great close up shots of her in a mirror.

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The sound check was a great place to get all sorts of shots, with the band being completely happy to have me move around them on stage and shoot completely unhindered from all sorts of different angles, they also had a YouTube music channel there shooting some film for a feature which meant that they did full run throughs of a couple of tracks with full lighting. It gave me one of my best shots where Karin was sat on a stool and the lighting guys bathing her in wonderful blue and purple light.

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After the soundcheck was finished we shot quite a few backstage shots in their dressing room and in a small bar area. I found a spot behind the bar which had great lighting and took portraits of David and Juno, testing out a few different settings and getting ready to shoot Karin for what I felt would be a great intimate portrait of an artist just before she went on stage.

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When Karin was ready I asked her if I could get a few shots of her and while she was quite busy and clearly nervous she agreed. She said she didn’t have much time but because I had already shot David and Juno there I was all set up and after only ten shots I said ok; which surprised her. ‘That’s the fastest photo shoot I’ve ever had!’ but she was pleased with the shots I had got of her and so was I.

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The show itself was full of a really enthusiastic audience and I took quite a few shots from in front of the stage. This was the most challenging aspect of the day as getting a great shot of her live with people all around you proves hard. It really goes to show that getting a really fantastic live shot is a lot harder than you would imagine. The lights are moving and changing, Karin was very energetic in her performance and this made it hard for my Nikon and Sony to freeze her in the action. I never use flash and obviously this is not desirable to the artist while they are in full flow so shooting at f1.8 on quite a slow shutter speed makes this challenging and tricky.

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I moved to the sound and lighting booth for some wider shots which encompassed the whole stage and audience and while this made of a couple of interesting shots I can see now why most photographers don’t do this, the intimacy is lost and the shots look a lot less exciting from this far back.

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The performance was fantastic and the new album ‘Apocalypse Pop’ sounded superb live, if you ever get a chance to see her live I would highly recommend it. Make sure you check out the article in Electronic Sound Magazine and I look forward to my next assignment!

You can see even more pictures from this shoot on my flickr page

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Wizard of Oz by Ed Walker

DSC_6780 When I was living in Edinburgh I took some pictures for Ikram Gilani who was putting on a show about the boxing industry as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. The shots were simple as the show was basically a couple of spot lights and a couple of chairs. The lighting really suited my style of photography and you can see the set here.

Brett Hunter was at one of those shows and worked on some post promotion and I shared the pictures with him. This year Brett as part of Bright Ideas CIC was putting on a production of Wizard of Oz for all the local schools in the Lanarkshire area and asked me to come and along and shoot the production.

One of my stipulations was that I would be given full access to every area of the production, I would be able to get on stage during rehearsals and shoot a couple of the public performances. I essentially wanted to shoot in a candid manner but with everyone knowing I was there and giving me that freedom.

I flew up to Glasgow on the Saturday and went straight to the rehearsals which were double interesting because it was the first time some of the cast had met each other and also the entire set was being built at the same time. I wanted to get as much of the build up, backstage and practice as I could and on the first day I shot over 1000 pictures with around 70 being in the final edit that night.

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Astonishingly that one and only run through was all the practice they had and on the Monday morning they had their first performance, I shot lots of backstage stuff and build up and on the first day tried to get more behind the scenes images. On the monday there were two performances, the first was (as you would expect) quite rough with technical issues with sound and almost everything that could go wrong, going wrong. In that kind of environment it’s hard to be sensitive to the panicking stage hands, music and lighting people and actors frantically trying to pull something together when everything around them is not working. To that end I don’t think I got a picture which eloquently illustrated this, only close.

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The afternoon show was 100% better and it was only after this that everyone relaxed. The backstage shots from this afternoon were much easier to shoot as they were certainly more confident in their roles.

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The second day I went out front to shoot the show from the audience's perspective, crouching in the pit and also moving out between the audience. I’ve never really been a fan of music photography where the shooter only gets to take pictures up the nose of the artist from the pit, I also now realise quite how difficult it is to get anything decent from that angle.

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Now that I was familiar with the show and the way it was being performed I could start to think about the set pieces that I wanted to shoot that would give us the promotional type shots that could be used by the production company. I wanted to do family portraits and this is an area I certainly need to improve on, directing people and having the confidence to keep going until I get the shot I want. Knowing people had lunch to get and not wanting to hold up actors is all well and good if you’ve got your shot, I didn’t feel like I devoted enough time to this and the result is good but not spectacular.

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After 4 days I was shattered, it was such hard work being on throughout three days of shooting, most of the time spent on your feet moving from one area to another and constantly looking for a shot whilst managing the multiple cameras was exhausting. Coupled with the editing in the evening, not enough sleep and a few takeouts ment by the time I got home on Tuesday night I was done for. Next time I shall do it differently, take better care of myself and be better prepared.

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St Pancras Pianos by Ed Walker

Between December 14 and the end of January 15 I was walking through St Pancras Station every day. I noticed people playing the three pianos that are along the walkway towards the tube station and after a few days I realised I needed to be taking pictures of them. unnamed (6)

Before my car boot sale pictures I had never worked on a project that had and start and finish, my work was ongoing and I always assumed it would be, but the benefits of a project with a finite life are much clearer to me now. A change of scenery and a different approach is a breath of fresh air after being stuck down those tube tunnels for so long.

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If you Google for them you get hundreds of pictures of people’s backs so I decided to get parallel alongside them to capture them in portrait, it also means they sometimes see me and look over. It’s an interesting angle for shooting these pianists as you also capture the bags and personal items they bring with them, the people watching them and the other commuters walking past; it makes for an great picture.

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It also works quite well for a square format and perfect for an Instagram project. I’ve been experimenting with growing my audience by trying to come up with separate projects for Flickr, Instagram, Google + and soon Pinterest with only Twitter and Facebook the aggregators, so only subscribers to those social networks get to see them all. I’m not sure it’s going to work but personally it annoys me when I get a Facebook post, Tweet and Google + update which all contain the same content, so I’m trying to get away from that.

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So while these pictures are processed in Instagram they are not taken on a phone camera, but on my Sony A6000 and wifi’d over to my phone for processing. This means that I have the original raw files and plan to give them a second life in much higher quality and processed differently in the form of submissions to magazines, exhibitions or a book.

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But back to the pictures themselves, I’ve had an amazing response to them I think because there is a story in each one that leaves the viewer wondering what made this person sit down in the middle of a crowded train station and start to play the piano. Where did they learn, can they play well or just a few notes and where are the going? It’s an extraordinary public place to play the piano and while they might shy away from performing in front of an audience normally maybe they feel like no one is listening, although people do.

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Some of the same people crop up again and again and some people bring sheet music or play off an iPad so they clearly came to play there while many others just simply sat down while they were waiting to get on their train, it’s a fascinating slice of human life.

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I no longer commuter through there so whenever I go into London I have to make sure I grab a few shots as I still feel there are legs in this project and it’s ongoing and shall continue. I hope you like it.