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.