Familiar Strangers

Familiar Strangers VI

To those close to me and friends in the know, Loughborough fair is the stuff of legend. As winter approached last year the stories started to flow about the spectacle and size of the multicoloured thrill rides and sugary treats that made being a child in Loughborough so very worth while.

With these stories going through my mind I ventured out to find out for myself. Will the lights be as bright as I had been told? Will the rides carry on forever with, every corner revealing a different way of spinning you round or turning you upside down?

Familiar Strangers V

Familiar Strangers IV

I admit it, Loughborough fair is legendary. It did seem to go on forever or at least further than I expected. It wasn’t the fair that really interested me however it was the people who worked there. In the end I went to the fair two nights in a row. The first night was a Thursday, the fair had just come to the town and it was fairly quite. The boredom was evident. The people behind the candy floss and tungsten glow did this day in day out and its wasn’t surprising that they were bored.

Familiar Strangers III

Familiar Strangers II

Friday night was different, people pushed through the streets between the rides. Some of the fairground workers clearly enjoy their jobs. Enjoy the noise of the crowd and the brief conversations. It occurred to me then that it isn’t just the fairground that is familiar to the ticket sellers, chestnut roasters and hook the duck callers. They also know the town just as well.

How many times had they pitched there stalls and rides in the market square? Did they recognise the families that returned every year? One year older but never too old to enjoy themselves. Familiar strangers both.

Familiar Strangers I

Which way is your photography taking you?

People of Loughborough I

Moving house has shown me something interesting about my photography that I might not have discovered without a change of scenery. Most of the pictures in my portfolio were taken in and around where I lived in Birmingham and I had grown used to shooting in those places. In fact, one of my favorite things to do was travel into Birmingham City center and shoot candid street photography. I knew the city very well, I was comfortable there and I could generally find something to capture my imagination.

Perhaps part of the comfort of shooting Birmingham came from the fact that I have spent most of my 34 years living there. I can certainly remember being nervous about moving to Loughborough. This was partly because of everyday changes that come from moving to a new town but it was also because I wasn’t sure how the move would effect my photography. I struggled to imagine how the small town would ever compare to the vast possibilities of Birmingham.

Whilst Birmingham and Loughborough are different in many ways the one thing they certainly have in common is their markets. Yes they are on a different scale but they still have the same ingredients of people, vibrant colour and lots of different things going on in a small area. So after the move this is one of the first places I took my camera and I was pretty happy with the results.

Loughborough Market V

The market helped me to get over my initial concerns and I soon started taking my camera with me in and around my new home town shooting all sorts of different scenes. This is where the problem arose, I started to get bored by my own images.

Just to be clear it wasn’t the act of taking the pictures that bored me or the subjects, it was the images themselves. I was processing and sharing images in my portfolio that just didn’t do anything for me. For example I took this picture of a steam locomotive not far from my house on the Great Central Railway:

Once more with feeling

To be honest I am pretty happy with this picture as it goes. I like the composition and the light that falls on the roof of the carriages having been filtered through the steam of the locomotive. I’m also happy with my post processing and how I was able to bring through the contrast in the steam itself. Sure there are things that I would change about this image if I was to take it again but that’s the same with any image that I take. My Flickr followers like it too and according to Flickr it is one of most interesting images.

So what’s wrong!? If I like it so much why do I say that it bores me!? I have thought about this question for a while now and I have come to realize that it’s because it doesn’t say anything about ‘me’. Yes I enjoyed taking the picture, yes I generally like the image and I even find the scene interesting but it doesn’t feel like there is a part of me in the image. It doesn’t feel like it is saying anything on my behalf.

At this point some of you may be saying ‘so what!?’ and that’s fine. Not everyone takes photographs for them to say something and to be honest maybe I didn’t realize that is what I wanted either. If I am being even more honest until I started to have these feelings about these images in my portfolio I wasn’t even sure what it meant for an image to say something about me. Now I think I do and I can’t seem to let it go. I even made a Flickr album to try and understand the direction my photography is taking me.

The Lunar Society XVIII

The observant of you would have noticed that I only think I know what it means for an image to say something about me. This is all pretty new for me. A new feeling about my photography and new metaphorical lens to hold up against my images. I’m not entirely sure where my photography is going to take me but I’m pretty excited to find out.