At heart, I am a photographer of people. I love capturing human emotion, this is why I love photographing weddings, with all the laughter and tears which go along with them. Weddings are great and full of memorable moments but the street is where I find humanity at it’s best for pure documentary photography, most people are too busy too notice the small moments of beauty on the street, all you have to do is slow down, observe, wait and capture.
Growing up in Birmingham, England I had a privilege only people from big cities have – a big city! Big but, in as sense, long past it’s glory years. What a story to tell for a street photographer… the streets of Birmingham: a city in all it’s decaying wonder! The people and the life of the city itself holding on to a sense of purpose as the buildings crumbled? I could have walked around with my mom’s 110 film camera at fourteen years old, capturing the city in the early 90’s, the Bull Ring market, many years from it’s best? Capturing on film the people living in the final years of the post war, rebuilt 1960’s Birmingham, shambolic but beautiful? Did I? No, I was a sheltered fourteen year old, the very idea of Street Photography wouldn’t arrive in my mind until I went to art college in 1995 and I wouldn’t take a proper street shot until 2016.
Armed with film SLR film cameras borrowed from Sutton Colleges photography department and a single roll of 36 exposures, some college friends and I got on the 105 bus from Sutton Coldfield and headed into Birmingham. It was 1996 and we shot the relatively new and in some places, still being built Brindley Place and ICC. Actually having the courage to point a camera at someone I didn’t know, and actively engage in Street photography would take a few more years yet.
Back at college we entering the fabled ‘dark room’ to develop our film. The beauty of developing film in pitch black and photographs in the dark red light brought back memories of the scene in the film The Oman (although alot less terrifying).
With my first digital camera and then my first digital SLR, a Canon 500D in 2010 I found the freedom that has come with digital cameras for everyone – the ability to shoot a lot more then 24 or 36 exposures as with film and the ability to look at what I’d just taken, it was groundbreaking.
At this point I still didn’t think of Street Photography in Birmingham, why? Well, It’s Birmingham. Maybe it was because it’s my home town and I couldn’t see past the fact but I just didn’t see any interest in Birmingham; I wasn’t looking.
In 2015 my girlfriend noticed a photographer featured on the blog ‘Independent Birmingham’. A local photographer called Kris Askey. I was blown away, could this be the same Birmingham I knew and disregarded? The people in his pictures captured so finely each image telling a well crafted story, the story I hadn’t yet read, the story of Birmingham. His photographs captured the heart and soul of our home town and I finally understood what I’d been missing all these years and that was – I wasn’t looking.
My eyes where now opened to a movement in Birmingham. Photographers such as Verity Milligan, Ross Jukes and Tim Cornbill captured our city in ways I didn’t think possible.
One cold foggy morning in January 2016 I set out onto the streets of Birmingham and took my first street shot. Now, I call myself a Documentary Photographer and as such, sometimes I document the people on the street. There is such magic in our city, real life, and it was always there. I love those moments of real beauty that are often missed in day to day life but when you take a camera out on the street and photograph the people around you, you can capture that magic, the briefest of moments where people make the photograph; without even realising that they have helped to create an art that documents the human spirit.
I’m still learning, I’ll never get the standard the great photographers but as long as I carry a camera out onto the streets and keep looking and capturing, every photo I take is one closer.