A Story of Street Photography
The Street: Humanity and the Moment
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 to notice the small moments of beauty on the street, all you have to do is slow down, observe, wait and capture.
The Street: Birmingham
What a privilege it was growing up in ’80s and ’90s in Birmingham. A big city, long past its 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, the life, the buildings, the city itself, holding on to a sense of purpose as the buildings crumbled.
What a time to have captured images of the city. The Bull Ring market, many years from it’s best. The people living in the dark concrete maze of the post-war, rebuilt in the 1960s after being half-destroyed in the Second World War. Birmingham, shambolic but beautiful. I was a sheltered fourteen-year-old and the very idea of Street Photography wouldn’t arrive in my mind until I started art college in 1995. It’s hard to see your home town as something interesting after all, Birmingham is not New York or Paris; it takes time to understand the importance of documenting the present.
The Street: Pre Digital
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 Omen (although a lot less terrifying).
The Street: New Horizons
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.
In 2015 I became aware of 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 seen. His photographs captured the heart and soul of our home town and I finally understood all these years that I wasn’t slowing down to take the time and see the city.
The Street: Beautiful, Brutiful, Birmingham
My eyes were 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. 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 to the standard of the great photographers but as long as I carry a camera onto the streets and keep looking and capturing, every photo I take is one step closer.