Monday 22 August 2022

Even Captain America is looking me in the eye

 ‘Go on take my picture’ was what I heard a lot during my last few shoots down the Lea Bridge Road. So much so, I abandoned my goal of trying to work on the shape of backgrounds and let the action play out in the foreground. Even waiting for people to pass through a shaft of light ended up with them looking back, no doubt wondering ‘what is that bloke doing?’, their eyes fixing on the camera at the moment of best light. Once I had come to terms with this, I decided to enjoy chatting with people and taking their picture.

A man looks back as he walks along the Lea Bridge Road near the Bakers Arms railway bridge August 13, 2022.  

It’s impossible to concentrate on those elusive ‘fly-on-the wall’ images when you have got three boys, straight from football training, jumping around in front of the camera demanding that I shoot a picture. 

Boys Arron, Tyrone and Kieran act up to the camera as they return from football practice along the Lea Bridge Road August 13, 2022.

One thing immediately sprang to mind: Exchanging the ideal of a fly-on-the wall picture that some people might find intrusive for a warm image that had been consented to was not settling for something of lesser value, but merely adopting a different approach. 

What I did enjoy is talking to and photographing people I’ve never met before. The entrĂ©e to these conversations is often the old Rolleiflex hanging around my neck. When I see people looking at it, I catch their eye, hold their gaze, smile and say hello. Sometimes people see me taking pictures and ask me what I am doing. Rarely do people, once we’ve chatted, then say no to me taking a picture.  

So, for now I will just enjoy the eye contact images as I think they are all quite warm and non-intrusive. Even Captain America is fixing me with his knowing gaze, not quite like the 1532 Flemish tapestry of the resurrection that hangs in the Vatican but his eyes certainly feel as if they are following me as I walk along the road.

A woman walks past a figure of Captain America outside the ‘Power Up Nutrition’ shop on the Lea Bridge Road July 30, 2022. 

Owner of Le Chic Hair & Beauty salon, Delise Clarke, stands at the door of her shop on Lea Bridge Road, London August 17, 2022.

Owner of Styler Barber, Kartal Tas and colleague Suliman Jandan, outsde their barber shop on Lea Bridge Road August 17, 2022.  

Zaheer Ahmed sells mangoes on the junction of Lea Bridge Road and Hoe Street July 30, 2022.

Las Imich poses for a picture by the Bakers Arms rail bridge on the Lea Bridge Road, London, August 13, 2022.

What I have learned over the years is that runs of luck, good or bad, never last for ever. Nor do the patterns of picture opportunity stay the same. Maybe next week no-one will look in the camera or talk to me and I will start to get different pictures. What I will do is continue to shoot pictures and work with what I am presented with as the Photography Gods adjust their plans for me. In short, capturing ordinary people’s lives today no matter how they present themselves. 

As a final note on interaction, what has also been pleasing in the last couple of weeks are the thousands of hits on the George Norris, Rag and Bone man video story made up of stills from 1983 and 2022. People are not only hitting the ‘like’ button but actually commenting too. This engagement is very rewarding, not so much in terms of numbers, which are very good, but in terms of people enjoying the pictures. If you're interested you can see it by clicking here or on the picture below, enjoy. 

Russell Boyce, 2022

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