It’s Park Life

I’ve never considered myself a people person, I mean I can talk to a person about crap all day but I find it difficult to engage a person in a serious sense. I feel more of an introvert than an extrovert which people find hard to believe but I use humour to hide my lack of confidence. I’m more comfortable with close friends or being on my own and working in partnership with my camera to feel where it’s at! So when asked to carry out a street photography shoot my anxiety levels rose to the extremes, like preparing yourself for a major operation or having your teeth pulled at the dentist.

The thought of engaging with strangers left me feeling utter dread. Take their photographers either with or without them knowing and do it with compassion made me feel like I was violating their privacy. Having carried out a few street photography shoots previously, I kind of knew how it all worked, peoples different reactions but I didn’t want to do the same thing again. I didn’t want to go into a town or city and show people busy at work, I wanted to show fun, down time, people at leisure. For that reason I chose to shoot in my local park.

One of my biggest influences has always been Diane Arbus, looking at her images introduced me to other photographers with similarities within their work such as Mary Ellen Mark, Sally Mann, Jill Freedman and Vivian Maier. But it was Arbus that captured me most and it was one of her images in particular that inspired me most to shoot people at the park. The boy with the toy hand grenade!

Child with Toy Hand Grenade
Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, 1962 by Diane Arbus

She interacted with her subjects, which in the traditional sense of street photography is not the done thing. However you could argue that a photographers presence influences an image or just putting yourself in the same environment as another person influences their behaviour so I wasn’t concerned about whether or not I captured natural documentary images and was happy with gaining a mixture of “candid” and posed so long as what I was showing was people enjoying the park and capturing the spirit of the stress relieving properties that this environment has on us humans.

Having fell in love with black and white photography and square format images, I decided to try my hand at using this type of film (120mm format) for my shoot. I chose to use two cameras, my Lubitel and Diana, the reasons for this were, the Lubitel is very similar to the Rolleiflex having the twin lens reflex and you have the ability to be more conspicuous with the camera because you look down into the viewfinder which rests against your chest. The Diana on the other hand was a back up camera, a very simple camera to use which has three white balance settings and is a point and shoot, so if I failed with the Lubitel, I was confident I would get the images with the Diana.

Fortunately the weather was on my side on the day, with a mixture of sunshine and cloud I was sure to manage my exposures correctly. That was the theory, but in reality I over exposed all of the images on the Lubitel. Having developed them the negatives produced were of a high contrast which caused me issues when printing. Luckily after a number of attempts and a lot of Magenta I was able to produce a series of images with all of the characteristics that I love about black and white film, high contrast, high grain and square format and here they are, I hope you enjoy them because a lot of love has gone in to producing them!

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