Friday, 7 September 2012

The art of street photography

Walthamstow is heaving with artistic activity this week and next. The E17 Art Trail started last weekend and hosts 176 exhibitions as well as performance events and poetry displayed in estate agents' windows. A lot to see, but I have to admit to being busy or distracted, and hardly seeing any of it so far. The English Defence League march on the opening Saturday of the event proved too much of a distraction. After being kettled right on Hoe Street, the only thing I saw of the Art Trail was one of the cycle tours run by Waltham Forest Cycling Campaign, zipping past my house just outside the danger zone.

Sunday was a bit quieter and I did visit the rather baffling conceptual art at the Quaker meeting rooms. Close by is the Rose and Crown pub, where I wanted to see Matt Russell's Motion Blur, simple but effective mobile phone photos of people captured from the top deck of a bus - he calls this 'something of an obsession'. Then at La Delice cafe, a show by Esther Simpson titled People I don't know which delivers as promised, fascinating glimpses of other people's lives. Quite eccentric lives, some of them.

It would be interesting to know if the subjects of Esther's photographs were unaware of being photographed, as it appears, or if she just asked them not to look at the camera. Maybe a combination of both, since people react in different ways to a camera: some will want to pose, others hate being photographed or want to make themselves presentable first. A few might be doing something dodgy and definitely don't want anyone taking photographs. As I found out when I tried to photograph a car wash in Tottenham - the camera sometimes just arouses suspicion. Outside the Olympics on opening ceremony day, a girl passing by actually hit my camera because she had to walk in front of it. Capturing strangers on film is of course the absolute basis of street photography and while you could well argue that there's far too much of that sort of thing, if you are out taking photographs you'd hope not to annoy too many people in the process.

The photo above is from Walthamstow in perspective, number 11 on the Art Trail, opening on Saturday.