2 Apr 2011

photographing London at the School of Life

Last week I had the pleasure of discussing my work with a wonderful group of people participating in a street photography weekend run by Nick Turpin at the equally wonderful School of Life in the heart of London.
The School of Life's strapline is "Ideas to live by". It was I felt a very appropriate venue to consider the practice of street photography which for me is characterised by its representation of every day life, one step removed. The 'takeaway' from my talk to the group was to simply appreciate the experience of coming off standby mode, where we live much of our lives, to a more switched on state where, to quote Ian Sinclair in Lights Out For The Territory quoting William S. Burroughs,
"...the important fact about urban living: the continual stream of second attention awareness. Every licence plate, street sign, passing strangers, are saying something to you."

I appreciated they'd had a tough weekend walking the streets of London, fulfilling stretching briefs set by Nick, but I hope this message had some resonance. The more I talk it through in front of people, the more it makes sense. To me at least.

It was fascinating to see each member of the group's different, and common, interpretations to the challenges they had been set. The idea of working as a pack in this way, sharing a common purpose but following your own instincts, is intriguing and not one I've experienced. There's an inherent contradiction for me in undertaking what is essentially a solo pursuit in this manner, but there are certainly photographers out there who practice in this way.
The Ambiguous Book Project has got me thinking about collaboration. It's a virtual project where every participant is working independently. Even more so when I'm asking them not to go out onto the street but to stay indoors and look at their personal collections! However we are still sharing an approach, reflecting on images and how they can reveal more than we may have originally intended. I wonder how we could develop that into a realtime, in person activity?
Hey look at me, already thinking of the sequel.That's a little way off just yet!

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