Photography is like an addiction. Generally, I manage to get out once or twice a week to shoot street photos, and that seems to feed my habit enough. But occasionally, circumstances prevent me from managing to get into Central London. Which would be fine if I lived in a remotely photogenic area that I could grab half an hour or so to take photographs around here and there, but I don’t. It’s not pretty enough to be typically “British”, nor gritty enough to be interesting – just mundane suburbia.
Whenever these forced hiatuses from street photography occur, I tend to get withdrawal symptoms after about seven days. And then something dangerous happens: I start “researching” things. This is the nicest way to describe my habit of becoming intensely interested in something new, and this time, that “something new” was medium format cameras and 120 film.
When I was considering buying the Fujifilm X100F for my street photography, I researched hard… to the point that when I actually bought one, I’d watched so many hours of YouTube videos about them, I felt like I’d owned one for years. I seem to be going the same way with the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II, my desired medium format camera. This interest has stemmed from my increasing love of Japanese analogue portrait photography, which generally has a distinctive soft, bright aesthetic achieved by using Kodak Portra 400 film. The stylings and compositions are thoughtfully lit, calm, dreamy and tranquil… and I REALLY want to create portrait photographs which are that beautiful. That’s the dream. But that’s for a different blog.
Today was all about getting back onto the streets with the X100F after my ten day break. I’d recently purchased an extra pack of Instax Square film for the Fujifilm Instax SQ6 camera, so I had 12 shots to play with. The light was terrible and Wednesdays are always pretty quiet in Central London, but at least we’d escaped suburbia. I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time for post-processing this week, so I shot JPEG only, and did my editing on the iPad with VSCO X. Here’s the story of today’s shoot:
I used 11 out of my 12 Instax shots around Soho at the beginning of the day. I love how unpredictable Instax film is. I have the Instax Share SP-2 printer that uses Instax mini film, which can be wirelessly synced with the Fujifilm X100F to produce prints on the go, but it’s not the same as using an Instant camera. Bonus points to the Huawei P20 Pro this week, for having a neat little scan feature in the camera that makes it really easy to make digital copies of my Instax photos for uploading online.
We initially took the Tube to Oxford Circus station, and decided to wander aimlessly through Soho along streets that were less familiar to us. In preparation for the creation of Curious magazine, I’ve been purchasing a few independent magazines recently to get ideas and inspiration regarding potential layouts, so I was really pleased to find a newsagent that stocked a whole host of them, and bought a couple more (“Huck” and “Hungry Eye”, in case anybody’s interested). I also got some really good Korean Fried Chicken from the @bapfoods food stall in Rupert Street, which was super yummy.
There were even more lanterns strung across the streets of Chinatown than usual after the recent Lunar New Year, but down at ground level the streets were pretty empty. I’ve noticed that Wednesdays are often like this during the daytime in London. We walked our standard one-lap “circuit” of the main streets, found a man cleaning windows who seemed very happy to have his photograph taken whilst he worked, and then decided to try our luck elsewhere.
Bonus photograph of PJ, because it’d be rude not to take such an opportunistic photograph next to a sign like that.
“How did they end up in the British Museum?” I hear you cry. Actually, I’m pretty sure you’re not all that bothered, but I’m going to tell you anyway. We’ve been researching potential new street photography locations around London, and had read about Exmouth Market, which is held every Friday and Saturday. Unusually for us, our next street shot falls on a Saturday, so we thought we’d go and scout out the area in advance whilst we were within walking distance today. The route there took us past the British Museum, and it was pretty cold outside, so it seemed sensible to pop inside for a bit. We’ve taken some interesting shots in the past inside the V&A Museum, and were curious what the light was like inside the British Museum. Not great, was the answer. But there were some interesting artefacts, so it was a good opportunity to take some photographs anyway.
Tottenham Court Road to Barbican
So, all in all, it was quite a long walk. And once we arrived at the Exmouth Market location, neither of us were taken enough with it to want to bother coming back on Saturday. However, as well as our detour into the British Museum, we actually passed through a fair amount of photo-worthy locations en route. I particularly liked the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square, with its brutalist concrete facade. I also manage to take my first blossom photographs of 2019, which was surprising given how cold it has been recently.
Given my new-found interest in 120 film, imagine my delight when we stumbled across a camera film wholesaler in Mount Pleasant (I say stumbled “across”… I literally stumbled INTO the shop, thanks to being so fixated on the Portra 400 which I’d noticed on the counter that I didn’t acknowledge the doorstep. Way to make an entrance).
We made a much needed pitstop at a branch of Costa. I don’t even know why I went all MySpace with a mirror selfie whilst we were there, so I’m not even going to try to justify my behaviour. I took a couple of photographs of the same table with different customer sat at it, which I’m filing as a potential idea for a future series. A Day in the Life of a Chair. If nothing else, it’s a good excuse to sit in Costa all day.
We had no idea where to finish our day’s shoot. We were both pretty tired by this point (in fact, we’d never really recovered from our decision to bypass our fellow travellers by power walking up a deceptively long and steep broken escalator at Oxford Circus station). My launderette fetish had reared its head earlier in the day, when I thought I’d found one in Soho, only to discover with great disappointment on closer inspection that it was a manned dry cleaners, so I did a quick google search of launderettes within a mile of Exmouth Market. The “prettiest” one seemed to be located at the Barbican, so we set off to find it.
On arrival, a sign on the wall proclaimed that photography wasn’t permitted. But that’s just one of those rules that’s just made to be broken, so I used my last Instax shot on those beautiful blue dryers, and took a quick snap with the X100F. We wandered around the Barbican Estate, wishing that the light was better for some shadowy brutalist architectural photography, took a few photographs anyway, and as always at the Barbican, got completely lost in the warren of high rises trying to find the Tube station.
Now that we’ve decided to bypass Exmouth Market, our plans for Saturday involve a ridiculously early start and a wander around Camden. Will the light be in our favour? Will we walk such a ridiculous amount of steps as we did today? Will I return home with more random purchases that I don’t need, like the awesomely-named “Lip Shit” lip balm that I bought today? Will I fall down any more steps? Find out in the next instalment of London Diaries.
Love from London x