We don’t normally go shooting on Saturdays.
“You know what’s good on Saturdays? Camden Market,” I said to PJ. And I was technically correct. We just went there a couple of decades too late.
Camden Town in the 1990s was so much fun – an area famed for being a Mecca for subcultures. Cyberpunks and Goths and Indie Kids would mill around the streets, each sporting the styles of their respective scenes. The whole place was a feast for the senses: loud music blaring from every stall, the scents of street food and incense filling the air, stalls filled with bootleg records and outlandish clothing and bizarre handmade goods… there was always a vibe around the place that encouraged individuality, and told the misfits that this was the one place they could comfortably be themselves.
Camden Market wasn’t just one market. It was a collection of several smaller markets all in close proximity to each other, linked by Camden High Street. The roads offered a variety of small pubs that doubled as music venues, where a lot of the Indie bands of the nineties first started out. Fast forward to 2019, and that whole atmosphere has gone. Camden these days is just another tourist trap. I’m in my thirties now, and so I don’t know if “scene kids” even exist any more (I’m the mother of teenagers though, and from what I can tell, it doesn’t), but if they do, they’re not hanging around Camden, that’s for sure. Long story short, we didn’t end up spending much time in Camden in the end.
This London Diary instalment is relatively short, due to poor light, indecisiveness, and a lack of inspiration. Not every shoot is a success.
Walk from London Paddington to Camden Lock
We left ridiculously early and ended up at London Paddington before 8:30AM, so we decided to walk to Camden. We’ve been consciously trying to stay above ground as much as possible over the past few months to get more of a sense of where locations are in relation to each other. We’ve been surprised on several occasions about the proximity of places compared to how they look on the Underground map. The walk from Paddington took us along the Grand Union canal path, so it wasn’t the most exciting journey in the world, aside from the section that passed through London Zoo, so we got to see some warthogs from a distance (always a novelty in London). I took a few snaps with the Huawei P20 Pro en route (above)…
… a couple of selfies with the Samsung Galaxy S7…
…and a couple of photographs with the Fujifilm X100F (which, for reasons that made sense to me at the time, are all in 1:1 format this week).
This was the result of shooting around Camden: eight mediocre photographs. The ONLY exciting thing that happened the whole time we were there was that I found a vintage camera stall that had a Mamiya RZ67, which the guy let me have a play with. I didn’t buy it, because a) it was £1000, and b) it wasn’t the Pro II version, which has extra fine tuning on the focus dial, but it was great to get an idea of the size and weight of it, and to actually look down through that viewfinder. And now be lusting after owning one even more.
So we headed East, heading for Shoreditch and Brick Lane, defecting en route to Starbucks by Spitalfields Market purely because they sold pancakes (I ordered some bizarre frappe thing instead of their coffee, because I don’t hate myself). The light was still woefully flat, and neither of us appreciated beforehand that Brick Lane Market is really an exclusively Sunday thing.
Still, I was a little more in the mood to photograph people, having held that Mamiya earlier in Camden, and there were far more interesting looks going on around Brick Lane than there had been in Camden.
It was turning into one of those days where we didn’t know where we wanted to be or what we wanted to do. But where do we normally go when all else fails? Chinatown and Soho… so we walked back towards Liverpool Street to get the number 8 bus westbound, capturing a couple more shots along the way, including a pretty epic soft tiger toy that somebody had left by a bin.
Chinatown + Soho
I haven’t been particularly excited about ANY of the shots I took on this day. Writing this blog forces me to review my photographs far more than I have done previously, and everything that I shot this Saturday just reminds me of the kind of images I was producing a year ago. That’s why it has taken so long for me to get this edition of London Diaries published on the site: I’m not proud of these photographs, and I’m reluctant to post them as examples of my work. However, I think that if I’m going to write this blog, it needs to be honest, and so what if I had an off day? Everybody has off days, right?
Some very angry people, + a bit of photojournalism
Just as we were about to leave Central London and begin the journey home, several police riot vans sped past us and turned just off of Piccadilly Circus. Two separate protests had inadvertently merged – one a group of Pro-Brexiteers, angry about the UK not leaving the EU swiftly enough, and the other a group protesting the lenient sentencing of a hit-and-run driver who had killed three teenagers. We followed the sound of the angry mob, and came across this scene. The atmosphere was horrific, a police officer had just been punched in the face when we arrived, and it didn’t feel like a particularly safe place to be taking photographs, but it was interesting to try to capture the moment. First time in ages that I wished I had a telephoto lens, because I definitely didn’t want to get any closer than where I was standing.
So that was that. The moral of the story this time is to have a plan (and a back up plan) when you go out shooting, especially if your time is limited. There isn’t normally a moral to these diaries, but it’s an added extra to compensate for the mediocre photography.
On the plus side, the next instalment is going to look totally fantastic in comparison to this one.
Love from London x