500px, with love and affection

I've finally joined 500px. Yay. Although if I'm honest, I don't really know how to do things on it.  

You can like posts. Get that. And then there's favouriting posts. Get that too. But then both of these add up to a 'pulse' score. Not sure if favouriting gets more points than liking.  Then there's this thing called 'Flow' which I have no idea what that's meant to do. You can also get 'affection points' (awww) too.  Don't know if these are the same as the pulse score.  And I have no idea how, but every time I upload a photo there's always someone there to like it. Immediately. Which is nice.  But I don't know where I can find these uber quick finders of new things.

So there you have it.

Guess I'll just have to play around with it some more to figure it out. Yay.

'Art of Convincing' (black and white one below) is currently my winning images with a pulse score of 58.5.


Mysterious Men in White

On Wednesday evening as I sat near St Paul's Cathedral taking photos of people as they walked passed, some men dressed in white trousers and white shirts gathered near me.  As I continued to take photos, more and more of these men in white gathered.  They put their uniform on, and brought out some sticks, hankies and bells, at which point, the jingle sound which accompanied each of their steps turned them from mysterious men in white into the morris men of Westminster and Hammersmith. And so they became my subject for the evening.

Westminster Morris Men © 2014 Sandra Fontano

Hammersmith Morris Men © 2014 Sandra Fontano

© 2014 Sandra Fontano

© 2014 Sandra Fontano

© 2014 Sandra Fontano

© 2014 Sandra Fontano

© 2014 Sandra Fontano

© 2014 Sandra Fontano

© 2014 Sandra Fontano

© 2014 Sandra Fontano

© 2014 Sandra Fontano

© 2014 Sandra Fontano

© 2014 Sandra Fontano

© 2014 Sandra Fontano

© 2014 Sandra Fontano

© 2014 Sandra Fontano

© 2014 Sandra Fontano

Eggless cakes, not eccles cakes

Today I returned to Black & White Basement to join Keith Lyons and Dave Champion for a wonderful afternoon of dark room tuition.  As always, I learnt lots, both about the dark room process, photography in general (did you know that the 35mm was invented by the German Oskar Barnack who was a keen photographer, but due to his asthma struggled to carry around the heavy equipment and decided to reinvent the camera using the film left over from film cameras?) and cameras (the beauty - and price- of individual Leicas, and the hidden double exposure abilities behind the Canon A1).

We managed to squeeze in quite a lot into the afternoon.  It was another session of going through from have taken the shot to processing of the film and then making of prints - which is a very satisfying process.  We discovered that some of the foam inside the A1 which helps to seal the light out has worn out, so unfortunately quite a few of the shots weren’t worth developing.  Luckily, Dave is going to fix this problem for me so that I can continue to use it soon.  There were still a few shots we could salvage and make prints from though.

The first is the shot of St Pauls from a rooftop in Blackfriars.  I used Ilford Pearl, and having done the test strip at we achieved this print below relatively quickly without too much f-stop tweaking.

London Skyline - copyright Sandra Fontano

The second print was of the "eccles cakes" shop window, where, while creating this print, we realised that actually it said “eggless cake’s” (sic).  Nonetheless, this was another image that was nice to develop with plenty of reflections upon reflections coming through in the window.  Looks like the shop front from a few decades ago. 

Eggless Cake's - copyright Sandra Fontano

Final shot we worked on was one I took yesterday when the sudden torrential downpour started in the evening. I stood on a chair, sticking my head and camera out of the window to grab a shot of the rain hitting the window and splashing down onto the pavement below.  I’m not keen on the composition of this one, I could have lined it up better, but the geometry is strangely pleasing.

Geometrical Pavement - copyright Sandra Fontano

So, next up is getting the camera fixed and continuing to explore the streets with a new roll of film.  I think I'm going to play with light and shadows more next time.

Dark room hire at Black & White Basement is £30 for half a day (approx 4 hours).  For more info on Black & White Basement, visit there website: http://www.bwbasement.com


#peekabag is a new project that I'm working on via Instagram.  I've been trying to dissect and understand the kind of projects that I like when it comes to street photography.  It's mainly the idea of capturing people in their element, giving a snapshot of their who they are through their clothes, what they're doing, who they're with, their style - all of these things help you to get an insight into the person.  Add to this a conversation to find out a little about them, a story, telling you who they are or what they've experienced, and that's what I like. Brandon Stanton Humans of New York and Stacey Baker's Citilegs are two perfect examples.  

And so what might make an interesting project for me to start working on. I started thinking about what people carry with them that's personal to them but that gives away a piece of their identity.  So I landed on handbags.  Often when women buy bags, they are deciding what they want the bag to say about them; fashion-conscious, vintage, practical, smart, sentimental, classic. It's often a external representation of the person, a symbol of who they are and how they want to be perceived. But we don't often get to see what's inside the bag. Each owner treats the inside of the bag as their personal space.  Some will chuck things in, others will have a set place for things in certain places. Some will be empty bar a few key items, others will be packed to the bring with all the "just in case" items. 

So I decided to go out and start asking women to pose with their bag, and then to let me take sneak peek inside and take a picture of what they have inside.

Although I've only just started, I learnt that OMG I get nervous about having to walk up to people and asking to take their photo.  I think I get very nervous about taking people's image in public full stop, in case they don't want it being taken and confront me about it.  There was a lot of clamminess from my part. Also, not only am I asking to take their picture, which from my initial experience, people seem to don't mind, but also I'm asking to take a picture of the inside of their bag, where people have their purses and their phones - very personal items.  I think if I was me coming up to me to ask that, I would definitely be very security conscious.  I think as I build up the collection, I should hopefully get better as I'll have proof of what I'm doing, but until then I'll just have to hope that I have a face people can trust.

I've also been asking them what would they miss from their bag if they it was to disappear. After having asked a couple of people, I thought I'd exclude phones or purses from the answers as that feels too obvious an answer. I'll post the answers up with their images on Instagram.

I'm not sure where this project will take me, but for the meantime, it's the first step for me in even just being able to go up to people to speak to them and to ask to take their photo.  And also as a photography project.  Let's see where you take me, #peekabag.

"Agh! It's fallen on the floor! Shoot, I can't see a thing!" - my first day in the dark room

This is the first picture I developed thanks to the excellent teacher Dave at Black & White Basement. I took this shot of Louis Mendes whilst in NY lat year. He taught me more in 5 mins about the Canon A1 than I had managed to figure out from the French manual I had been trying to translate. He can be found outside B&H offering to take people’s picture with his 4x5 Speed Graphic.  When I returned this year, I managed to show him the picture, even if it was on my phone.  Not sure he was very impressed, but as my first photo which I had taken and developed, it was certainly a lovely image to learn to dodge and burn on.

In the meantime, happy 4 July.  

By the way, I'm writing this whilst listening to the Radio 4 shipping forecast which I find strangely relaxing.  Don't judge me.  It sounds like this (it starts from 1m30s).

Singing in the rain and the AFD commission by Olivia Arthur

Today I stood in rain a lot but manage to capture this sweet little lady singing in the rain with her colourful skater scooter thing while she was waiting for someone. 

I also found out about the work of Olivia Arthur today. Her story of the women of Mauritania going through childbirth and the difficulties that both mother and child sometimes face is beautifully portrayed through her images in the Agence Française de Développement commission. The stark reality of going through childbirth in the empty hospital with the cold white walls is one which not everyone can count themselves lucky to go through.  The AFD is working with the local government to reduce the maternity and infant mortality rates

I can't link to her images directly, but her website link is above and she can be followed on Twitter too.

Here she is...

Just thought I would take the time to introduce you to this sweet little lady.  I've currently got a Delta black and white film in at the moment, and have been set the challenge of taking photos of my surrounding areas with her.  I guess I'll get to see them once I finish the film (36 exp) and get it developed.