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.
#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.
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.
While my camera is with Nikon getting repaired, so my first blog post will be of an Instagram picture I took of a print from my first roll of film in my dad's (now mine) Canon A1. Comic cons always bring out people's colourful and creative side.