I’d come across the exercise in Part 1 of the course some time ago, but I had been struggling with anxiety and so had found it really difficult to get an opportunity to complete it. However, I’ve made a lot of progress lately and so yesterday I did something that would have felt impossible a few weeks ago; I got on a train from Salisbury to London Waterloo and went to join over a million other protesters in central London to protest against Brexit. Although I felt quite dizzy at times, I didn’t feel anxious at all and had a really nice time, despite hating crowds!
In terms of camera gear, I took my iPhone 8+ and my Fujifilm XT-2 with a Meike 28mm lens. I have some great Fuji lenses, but they’re very heavy and I really needed to keep weight and bulk to a minimum. The Meike lens is totally manual, you can’t autofocus or change the aperture via the camera, but you can set the aperture, focus at infinity, and let the camera handle shutter speed and ISO. I decided that I’d zoom later by cropping if that’s what I wanted to do.
I have issues with street photography; I don’t agree with the idea that just because someone is walking down the street and in public I have an automatic right to take photos of them. I value my privacy and that I can choose what to share and what not to share, that I can remain unnoticed and unseen without having someone photograph me when I’m putting the bins out or walking to the local cafe. And so I accord that same privacy to others as a matter of course. However, people are on this march to be seen; that’s the entire point. And so it seems an appropriate place to practice street photography. There are conditions under which people know they are more likely to be part of a photograph – and if anyone ever asked me to delete a photograph of them then I would. I take the same attitude with my children; I love taking photos of them, but I get their permission first and never share on social media without their consent.
When I got to London I felt instantly happy and at home. I walked to the British Film Institute and felt sad that I had left it so long between visits. It helped that it seemed that one in every five people I saw was wearing an EU shirt or carrying an EU flag. And as I walked to Parliament Square those people dressed like me became more and more common.
I didn’t start at the beginning of the march; I went to Parliament Square, walked up to Downing Street and waited for the march there, where I joined in. That was for practical reasons; I have a damaged achilles tendon and I knew that walking too far would make it worse.
I didn’t want to focus too much on individuals; so I had a plan from the last anti-Brexit march I went on. As I could see the crowd approaching, I set the shot up for the street in general, trying to get the convergence of lines of the buildings and roads on or near one of the points that would occur if the screen were split into three. If I’d had a zoom lens then I would have concentrated a bit more on individuals. To show some of the movement of the crowd when it got very busy I set to f.22, focused at infinity, set the lowest ISO and let the camera set the shutter speed so I’d get some movement. For many of the crowd photos I couldn’t look through the lens; I held the camera up as high as I could and took multiple shots, occasionally checking that the results were okay. I tried a few multiple exposures too, which would have been a lot more successful with a tripod.
For the black and white shots, I was pleased with the results that showed movement and with the multiple exposures. I think they were much more effective in black and white than they are in colour. But the colour images show the sea of blue flags. The movement doesn’t work in the colour images at all. It just looks wrong. I tried looking down rather than just looking out into the crowd. There were shadows moving across changing the lighting; as a set of images I liked those. It’s also a different view. I also used the selfie camera on the iPhone to shoot upwards for a similar effect.