I'm really not a very social person. I'm not unpleasant (please correct me if I'm wrong), it's just my brain tells me that the anxiety of meeting people, trying to make conversation and be interesting is worse than missing out on that social interaction. I like engaging with people, enjoy listening to their story and being human, I just don't do it often because I generally fall at either of the first two hurdles of saying yes and then turning up.
So colour me shocked when I signed up to do a group photography walk, actually booked train tickets and even turned up at the meet point. I've never done one before because of the above reasons with the addition of the usual imposter syndrome worries of being found out as a complete photography numpty.
tl;dr I did it, I enjoyed myself and it stimulated many many things to think about.
First up let me point you to an piece I wrote about my struggles with taking my photography in any degree seriously called Making (and taking) time. Basically, despite wanting to be serious about my photography I most often fail to give myself permission to do so. I "invent" all kinds of reasons why it isn't a valid thing I should be doing.
Also (like a lot of people) I have a life time of imposter syndrome hangovers from literally everything I've ever done. Meeting up for the first time with a bunch of talented and knowledgeable photographers and making images with them had that imposter sitting well and truly on my shoulder chipping away in my ear.
After having jumped the first hurdles of saying yes and booking tickets I faced an Aintree like fence at the train station. This was a Saturday, not a working day and it was rammed. Peak hour commute rammed. After spending 2 years avoiding crowds and being triggered in Morrisons I nearly turned around and went straight home. Pathetic I know but that's how it is. Fortunately I had booked cheap advanced 1st class tickets and those carriages were virtually empty so I continued on my way.
Walking to the rendezvous all the usual dreads rattled around my brain. So much so that I couldn't get my camera out of the bag and start to try and get in the photography flow. Arriving at the meet point I made a last minute detour and "explored" a little of the surrounding area pretending to myself to hunt for images whilst avoiding having to actually meet people. Obviously when I did meet up, everybody was warm and welcoming and very pleasant and all the nervous build up was for nothing. Much like always, but it's doesn't stop it happening every time.
Once we started walking I tried a few conversations but I didn't get very far. After a few icebreakers I struggled to keep any conversation going. I'm out for practice and wanting to avoid just talking camera's/lenses/film I was floundering. Apologies to everyone who had suffer the awkwardness of me walking off with my tail between my legs.
Finally I got my camera out and decided to just start making some images. Initially I was conscious of just getting out of everyone's way and letting them get on but I soon found my stride and zone. One of the reasons for this was the location which I haven't told you about yet. I've never been before, but the Barbican Estate is a fabulous space within the City of London. You will all have seen it's brutalist architecture in films and TV shows, but the presence of place is something you have to experience in person. Yes it's concrete, but the lines, shapes, forms and created spaces give it an incredible feeling of calm, peace and comfort. I know nothing of design and architecture but if a place epitomises what can be achieved with a built environment then this has got to a prime example.
I was engrossed looking for how the bright spring light worked with all those components. Such fun! Time passed in a flash and we worked our way out of the Barbican and into the business centre of the city. Towering skyscrapers, glass and construction all intermingled with the old. Fabulous.
Eventually we managed to group up again and head for lunch. Over a burger and beer we started to loosen up a little and the conversations flowed. Once refuelled the group headed on their way to the river but I had to head for the train station for reasons I'll explain below. I had a thoroughly enjoyable day with a bunch of friendly like minded photography friends. What more could you ask for? Thankyou everybody.
After such an adventure I ruminated on the day and reflected on the thoughts it provoked which were many. Some of which I will bore you with now:
- Why always so self deprecating? A couple of people twigged that I was "The Trichrome Guy". Lord knows I've pushed it hard enough over on Twitter! They expressed genuine interest but I shrugged it off with the usual "Oh, it's not that hard". It belittled their interest and stopped the conversation. I've worked pretty hard to achieve those results over the last year so why does my brain do that? Again apologies to anyone who wanted a deeper conversation about it, my bad.
- Younger me was an idiot. I've suffered Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) all my photography life, in the struggle for beauty and perfection. This has led me down some very silly and expensive rabbit holes. Lately I've been using 35mm film cameras and been learning that when I was younger I knew nothing about what I was doing either technically or aesthetically and that 35mm film is more than a match for most peoples vision and abilities.
- 35mm and grain is a beautiful thing. The more I play with it the more I'm enjoying it. It's all about the image and not the technical perfection. The images are grainy but there's plenty of detail and the tones are to die for and it makes the image need to be stronger to not be overwhelmed.
- After worrying for days about what kit to take I decided to keep it simple and I'm so glad I did. One camera, one lens, one film stock. Olympus OM4Ti, 21mm and bulk loaded HP5. To be developed later in ID-11. It avoided the worry about what to use and restricted the types of images I could tackle. The lens is a little soft around the edges and the distortion is quite noticeable but the package is so much more that the sum of it's parts. Absolute blast to use 😍
- Don't book a 4pm return train. Thinking about this afterwards, this was my subconscious safety net. After we had finished lunch the group headed off to the river and were going to explore along it. I wish I could have gone, but it was in the wrong direction for my train so I had to bail early. My safety net allowed an early exit if I had had too much or needed an escape but because it was a cheap advanced ticket I couldn't change it. I had built in some "safety" but messed up at the same time. Muppet.
- The main takeaway for me however was this one, and it's a repeating theme. Giving myself permission to make photographs. I was out on a photography specific trip with people doing the same thing and that gave me permission to walk, study, stop, take my time and make images. Again that sounds obvious and silly that it isn't obvious to me and isn't what I always do. The difference before, during and after being with the group was profound. I really need to learn to allow myself to do that when I am on my own. Herd protection in action I suppose. Not sure I will ever change that but it is a constant frustration to me. If anyone has advice on how to mitigate that feeling I would be hugely indebted to you.
Anyway, enough prattling on. Thank you to everyone who organised and took part in the walk. Thoroughly enjoyed it, meeting you and the images I made. Lots to think about and does anyone know where I can buy some big boy pants so I do this on my own? 😁
Now I suppose you actually want to see some of the images I made? Given that was the point of the trip (or was it).
Thanks for getting this far. Have a read the linked articles and my other ramblings. Drop me a message if these feeling are the same for you or you think I'm an absolute alien. I would definitely do it again and if you have any trepidations like me then I would suggest trying to work through them and giving it a fair go. You never know you might enjoy yourself 🙄