Welcome to “On Reflection…”

Hi – this blog, ‘On Reflection…’ charts current photographic practice, writing and personal projects. You may also link out to my ‘Commercial’ and ‘Wedding’ websites from the main navigation.

My first degree was in Fine Art Painting and I hold a Masters Degree in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from London College of Communication. My work draws upon my previous experience in Fine Art.

I am an experienced teacher and presenter with over 20 years of practice, teaching at London College of Communication, Kensington and Chelsea College, Morley College and The Cuming Museum. I have exhibited widely, and write for publication in magazine, blog and book form. I won AP Magazine’s ‘Photographer of the Year’ and was a finalist in ‘Travel Photographer of the Year’. I write for publication and have had articles and photographs published in Blueprint Magazine and AP Magazine.

I am interested in exploring fresh ways of presenting photographs: in galleries, books and book art, and via installation. I work on location and from my studio, based in London.

You may download my C.V here: STEVE MEPSTED ARTIST AND TEACHER C.V. 2014

If you should have any questions or feedback regarding my work or commissions and print sales, please feel free to contact me:

I recently spent a brisk and stormy day walking in Salisbury. I went initially to visit Stonehenge which, after over half a century of my life, I have somehow neglected to see with my own eyes. I have to say its a bit of a let down: surrounded by ropes and  guarded by walkie-talkie men it sits like a fish in a bowl.

(Top tip: avoid spending £15.50 and be marginally less roped/ripped-off by taking the actual approach avenue through the fields) as opposed to via the visitors centre with the selfie crowd (I know – i’m a snob!) cant help it. However the visitors centre is a rather lovely piece of architecture, which echoes what Woodhenge (a couple of miles away from Stonehenge) would have looked like back in the day!

The rest of the countryside is wonderful and especially the pub, The Old Mill, back in Salisbury; approached through the water meadows with Salisbury Cathedral in the distance.

With regard to my opening weather statement this quote tickles me:

Anyone who has lived through an English winter can see the point of building Stonehenge to make the Sun come back. Alison Jolly
Read more at: http://www.azquotes.com/quote/835347

Stonehenge: Monumental Disappointment

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Street Photographs Selection

Rachel & Boris Johnson at ‘Fresh Hell’ Book Launch

A strange photo job last night at the launch of Rachel Johnson’s new book ‘Fresh Hell’ at Acklam Village Market underneath the Westway Flyover last night saw the mingling of several famous faces. Brother Boris Johnson caught dancing with a handkerchief! Ian Hislop talking earnestly, Piers Morgan doing selfies, David Gilmour being effortlessly cool and Jeremy Paxman scowling. I felt like I had stumbled into a secret cabal of the great, the good, the bad and the ugly of the journalistic/political world. It would be wonderful if some of that journalistic, critical muscle could be brought to bear on the horrendous recent plans to turn whole tracts of the Westway into a fine dining and shopping ‘experience’. Soon, those ‘on the edge’ unique spaces; much sought after for exclusive book launches, may no longer exist. https://nottinghillpost.com/news/westway-23/

AT PARIS PHOTO

What a pleasure to leave the DSLR at home for a few days. With a group of students at Paris Photo it feels good to shoot on film for a while. Olympus Trip camera and Pentax K1000 – very simple, basic, reliable gear. Kodak Tri-X film for its good, solid contrast. Sad though that France, while simultaneously celebrating world photography in Paris Photo, has radically altered the manner in which it allows photographers to operate, particularly in the street.

With its recently overhauled privacy laws France threatens to subdue the wealth of (Street) Photography that has in good part informed its culture over the last 100 years. Cartier-Bresson would be turning in his grave. Best then to shoot very quickly and operate a smile-and-move-on policy if challenged. Here are some shots from November 2013 and 2014.

‘ORPHANS’ FILM – THE MAKING OF AN EXHIBITION

I am pleased to share this short film of ‘the making of’ my installation at Acklam Village – produced by the wonderful team at DigitalWorks; the film explores the context behind the show and its conception. The ‘Orphans’ project uses and presents historical photos of local people installed at epic scale on the walls of the Westway Flyover. Oh, and there’s still time to catch the installation at Acklam Village each weekend! To read more about the ‘Orphans’ installation see HERE

‘Orphans’ – A photographic installation under the Westway Flyover by Steve Mepsted Filmed and edited by digital:works [Sav Kyriacou & Matthew Rosenberg] www.digital-works.co.uk

Hear the accompanying song: “Home’ by Hey Zeus on Soundcloud.

‘ORPHANS’ POSTCARDS

SECOND MAIN IMAGE BLOG ORPHANS POSTCARDS PACKAGING -6Limited edition handmade packs of 16 postcards featuring figures extracted from Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea archive council survey photographs – Circa 1970. Figures originally installed at epic size underneath the Westway Flyover, Portobello Road, London, W11 in 2014.

Product Details Copyright Steve Mepsted (Standard Copyright License)

Edition: 50

Cards: 16 x 350gsm Silk Artboard. A6 Size.

Print: Black and White.

Packaging: Black card envelope in matte finish, string and washer closure.

FRONT: Artist-designed title card, handwritten signature, date and edition number in white ink.

BACK: Pull out introductory text sheet featuring group image of individual figures on back and text on front. Mounted with black photo corners.

Weight: 100g

Overall Dimensions: Length 16cm / Width 11cm / Depth 1cm

Price: Each pack is priced at £15.00 including first class packaging and postage. Carefully packaged in a protective acid-free clear bag and posted in a bubble envelope. Editions 4-50 available now.

To read more about the “Orphans’ Installation see HERE For enquiries please contact me using the form below.

The Westway Motorway (A40M) was built to run 3.5 miles between Paddington Green and White City. Building works began in 1964 and the Motorway was opened in July 1970. The building of the motorway cut a swathe through much of the housing, businesses and streets in the North Kensington area and caused national controversy for the effects it had upon the local community and the environment. As the empty ‘non-spaces’ underneath the elevated surface of the road were considered by local people and agencies The Westway began to exist as a lively, contentious, potential network of narratives. Led by local documentary photographer Steve Mepsted and in Partnership with Westway Trust, and Acklam Village Market, ‘Orphans’ is the latest attempt to form an understanding of this richly poetic space. Using archive council photographs taken between 1969 and 1971 (just at the time the motorway was being built and opening) ‘Orphans’ presents old men, young women, local kids, market traders, shoppers on Portobello Road and children playing on makeshift adventure playground structures. These individuals are presented at epic scale; freed from their original pictorial context they roam the walls underneath the motorway as if returning through history and re-materialising under the very structure that cut through their lives and homes 45 years earlier.

WHITE COLLAR BOXING: THERE MAY BE BLOOD!!

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 18.10.31‘White Collar Boxing’ is a strange phenomenon – think ‘Fight Club’-inspired bored bankers and city boys ‘n’ girls wishing to let off some steam and perhaps fix a rivalry or two. All done in the time-honoured fashion of smashing each other in the face with padded gloves in a ring while your friends urge you forwards from the side. Of course there is more to it than that, including a fair smattering of controversy. A good article can be found HERE

I recently got a call from a fellow photographer and good friend Anders Birger to shoot on a fight-night for White Collar Boxing in London. Anders got the pre-fight training and I got the sweat, blood and gore! Thanks!

I was warned there may be blood and it proved to be so. The fighters aren’t joking around and come out of their seats with menace in their eyes and fists ready. And that’s just the women! Three rounds doesn’t sound like much but from my vantage point I could see the tiredness in the arms after just one. The guard starts to drop and thats of course when the punches land. Photographing this stuff is difficult. The fights are hard and frenetic, the lights are strong but pretty much in your lens all the time, but luckily one gets the best vantage points; right by the ringside and on the ropes. I worked with Status Magazine from Brazil and you can read the story (in Portuguese) HERE

KEITH RICHARDS, THE DIRTY STRANGERS: ALAN CLAYTON’S 60TH BIRTHDAY BASH

keefLast  night I’m back at the excitingly-grungy nether-world Acklam Village Bar 58 under the Westway Flyover in rainy Portobello. I have had a few (mis)adventures shooting here (see this previous post) But tonight I am here to photograph a band and their friends, celebrating their lead singers’ 60th Birthday. The Dirty Strangers – are a garage pub-rock band in the best of British tradition and happen to be good friends with ‘Keef’ Richards and Ronnie Wood. We were later treated to a video message from Keef himself, congratulating his schoolmate on reaching a ripe young age. The evening struck off with an appearance by Brian James of The Damned and the list of musical mates was duly ticked off throughout the evening – including the aforementioned video message from Keith Richards – face looming large and wrinkly on the concrete walls of the space. With songs titled ‘She’s a Real Botticelli’ and ‘Shepherds Bush City Limits’ you just know the type of noise The Dirty Strangers make. Tonight the amount of telecasters appearing made the stage look like a guitar shop showroom. The family atmosphere was reinforced when Alans’ 82 year old Dad got up on stage to sing ‘One More for the Road’, Alan’s son (also doing a good job with the singing and producing  a frighteningly good impersonation of his Dad’s vocal style) then got rather emotional – shouting proudly to the crowd: ‘Thats my Grandad that is!!’ All in all a fun, good energy evening, in a fantastic space. Happy Birthday Alan Clayton, and may The Dirty Strangers and their filthy friends keep on doing their thing for many years to come.

The Westway Motorway (A40M) was built to run 3.5 miles between Paddington Green and White City. Building works began in 1964 and the Motorway was opened in July 1970.y The building of the motorway cut a swathe through much of the housing, businesses and streets in the North Kensington area and caused national controversy for the effects it had upon the local community and the environment. As the empty ‘non-spaces’ underneath the elevated surface of the road were considered by local people and agencies The Westway began to exist as a lively, contentious, potential network of narratives. Led by local documentary photographer Steve Mepsted and in Partnership with Westway Trust, and Acklam Village Market, ‘Orphans’ is the latest attempt to form an understanding of this richly poetic space. Using archive council photographs taken between 1969 and 1971 (just at the time the motorway was being built and opening) ‘Orphans’ presents old men, young women, local kids, market traders, shoppers on Portobello Road and children playing on makeshift adventure playground structures. These individuals are presented at epic scale; freed from their original pictorial context they roam the walls underneath the motorway as if returning through history and re-materialising under the very structure that cut through their lives and homes 45 years earlier.

Steve Mepsted is an artist, teacher and freelance documentary photographer. His work draws heavily upon his previous experience in fine art and explores themes in social documentary, portraiture and photojournalism. He has exhibited widely, both as a painter and photographer, and writes for publication in magazine and book form. Steve works both on location and from his studio in North Kensington. Previously published local history work includes “The People and Histories of the West Eleven Housing Co-op”

To read more about the ‘Orphans’ project please see HERE

In partnership with

westway2_200x200download

For a potential future publication Steve Mepsted is looking for stories, memories, anecdotes, suggestions and opinions of how you feel the Westway has affected the fabric of the area – its people, geography and community. Were you a member of one of those 600 families whose houses were demolished to make way for the road? Do you feel the Westway has brought regeneration to the area? What do you think of the Westway now? Please contribute your stories to maintain an ongoing dialogue about the Westway’s past, present and future. Contact details are below. Thank you.

‘ORPHANS’ – A PHOTO INSTALLATION UNDER THE WESTWAY FLYOVER

‘HIDDEN RIVERS’ NATIONAL DIPLOMA IN PHOTOGRAPHY END OF YEAR SHOW

HIDDEN RIVERS POSTER CARDSEE THE SHOW CATALOGUE ON ISSUU HERE: HIDDEN RIVERS CATALOGUE

Private View

Thursday 17th July – 6.30pm – 9.00pm

Show Open

Friday 18th July – Thursday 24th July

Opening Times 10.00am – 4.00pm (Monday to Friday)

Please use the form below if you should have any questions about the show.

WORKING THE SCENE I saw this scene could be good! I started off shooting middle to long distance and then moved in closer, finally focusing on the girls face as she seemed slightly scared of the bubbles! As she got confident and playful I moved in closer. Its good to stay with a scene as it unfolds. These were shot on a 35mm prime lens. Recently I have been running some street photography workshops in London for Photoion Photography School and developing some project briefs on street photography practice for Level 3 students in Photography at Kensington and Chelsea College. Teaching these sessions has been an interesting experience and I thought I would write some blog posts sharing some thoughts and pictures from my practice. This is the first post and I will be offering you some more in the future. In this post I will attempt a personal definition of street photography, talk a little about camera gear, what to take out with you on a days shooting and why I think that a simplified kit is a good thing. After that I will show you some of my pictures and explain the conditions in which I took them offering some advice along the way. Finally I will set out a couple of exercises for you to try when you are out on the street. I will finish with a few resource links for further reading.

DEFINITIONS

For the purposes of this article I will define ‘Street Photography’ as un-posed, candid shots of something happening in the street or a public place, most of the time street photographs are pictures of people; fellow humans and our interaction with each other and our environment. For me Street Photography is about capturing a sense of the world we all inhabit. Street photographs are always candid, they are always “found”, and they are intensely social photographs, they are mirror images of society, springing un-manipulated from continuous, ever-changing found sources.

“You can’t rehearse a Street Photograph!” Henri Cartier-Bresson.

The origins of street photography are interesting. The bulky cameras of the late 1800’s, situated in the studio and fixed to tripods, were supplanted in the 1920’s by portable hand held cameras which used 35mm roll film. One could now slip a camera into a coat pocket and freely roam the street. Society was changing too – in post-war Europe more people were leaving the safety of the sitting room, women had more freedoms and workers more leisure time. The streets were busy, thriving places and the human condition was on display for all to see – and photograph. ‘Street’ is a difficult term to define precisely – indeed a photograph taken on a beach can be said to be a street photograph, one taken in a field too, or up a mountain. The Street photograph is not defined merely by what it depicts but by a set of shifting cultural values that refer to a certain ‘look’ of something, a ‘feeling’ even, an ‘attitude’ certainly. As I have alluded; the term ‘Street’ as applied to photography, is used to stand in for ‘Social’ or ‘Public’. The street photograph is a referent not an index.

AMERICA TRAVELS 2012

So, for me, street photographs are not only pictorial representations but also senses of public space, of social interaction, that tell us something about the human condition in a way that a portrait or a posed image cannot. ‘Street’ is a certain ‘look’: halfway between a movie and a photograph. A good street photograph can give you a sense of the smell of a place, the sound of a place. Close in form to ‘Documentary Photography‘, street photographs can act as extremely reliable records of dress, mannerism and human relationships over time.

“99.9% of street photography is failure”Alex Webb

Street photography is difficult and a really great street photograph does not come along every day, or even every year! Street photography often thrives on luck, chance and happenstance. However the good street photographer learns how to make their own luck: street photographers often talk of a kind of “zone”, achieved after a certain time out shooting – this is your photographic eye and brain tuned up, ready to make the most of luck; placing yourself in its way.

mirror

IN THE “ZONE” Sometimes one experiences a kind of special sense – a developed vision, a sense of premonition, reading a scene before it happens and actively ready to grab the moment when it does. But luck is only part of the equation. Your attitude to your photography is the greater part. I enjoy playing a waiting game; watching the world unfurl and beat a rhythm before me. Once I see that something is happening – a set of shapes, a funny moment, a striking juxtaposition, I press the shutter. If nothing reveals itself I am also happy to move on, in the knowledge that something else will soon be revealed – another piece of street theatre is busy rehearsing itself. Conversely, and frustratingly, a good opportunity can come and go without a seconds warning and you need to be ready to take your chance. Most often its gone before you get it. I believe the following statement is true for every street photographer who ever existed: Their best photographs are the ones they never took!

“There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative. Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”- Henri Cartier-Bresson

Overall, street photography is not a planned event, it is not predictable in outcome. You can only be as prepared as possible and cross your fingers (actually, don’t cross your fingers – that may slow you down!) The art of street photography is as random and exciting as life on the streets itself. This is also what makes street photography unique: the street is not a photographic studio, it does not care to stop and pose, it has no need for a stylist, or to take regular breaks. It just goes on and on and on around you; in front of you; behind you and beyond the next corner. The thing to remember is that while you are out in the theatre of the street – you are also a player on its stage! Understanding this is one of the secrets to becoming a good street photographer.

Well, that’s one definition of street photography, it is how I feel about it as a practitioner and it might also be your view. It is a relatively ‘purist’ view and there are many other standpoints – and all of them equally valid. I could write more but need to press on. In a future article I shall look at contemporary approaches to street photography that challenge and break the ‘rule’.

I will now share with you some tips and tricks to help you while you are out shooting on the streets. They are not definitive, concrete rules and I do not claim they will be useful to everyone’s style or needs. However they are offered as ways to push your photography outside of the usual manner in which you may find yourself shooting. They are exercises – a kind of checklist, that I often use to stop my practice from going stale and to keep the whole thing fun and creative. There are as many ways to shoot the streets as there are events happening on them, so you may wish to experiment with the following and then deviate to what suits you – let me know what special technique you like to use, have you found a different approach that has helped you take better photos?

“Be yourself. I much prefer seeing something, even it is clumsy, that doesn’t look like somebody else’s work.” – William Klein

YOUR CAMERA

Look at Me!!!!

Hey, everybody, look at me!!!!

If we agree, as stated at the beginning of this article, that street photography is usually unposed, candid and focuses on human behaviour and our interaction with the environment then it is pretty obvious that you will need to blend in. Though it may be tempting to bring your whole camera kit out, you will more than likely stick out like a sore thumb! Its actually kind of a relief to be unburdened from the choices and decisions (and shoulder aches) that three cameras and five lenses forces upon you. Its useful to limit oneself and as a compromise try going out one week with only one camera and a 50mm lens. The next week go out with a compact camera and see how much you blend in. The following week, just take your mobile phone out! Shoot all week with your chosen kit and see how you learn to understand not only your equipment, but also the difference in the experience you have when interacting with the street. .

So – back to the kit….. my advice is always to use only one camera and one flexible lens. A compact camera such as the Canon Powershot or Fuji X100 are excellent shooters as they are small enough to be slipped into a pocket. They sport lenses with excellent zoom and focal lengths too (however see below on the over-zealous use of the zoom) A small DSLR such as the Pentax K5 is great too as it allows for lens changes and a quiet shutter! These kinds of cameras are light and can be used efficiently when shooting from the hip (see exercise two below). Most importantly they allow you access to a range of creative manual and semi-manual modes that get you off using your camera in ‘Auto’. Another bonus is that due to their diminutive size they do not make you a target for over anxious security guards or indeed the Police. (See HERE for further information on your rights as a photographer on the streets) Remember if you are taking your camera out all day then you will need to have a spare battery and/or your charger, plus a memory card large enough to hold your pictures.

For the ultimate in portable ease and for the potential to get in close I also enjoy photographing on my mobile telephone, the ubiquity of these devices allows one to blend right in with any crowd, the quality of the lenses and camera firmware is getting better and better each year and one can download fun and creative apps to use. ‘Instagram’ and ‘Flickr’ are great platforms to share your pictures and receive feedback, and of course, your photograph can be sent from your phone in a matter of seconds.

As an example I offer this photograph. This was taken on a mobile phone app, in an Underground train deep under London. It is still however a ‘street photograph’, even though it does not involve the use of a ‘proper’ camera and was taken several meters under the street! One thing is for sure, I would not have got the shot if I had tried to use my DSLR.The train was so crowded I couldn’t have even raised the camera! It is a picture of a human event, the rush hour crush, the daily commute; miserable and claustrophobic. The most important thing to remember about your gear is that the great photograph is worth much more than the price of your camera. People will always be more interested in the content of your pictures than the size of your lens. Or to quote a friend of mine:

“People look at my photos and say I must have a fancy, expensive camera” I ask them, “does a good cook feel the need to show off his pans?”

Increasingly ubiquitous – the mobile phone and its on-board camera are now capable of taking excellent street photos. Discreet and silent, they are excellent tools for getting in close and of course for sharing the images straight away!

Increasingly ubiquitous – the mobile phone and its on-board camera are now capable of taking excellent street photos. Discreet and silent, they are excellent tools for getting in close and of course for sharing the images straight away!

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Fuji X100                                      Pentax K5                                         Canon Powershot

YOUR LENS

Try not to always use a telephoto or long lens. This is for several reasons: they are big and conspicuous, are bulky and heavy to carry around all day and they invite suspicion from security people and your potential subjects. People look at you and surmise that you are on a professional job. Although they may afford you distance and relative invisibility from your subjects it is this very distance that lends the resulting shots a kind of ‘spy’ feel. There is, I believe, a qualitative difference in the ‘closeness’ afforded by the use of a telephoto lens, and the true closeness afforded by the use of a fixed short lens. Telephoto photographs most often display none of the real closeness that involves the viewer in your photograph. The subjects can look flat, (it is a characteristic of telephoto lenses that they flatten perspective) isolated, distant and ‘cut off’ from their surroundings; lacking intimacy and interest. You may think that the telephoto offers you so much more flexibility but ironically, you will curse the times when something happens right next to you and you don’t get the shot because your focal length won’t allow it – you’ve got the (real) closeness but not the lens! Let your legs do the zooming with a short prime lens and you will achieve a wider variety of angles and layers; giving your photographs a richness and narrative;  the viewer of your image will feel your own closeness to the subject and therefore in turn will be drawn in to your photograph.

“If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” Robert Capa.

LINE OF LENSES

Many interesting situations in the street involve interactions between more than merely one or two subjects, affording interesting juxtapositions between several elements. So consider sometimes using a wide angle lens such as a 28mm, 35mm or 50mm to allow for a broad scene with plenty of layered activity to be captured. These lenses are light and portable, they ‘blend in’ and are ‘fixed’ – i.e. they only operate at their stated focal length. These lenses are also called ‘Prime Lenses‘ or ‘Fast Lenses’, which are usually better quality and often offer a wider maximum aperture. The fixed focal length means that you use your legs instead of twisting a lens barrel and zooming from a distance. As said above, you are therefore really connecting with your subjects and situating yourself as part of them; not separated or disengaged. In my opinion, the vast majority of memorable street work has been shot with lenses between 28mm and 50mm. If you do not have a fixed or prime lens then use a short telephoto such as an 18-55mm, which is the ‘kit-lens’ that comes with a lot of first time DSLR purchases. You might also consider a 28 –70mm for short telephoto work. There are a lot of interesting focal lengths out there – I really enjoy using my 10-20mm super-wide angle lens for a massive view of the world! Henri Cartier-Bresson used a fixed 50mm lens for all of his street work. He got so used to that lens it became an extension of his eye!

SOME STREET PHOTOS AND THEIR MAKING

Here are some of my street pictures, these were shot in London, India and America. I have included them here to illustrate a few things one needs to be aware of when approaching a shot.

ANGLE OF VIEW. Notting Hill Carnival. I was initially interested in the fabricated street scene. As I approached I saw this man talking on the phone. It was only when I crossed the road to get a different view that I saw the exclamation marks above his head!!! If something looks potentially interesting then look at it from all angles. Something unexpected might just reveal itself.

WORKING THE SCENE I saw this scene could be good! I started off shooting middle to long distance and then moved in closer, finally focusing on the girls face and her reactions to the bubbles, she seemed initially nervous of them but then she got confident and playful. Two young boys joined in adding layers and expressions to the scene. Its good to stay with it, sometimes scenes can unfold in unexpected ways. These were shot with a fixed 35mm lens.

My Favourite!!

My Favourite!!

USING A FOUND FRAME. For this shot on Coney Islanf boardwalk in New York I placed my self low behind a gap in the fence and waited for some interesting geometric shapes to occupy the frame I had created. Its interesting to shoot through gaps like this as one adds layers and context to the photograph.

USING A FOUND FRAME. For this shot on Coney Island Boardwalk in New York, I placed my self low behind a gap in the fence and waited for some interesting geometric shapes to occupy the frame I had created. It’s interesting to shoot through gaps like this as one adds layers and context to the photograph.

This photograph was shot at The Golden Temple in India. I was lucky enough to arrive early in the morning to capture a lovely light and  two rituals happening simultaneously during morning bathing. One man prays while another  photographs his smiling children.

GETTING UP EARLY. This photograph was shot at The Golden Temple in India. I arrived early in the morning to capture a lovely light and two rituals happening simultaneously during morning bathing. One man prays while another photographs his smiling children.

Sometimes its good to get up early. This was taken at The Notting Hill carnival early in the morning before the crowds arrived. I was photographing the flags above the road when the three Policemen came along on their bikes. Sometimes you get lucky!

This was taken at The Notting Hill Carnival early in the morning before the crowds arrived. I was photographing the flags above the road when the three Policemen came along on their bikes. Sometimes you get lucky!

This and the foillowing shot were taken in India. When travelling I often like to shoot within a self-imposed theme. These particular shots were for the theme of 'Hands' Shooting this way helps me concentrate and be discriminating, it allows me try different angles and have fun exploring the way I can picture my chosen theme.

PHOTOGRAPHING TO A THEME. This and the following shot were taken in India. When travelling I often like to shoot within a self-imposed theme. These particular shots were for the theme of ‘Hands’. Shooting this way helps me concentrate and be discriminating, it allows me try different angles and have fun exploring the way I can picture my chosen theme.

TALKING HANDS

In a cramped train people sat on the floor. These women talked and gesticulated with their hands. I positioned myself above them and shot straight down. Their beautiful coloured saris seemed to me like a landscape. This is not a common shooting angle but it certainly allows for an interesting point of view.

AMERICA TRAVELS 2012

REPEATING SHAPES. Another shot from Coney Island. People spray the sand off their legs and feet with a pressure hose. The rhythm of their legs and the echo in the wet reflection made for a pleasing composition and set of textures. I also like the stripes on the towel mirroring the wood of the boardwalk.

TAKE A TRIP!. Finally, its often a good idea to get around the streets on another mode of transport and not just your feet. This rickshaw ride was terrifying! But switching to a low shutter speed allowed for a speedy motion shot from an interesting angle.

TAKE A TRIP! Its often a good idea to get around the streets on another mode of transport and not just your feet. This rickshaw ride was terrifying! But switching to a low shutter speed allowed for a speedy motion shot from an interesting angle.

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USE YOUR PHONE CAMERA.There are times when you don’t have your DSLR or ‘proper ‘ camera with you, well use the mobile. I enjoy the freedom afforded by the speed and efficiency of the lightweight little telephone. The hundreds of camera apps available for download are worth exploring too. This was taken seconds after I had made a telephone call and had seen this chap approaching. I knew he would look great against the red hoarding and blue arrow. I switched to my onboard camera and waited for him to fit in my chosen scene.

FINDING A BACKDROP. It is useful sometimes to find an interesting background to create a bit of theatre in front of. The use of signs, instructions and environmental graphics can supply a counterpoint to your pictures and will often add humour to a scene.

FINDING A BACKDROP. It is useful sometimes to find an interesting background to create a bit of theatre in front of. The use of signs, instructions and environmental graphics can supply a counterpoint to your pictures and will often add humour to a scene.

Finally I would like to share with you a couple of exercises for shooting on the street. Any photographer can get a bit stale and find themselves repeating the same manner of shooting. We all get a bit comfortable shooting with the same setting on our camera and with the same approach to our subjects so its always good to shake it up and try something new. If you find that you are unsatisfied with your photos, that they don’t excite you, then you might need to give yourself a little assignment. Often this injects life and vigour into your shots, and you yourself come alive again with possibilities. Street Photography is hard enough without it not being at least fun to do! Sometimes all it takes is for you to try a different mode on your camera to give your shots a fresh feel. For example try shooting with a very wide aperture and blur out the background, making your subject ‘pop’. Find some movement around you and switch to shutter priority to freeze or blur your shots. In a future article I will go into depth discussing the technical aspects of the camera and how you can use manual controls for creative effects. But for now here are two exercises that will help you get better shots because they place you in a certain context with the street, forcing you in the first instance to be patient and observant, and in the second, to be brave and throw caution to the wind, accepting what happens! I hope you enjoy practicing these. The first assignment is called “Be The Flower, Not the Bee” and the second is “Shoot From The Hip”

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"Be the Flower, Not The Bee" A collage of shots all taken at the same location. I spotted this shop hoarding and saw the possibilities. Waiting for things to come to you is a great way to thoroughly explore a scene. Don't buzz around, just be patient - good things come to those who wait!

“BE THE FLOWER, NOT THE BEE” A collage of shots all taken at the same location. I spotted this shop hoarding and saw the possibilities. Waiting for things to come to you is a great way to thoroughly explore a scene. Don’t buzz around, just be patient – good things come to those who wait!

SHOOT FROM THE HIP: Occasionally you will turn a corner and a photograph is happening in front of your eyes! don’t think too much – just shoot!!

SHOOT FROM THE HIP! Occasionally you will turn a corner and a photograph is happening in front of your eyes! Don’t think too much – be quick on the draw and just shoot!!

The following are some links to excellent web sites featuring street photography from the practitioner and theoreticians point of view. Also there are links to some great street photographers who have inspired me in my own practice. Enjoy!

Photographers

STREET LIFE

MAGS DI CEGLIE: THE RE-PHOTOGRAPHED BRIDE

The lovely Mags Di Ceglie (re)photographed in her wedding dress (and Converse Trainers) Enjoying the chance to slip her dress on again (well it’s too good to wear just the once!) we headed off to the studio, and the studio roof, to take some shots. A big, huge thanks to her for graciously acting as my model for a series of wedding photography website shots. We had a fun time!

A Night of 70’s Punk in a Post-Punk Setting

A NIGHT OF 70’S PUNK IN A POST-PUNK SETTING

pink cigar leather jacket

Acklam Village Market really does have it all on a plate for the weekend adventurist. Situated in a semi-underworld, below the rumbling roads of the Westway Flyover, a new world presents itself: a great variety of international street grub is served up from bright and friendly stalls, which snake from the entrance off the busy weekend Portobello Road Market. Your food can be eaten at high tables surrounded by urban art works sprayed and painted directly onto the massive concrete pillars and walls. You can also take your food into the Fuller’s bar and enjoy high quality live music on the hour. The live music bar, known as ‘The Den’, has recently had a makeover from design students of Chelsea College of Art and Design. The Art Students certainly know their stuff: cleverly harnessing an otherwise imposing space into a happy aesthetic of Day-Glo colours: the brightly painted wall and floor of the stage area fizzes with shocking pinks and blues in a twisted art nouveau vision of giant flowers. You’ll enjoy the wit of the ‘up-cycled’ interior: netting spans the roof through wooden hoops which float in the air like red blood cells, lamps stand encrusted with found plastic toys and trinkets, inventive seating is constructed from wooden palettes and packaging material, and coloured tape demarcates the floor like a trippy gymnasium. Painted pink flamingoes straddle a bank of cushioned seating facing the stage like a scene from the opening titles of ‘Miami Vice’ – it’s a funky, punky, trashy, comfortable and frivolous setting that raises a smile; an unusual, alternative space, happily flaunting a reassuring whiff of fashionable urban decay
There is a big musical history emanating from this space, and the celebrities featured in a special exhibition called “The Wall of Fame at the The Den – Live Music Bar” are just some of the most famous rock and pop stars associated with North Kensington (Portobello, Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill and Kensal). There are many other contenders, who have lived, posed, played and died in this very area. Very aware of their roots; in an example of its one-off special events, tonight Acklam Village plays host to a punk revival gig.

I am here to photograph three bands: ‘Adverse Effect’, ‘Pink Cigar’ and the (in)famous ‘Chelsea’ who are all in attendance to treat us to a sonic reminder of the heady days of the late 70’s Punk/New Wave Explosion. The crowd – most of whom had come to see ‘Gene October’ strut his stuff with headline act ‘Chelsea’ – also thoroughly enjoyed emerging local band ‘Pink Cigar’, whose artful posing and clever songs reminded me of Iggy and the Stooges. Opening the evening, Adverse Effect’s lead singer snarled, clasped her hands together in mock prayer and flung herself prostrate on the floor as the band thundered through their powerful set.

Toward the end of the night ‘Gene October’ of ‘Chelsea’ with an energy belying his years, ripped through a repertoire of numbers with barely a breath. Prowling and bouncing across the stage he tightly gripped his microphone and hurled invective to the crowd who responded with gusto: jumping to the music and punching the air. It became a bit too much for this photographer, in search of a dynamic angle at the foot of the stage I was ‘Pogoed’ energetically by one overzealous punk and eventually booted onto the stage, bashing my kneecap and breaking my lens-hood – memo to self: ‘don’t crouch down in front of a punk appreciation society in full flow!’

I leave Acklam Villlage and ‘The Den’ with a smile on my face, ringing ears, a bruised knee and a sweet sense of nostalgia for the punky days of my youth.

Words and Photos – © Steve Mepsted

Acklam Village is open each weekend on both Saturday and Sunday from 11am till 7pm

See the Acklam Village website for news on one-off special events, food festivals and music evenings.

Acklam Village – http://acklamvillagemarket.com/

Chelsea – Band http://www.chelseapunkband.com/

Pink Cigar – Band http://www.pinkcigarmusic.com/

Words and Photos – © Steve Mepsted

www.stevemepstedphotography.com

Empty-Headed Mindfulness

Going through some old work I found these photographs I made of paintings I executed between 2003-2005. My Mother died, at too young an age, in early 2003 and I find it incredible that while I was painting these images I was not consciously aware of the themes they seem to explore. I obviously needed to get something out of my system. I feel that one of the joys of art-making is the physical manifestation of the subconscious; sometimes one wonders why certain ideas, visions and projects come unbidden to the imagination, I have learned to go with them; in a state of ’empty-headed mindfulness’, which for artists, is a liberating, intensely creative state to inhabit. These are paintings ‘about’ grief I guess and looking back on them now I am glad that I am in a happier place, I hope that my Mother is too.