Street photography challenge with Agfa Vista Plus 200 by Tom Rayfield
Following on from Sandeep and his close-up challenge, I am next in line for the Emulsive challenge of shooting outside of my comfort zone.
For those of you following my Finding Film series, you will know that I shoot a lot of black and white film. Even when working with digital, I tend to shoot more black and white than anything else. So it only seemed natural (read: punishment) that I would shoot colour to step away from where I was most comfortable.
Sure, I have shot colour before, and the concept isn’t that alien to me. So I figured, hey, why not make life harder for myself and really step outside my comfort zone…why not shoot colour, and street photography at the same time (even though I am fully aware the genre lends itself to black and white, oh the irony).
Disclaimer: I have never, ever done street photography before. Living in the rural countryside, there isn’t much around here, other than fields and the odd sheep. The thought of colour and street photography proved challenging, so I knew I was taking the correct risks with my photography, and for this article, which as a result can only help me improve in the future.
Getting to the streets
As it turned out, Sandeep and Martin were running their London photo walk (if you didn’t know about it, get involved on the Facebook group!), which was given the rather odd name of “The Film Foto Foragers – London Tour”. This seemed the perfect excuse for some street photography, as I figured there would be much more happening in the capital, than rural Norfolk. So I grabbed my Contax S2, Zeiss 50mm lens, and my remaining 5 rolls of Poundland’s finest (Agfa Vista Plus 200), and headed for the capital.
On the journey down I began thinking about my approach. I was quite apprehensive about shooting street photography. Would I get abusive comments? Stares from strangers? People asking me what I was doing?
On reflection, I got quite the opposite.
Of the 120 photos I took during the day, I would say that approximately 10 people looked up once I had taken the photo (and said nothing), and that there were about another 10 photos I was unable to take, as I was spotted before I could take the image, and the subject simply walked away. Not a word was said to me all day. Not a bad success ratio for a first attempt.
Rather than shoot anything that was moving, I decided to work towards creating a series of photographs around a project idea. I have several ideas for photography related projects that I wish to start, but have never seemed to be able to get them going for one reason or another.
This seemed like the perfect opportunity to get something started (does this count as a third strand of being outside my comfort zone?). [EMULSIVE: Yes it does, Tom!]
One of my ideas was a street photography project that revolves around the fact that technology has consumed modern day society. We have now reached the point in society where we pay for things with our mobile phones, we use them to track our footsteps, we use them to track our health, we use them to manage our daily lives, we use them to take (and share) our photographs, we use them to keep connected with people and events all around the globe…the list is endless.
Now by no means am I a technophobe. I work with technology on a daily basis, and even teach children how to program mobile and computer applications, yet I cannot help but notice that the mobile phone has become the gateway to our lives, at a very major cost.
We spend our lives mindlessly staring into the screens on our phones, obsessing over the multitude of apps we carry around us on a daily basis, swiping and prodding away as we go about our day. Yes, we are more connected than ever before (and this can be a great thing), but it comes at the cost of others. We ignore our nearest and dearest, our surroundings, the beauty of the world, as we stare blankly into our phones.
We have become (dis)connected
This is the working title for the project. I wanted to capture this concept, and had hoped my first foray into colour / street photography would be a step in the right direction of achieving that, even if it was a new concept to me.
Whilst I did not develop the film myself (very impressed with AG PhotoLab for their speedy service), I am delighted with the results. The tones and overall look of the film are very appealing to me, and I like that I was able to achieve a semi-consistent look with my exposures.
I really enjoyed working with colour film, and am even looking at getting some in medium format, once my Finding Film series has ended. I may even give colour development a go. Whilst this is not the end for my black and white work; I am a colour film convert.
As for the street photography element, I really enjoyed shooting something different from what I am used to. The ability to get the shot focused, framed, and correctly exposed, all before the subject catches on was a real adrenaline rush, but also helped me learn the pros and cons of my camera much quicker than shooting landscapes ever could.
I also think that had I used an autofocus camera, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the process as much, as much of the hard work would have been done for me, and I would have felt less pressured to get the shot.
What have I learnt from stepping outside of my comfort zone? Will I give street photography another go? Definitely. I was really happy with the colours and tones of the film, and I really enjoyed my foray into street photography.
I would definitely recommend giving street photography a go to anyone who is yet to experiment with it. Don’t be afraid of people noticing, because even if they do (based on my experiences) they don’t really care and just walk away, carrying on with their day-to-day business.
As for the project, I hope to keep it going, but I would genuinely love to hear feedback and/or critique from the EMULSIVE community about whether it works as a concept, or whether the photos are even any good (I am no street photography expert).
So, who else out there is up to the challenge of shooting outside of their comfort zone?
~ Tom Rayfield
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