As the coronavirus (Covid-19) spreads across the planet creating health and economic havoc, destroying lives and businesses as it goes it's hard to stay positive. I know because in the last few weeks I have passed through phases of feeling disoriented and depressed (at what is happening and might happen at a personal and global level) to resignation (based on an acceptance that I have very little control over what is happening, either now or in the future) to making a determined effort to stay positive.
To help me move away from a predominant feeling of doom & gloom and to encourage a more positive outlook I have been posting on social media photos from 'My Light Entertainment' series. These images, that I have been taking for more than 30 years, are of scenes or situations that have made me smile. I have long been an admirer of Elliott Erwitt and his acute visual sense of humour (see his work on the Magnum site here) and Matt Stuart for his quirky take on the world (see his website here). They both find humour in the everyday - a skill that highlights the brighter side of life (very relevant in these times). In this blog post I am going to talk about some of my images from this series, what interested me and how I shot them. I hope, like the work of Erwitt and Stuart, they provide some light in the dark.
'Social Distancing' - this image is the most recent in the series and was taken on a visit to the local pharmacy. I was pleased to see the dogs following goverment advice on social distancing (an interesting term, not part of our daily language only a few weeks ago). A simple image to take - I arrived, saw the photo, raised my camera to my eye (yes I am sad enough to take a camera everywhere with me) and pushed the shutter before the dogs reacted to my presence.
'Mirror, Mirror' - Taken a few years ago on a trip to Oslo. I spotted this scene and saw the potential for a photograph but it needed the 'right' people sat in the 'right' place in the café. Much to my wife's annoyance every time we went close to this part of town I insisted on taking a detour to see who was sat in the café window. On this particular day I couldn't believe my luck when I saw the visual similarities between the mannequins in the shop on the left and the two ladies in the café on the right. Sometimes the photography Gods smile on us (but patience and perseverance help too!).
'Stating the Obvious' - I saw the sign, had the idea for the shot and then waited for over an hour for two people to pass by. That word 'right' comes to mind again for they both had to be the 'right' height and in the 'right' position, preferably wearing light clothing to be tonally differentiated from the background. Everything comes to those who wait! Of course, what constitutes 'right' in this image and the one above is purely personal preference.
'All the Fun of the Fair' - this photo was taken about 20 years ago. I was having a day out at the coast with my two sons (aged around 10 and 7 at the time) and to stop them moaning about me taking photos all the time I offered them a reward (£5 I think) if they could take a photo that made me smile. My youngest son found this scene of a miserable looking guy with the sign above him. Being the unscrupulous father I am, I ripped off his idea!
'Shhh!' - Taken during a brief wander around the streets of London in between meetings with Olympus. Another photo where I saw the elements (the stalking lion and the 'Shhh' sign on the right hand side), had the idea but then had to wait for someone to move into shot (moving from right to left in the frame, distracted, no one else in the frame). I couldn't have asked for someone better than this young lady who walked into the frame wonderfully dressed and absorbed by her phone.
'Holy in the Wall' - taken on a weekend break to Prague I was walking around the streets looking at the sights and keeping an eye open for a photograph when I spotted this robed monk at the cashpoint. The title sprang into my mind, I raised the camera and got the photograph. I had the chance for only one shot. For those who might not get the relevance of the title (and therefore why I found this amusing) - in the UK we refer to a cashpoint as 'the hole in the wall'.
'Peek-A-Boo Bear' - whilst walking my dog alongside a canal in Manchester I spotted this cheeky bear looking out from behind the curtains playing 'peek-a-boo' with me. Another occasion when I was glad that I always carry a camera around with me.
'Minding the Gap' - taken on York Station whilst I was waiting for a train. I saw this couple sat on the platform below looking for all the world like they were taking literally the instruction to 'mind the gap'.
'Beach Bum' - strolling along the sands at Scarbourough, North Yorkshire I saw this family grouping with the father doing his best to blow up the beach ring and I imagined the harder he blew the more his shorts would slip down his backside. I quickly took my shot and decided not to hang around to see if my imagined scene became reality.