35mm, wisbech

A mural

Wisbech – the New Europe.

I took this photograph last week in Wisbech.  I had the Yashica T2 AF compact camera loaded with cheap Kodak ColorPlus 200 film (given to me with some prints from a photolab).  I do not like C41, so I had the film processed at my local photolab.  Only £2.50 per film, develop only.  I have so much Poundland film to use up!

I’ve written extensively before, that Wisbech is a very much a part of the New EU England, with a very high percentage of immigration from Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Russia (or ethnic Russian).  Immigrants have been flooding to the area for quite a few years now, often attracted initially by the work in local agriculture, food packing, and general farm work, or food factory work.

As an amateur photographer, I see this as history in the making.   Something very worthy of recording, and it is about people.  The above photograph is of someone else’s mural and creativity, although I tried to add to that by capturing with the surroundings of the old Wisbech wall, with all of it’s features.

The mural itself shows the River Danube, sneaking through SE Europe, with the flags of Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary added – the EU nations of SE Europe.  I don’t know if the artist has added any nationalist agendas to the mural.  Some of the names are in Cyrillic, maybe for the Bulgarians?The mural itself is painted on the rear of a “European” shop.  When it opens, I’ll have to pop in and find out more about it.

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Film

Photography – my local, my style

The Time Traveller

The Empire Strikes Back

This follows on from my last post, in which I discuss Eric Kim’s excellent blog post: How to be Happy in All Circumstances in Photography.  Eric didn’t just discuss happiness in relationship to Gear constraints.  He also discusses happiness in photography, in relation to other constraints such as location and available time.

We don’t all live in a Mecca of Street Photography, such as New York.  I’ve been guilty of this one myself.  I live in the sticks, the provinces.  Crap end of the English Fens.  Not exactly urban decay.  And yet, what an idiot that makes me.  Who said that Street needs to be urban big-city?  When I open my eyes, I’m living on the edge of a small town that has clearly seen better, more lucrative times, when it was a port on the Wash.  In addition to the local decay, the town is full of local English characters, blending nicely next to crowds of recent immigrants from across the European Union.  I have tonnes of local material, who needs New York?  I can capture history, I can try to capture the feeling and atmosphere of small town provincial Eastern England.

The point is to enjoy doing this.  To make photography fun, hopefully sometimes creative or aesthetic, but also to have fun.  Some people might feel the need to buy the latest Canikon fullframe DSLR, complete with a suitcase of lenses, and of course, a whopping big Canikon emblazoned camera back pack.  But do they really have more fun than I do with my battered 50p Olympus XA2 pocket camera and home developed b/w film?

This is kind of leading me to that other sought after thing – personal style.  I feel that a lot of people miss out on this point. They are often subconsciously directed by the media, to produce the same sort of images as each other.  Shiny, sharp, beautiful colours.  Heavy post process software manipulation – you can see where many follow the same guides and tutorials from the same magazines and websites.  Maybe I’m being unfair to criticise this school of photography.  Perhaps because I am such an untidy, messy, archaic person in Life – this messiness and imperfection shows in my photography.  I simply can not be bothered with creating the perfect still photography.

So that is my style – as I am.  Messy, politically conscious, interested in people, and of course tight fisted.  All photographs on this post taken with the battered 50p Olympus XA2 pocket camera and bathroom developed b/w 35mm film.

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Olympus XA-2 - 50p camera project II

Marketeers

Wisbech Car Boot Sale candid. Olympus XA2 50p camera project. Ilford HP5+ b/w film. ID11. V500 scanned.

Continuing my theme of local anthrophotography.  I took the above at the local car boot sale.  The very same market, that I bought this Olympus XA2 from, for 50p.  The above is an example of that most cowardly candid – the shot from the hip candid portrait.  The XA2 is very good for that.  The two ladies were clearly of “East European” origin, and were busy selling goods from their stall.  I think that their dress and faces give away their origins very nicely.

The local car boot sale / Sunday market is incredibly popular with immigrants from Lithuania, Poland, Czech, Romania, Latvia, Russia, etc.  I wonder if the popularity of these sort of junk sales started in the late Soviet era?  The seeds of Capitalism.  Wherever you walk around the market, you hear so many languages.  This is what I was hoping to capture in the silver salts of this exposure.

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Models and themed photoshoots, Portrait

Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival 2015

Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus medium format film. Home developed in ID11.

I usually miss this local Fenland festival.  I work with some Whittlesey families, and I have had previous invites – but last weekend was the first time that I made it.  So I guess, first, a review of what it was all about.

Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival

Yes I know that the modern town name is Whittlesey, but the festival organisers seem to prefer the older spelling of WhittleSEA.  This is the background story:  Towns and perhaps villages in East Anglia, the Fens, and the East Midlands of England, use to celebrate Plough Monday – the first Monday following the Twelfth Day of Christmas.  It was apparently a functional holiday.  Agricultural labour hire was at a low, just before the ploughing season commenced.  I’ve checked historical sources, and this appears to be correct.  There were celebrations in rural towns in this part of the World on Plough Monday.

However … theses celebrations could be rowdy.  This became less acceptable during the late 19th Century, with the formation of an English Constabulary and Victorian values.  Agricultural labourers and their families were going through the leanest part of the year.  Traditionally, the labourers would dance and make music, down the streets, and solicit money.  However, in particularly lean times, this solicitation would become more aggressive – as in gate crashing wealthy households until they paid up.  If they didn’t pay up, apparently a certain amount of damage to property may occur.  This was the original English Trick or Treat scam – long before Americans hijacked it as a Halloween feature.

Witchman molly dancer in the streets of Whittlesey at the weekend. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus medium format film. Home developed in ID11.

These trickster/dancers did not want to be recognised – after all, they would soon be seeking employment on the plough.  Therefore they would blacken their faces with soot.  Maybe even (as this was not a place for women), dress up as females!  This activity on Plough Monday became known as Molly Dancing.  It has been noted elsewhere, that 19th Century transvestite clubs in London were called “Molly Clubs”.

Another activity that took place on these festivities was the Straw Bear.  With clear references – if nor origins, to pre-christian belief systems, one of the dancers would be clothed in a suit of the previous harvest straw.  At the end of the celebrations, the straw bear suit may have been burnt in the style of the 20th Century Wicker Man movie.

Apparently the Plough Monday dances were banned in the Whittlesey area around 1909.  Elsewhere in the Fens, they may have continued another thirty or more years.

The pagan Witchmen molly dance group, chatter between performances at the Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival, last weekend. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Ilford HP5+ medium format film. Rodinal.

The modern festival was revived in Whittlesey, during the 1980s, but based on a more convenient (for the modern age) weekend in January.  Although Molly dancing had long died – there had for some time, been a revival in English folk culture, and in Morris danciing.  As Morris teams flooded to Whittlesey, local groups often focused on reviving the Molly dancing tradition.

What is quite striking, is how the whole scene – has modernised, and even embraced a degree of post modernism.  As the revivalists correctly suggest – performance and shock, was a part of the old molly dancing scene.  Modern Neo-pagans have also contributed, lured by the symbolism of the Straw Bear.  The Witchman Molly Dancing group even states itself to be Pagan on it’s website.

The very local also contributes.  A genuine festival atmosphere snakes through the town – and it’s pubs.  This is not a case of middle class artists descending on a hostile Fenland town.  It is a genuine festival where the locals also pour out into the streets, and from pub to pub. – watching the performers at each corner.

The Broom Dance, Whittlesey. Molly dancers performing the Broom Dance in Whittlesey. Bronica SQ-A camera. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4 lens. Ilford HP5 Plus medium format film. Home developed in ID11.

English culture and identity.  We are told that it has been in crisis for many years.  We thought that we had disappeared as an ethnicity, into the British umbrella.  Yet, 2015 – here it is.  Real ale.  Fiddlers.  Blokes dressing as ladies.  Dancing with brooms.  A town still rich with English culture.

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Monochrome, Street and Protest, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

Cambridge

Cambridge. Bronica SQ-A. Zenzanon PS 150mm f/4. Foma Fomapan Creative 200 film. Developed in R09

While I was busy travelling back and forth to Cambridge, to buy then return that dodgy DSLR, I at least had a chance to have a few stalk around walks with the Bronica, on the streets of Cambridge.  Mission was to try and to capture the atmosphere of Cambridge – colleges, students, tourists, and … class.

It’s not so easy to stalk street photography with a huge and very slow Bronica by your side – but it is fun.  There is definitely an element of looking down that is less confrontational than holding up an eye level camera.  No light meter used other than eye and brain – I apologise for the poor exposures.  Still, did Vivian Maier always have a light meter with her?  Film media at hand were some rolls of cheap Foma Fomapan Creative 200 in 120 medium format.  To be developed mainly in FirstCall R09.  Foma Creative is described as a traditional, no frills B/W film, and is manufactured in the Czech Republic.  Although I do try to support Ilford, and their materials are a higher quality, I do actually like Foma, and I like to have some in the fridge.

So, here you are …. Cambridge.

 

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Monochrome, The East English Fens of East Anglia, Zenza Bronica SQ-A

The Quintessential English Village Church

The Quintessential English Country Village Church. Zenza Bronica SQ-A. Bronica PS 80mm f/2.8 lens. Ilford HP5+. Developed in ID-11

The above photo, taken on the Bronica SQ-A, handheld in poor light at 1/60 s, f2.8, on HP5 Plus 400, developed this morning.  I thought that it rather nicely captured the stereotypical English rural church.  An event was being held inside the church to mark the 150th anniversary of the village school.

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Film, 35mm, and scans, Olympus Trip 35, The East English Fens of East Anglia

Suits you Sir!

Evisons, Wisbech. Olympus Trip 35 camera. AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 35mm negative film from Poundland. Gimp 2.8 enhancement post scan with free open source software.

Evison is a traditional drapery and outfitters store, located in the North Cambridgeshire town of Wisbech.  It’s two floors are stuffed with goods – work boots for the brickie, compasses for the explorer, deer stalker hats for the gentleman, aprons for the butcher.  You’ll find a smartly dressed salesperson or two on each of it’s floors … “can I help you Sir?” .  Should you find what you are looking for (and there is a very good chance that you will), the smartly dressed sales assistant will hand write a little invoice from his book, for you to take down to the lady on the till.  It’s like stepping back fifty or more years.  I hope it continues to open.

Taken with one of my 32 year old Olympus Trip 35 cameras, on el cheapo Poundland 35mm film of course.  Suits you Sir!

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