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.

Olympus XA-2 - 50p camera project II

Kent Earthquake felt in East Anglia

Olympus XA2 50p camera project. Ilford HP5+ b/w film. Developed in Kodak D76 stock. V500 scanned.

Our intrepid reporter phones in the tight fisted report.  The 4.2 magnitude tremors of the Kent Earthquake yesterday were felt far and wide.  Causing damage to structures as far away as Cambridgeshire.  Either that or some drunk managed to back his car into this Wisbech telephone box.

The fun that you can have with a little XA2 35mm film compact camera.

35mm, Olympus XA-2 - 50p camera project II, Street and Protest

A Travelling Man

Wisbech car boot sale. Traveler and his dog. Olympus XA2 50p camera project. Ilford HP5+ b/w film. ID11. V500 scanned.

My favourite photography – both by other people, and myself, captures what i regard as the feeling of living some where, some corner of this earth – the locale.  this means trying to capture both the quirky, and the norm.  It includes the culture, the ethno diversity of the local people, the local sub cultures – with all of the nitty gritty – not the tourist view.

Let’s call it Anthrophotography.

I’ve made efforts already in capturing both local characters, and the immigration side.  Here at the local Sunday Market, I managed to capture another community that strongly figures in the area – the travellers.  And he’s got his dog.

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.

Models and themed photoshoots, Portrait, Sony DSLR A200 and Sony DT 50mm F/1.8mm SAM prime lens, The East English Fens of East Anglia

Fields of Barley

Children of the Corn. Portrait of a girl in a barley field. Sony A200 DSLR camera. Sony DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens.

In the Barley Field with Mum. Sony DSLR, as above photo.

The barley was so beautiful near to ours, that it had to be used for a piece of photography yesterday evening.


Models and themed photoshoots, Monochrome, Sony DSLR A200 and Sony DT 50mm F/1.8mm SAM prime lens, Witchcraft and Horror

Weird Fun with Anita

Down on the Farm, or Cracked. Sony ADSLR A200 camera. Sony AF DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens. Open source post process and b&w conversion with UFRaw and Gimp.

I think that  should categorise this one as Glamour?

Models and themed photoshoots, Sony DSLR A200 and Sony DT 50mm F/1.8mm SAM prime lens, Uncategorized, Witchcraft and Horror

Fun with Anita

Those Fenland Girls. Sony DSLR A200 camera. Sony AF DT 50mm f/1.8 SAM lens.

Apologies for the interruption in service.  I’ve been busy elsewhere, and have had a few weeks break away from this blog.  However, I’ll resume service starting today.  I haven’t really had enough time to produce a lot of photography lately, but as the above photo shows, I’ve not returned entirely empty handed, and I have some photos from a few themed photoshoots with Anita to offer.  She really is a crazy woman.

Olympus XA-2 - 50p camera project II, Rants and discussions, The East English Fens of East Anglia

Colour Test on Poundland AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 35mm film

Fenland Fields. Olympus XA2 compact camera. AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 35mm film from Poundland

I’m no bloody expert.  Piss off to a proper review if that’s what you are looking for.  The above photo is a scanned negative of AgfaPhoto (Agfa) Vista Plus 200 35mm film from Poundland.  Rumoured to be a rebrand of a variant of Fujifilm C200 on the great Internet.  My review?  Looks bloody alright to me for a quid per film.  Taken using an Olympus XA2 compact zone focus camera, set to ‘landscape’.  This camera cost me 50p (75 US cents) in a recent car boot sale (sort of a collective front yard sale, that we enjoy on our side of the puddle).  I’m a cheapskate mean bastard aren’t I?  The photo still looks good though don’t you think?  Stuff that up your full frame Canikon DSLR!

Film, 35mm, and scans, Landscape and buildings, Olympus XA-2 - 50p camera project II

Sunset using a 50p camera and Poundland film

Fenland Sunset with Poundland Film. Olympus XA2 compact 35mm film camera. AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 film from Poundland

Another success with the little compact Olympus XA2 loaded with AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 35mm film from Poundland.  Caught this one on the way home last week, as I drove out of Downham Market towards Wisbech.  Sunset over the Fens.  Film, including this Poundland film, really does seem to render skies better than do digital sensors, at least in my eyes it does, but I’m just a cheapskate amateur.  Landscapes are not really my forte, but living in the Fens, I cannot help sometimes capturing a big Fenland sky.  An 8p exposure on a 50p camera.  That’s low budget photography.  How low can I go?

Film, 35mm, and scans, Olympus XA-2 - 50p camera project II, The East English Fens of East Anglia

Cheapskate Photography

How we use to do it. Olympus XA2 camera. AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 35mm film. Scanned negative.

Not a great photo, and I suspect Nita wont like it, but I’m using this as an example of the quality of ultra low budget photography.  The camera cost me 50p (GBP £0.50).  The film cost me a quid (GBP £1.00).  With film cost and development, it works out 8p per exposure.  There you go, a 50p camera, and 8p photos.  Can you do it cheaper?  What do you think of the colours and rendering?  All of this in a World of photography where the consumer is brainwashed by multinational companies to spend and spend on must-have cutting edge technology and accessories.  You don’t need that to make good photography (not that the above image is a particular good example, with Nita squinting in the sun).

It’s also a good example from the Olympus XA2 zone focus compact camera, and from the AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 35mm negative film from Poundland.  Only post scan enhancement was a touch up of dust and hair using the Heal tool on Gimp 2.8 free open source software.

The Olympus XA2 ande the tight fisted photographer. Taken with a Sony DSLR.