London Street Photography launched last night and I was there as one of the participating photographers. Its one thing looking at images and trying to understand their significance , but quite another to actually see the creators of these windows on society in the flesh. There was a definite electricity pulsing through the gallery last night and the thought that so many of the people in the room had actually contributed directly to what was on the wall, a fascinating and varied take on life in the city, was exciting. Photographers are often criticised for being an egotistical bunch, but many of the people I spoke to last night were modest about their achievements. I loved the contrast between Matt Stuarts often comic look at London and for example Sean McDonnells dramatic and slightly edgy work.
The exhibition was opened by Wolf Suschitzky, whose stirring tribute to the power and fascination of photography was a real call to arms for anyone with a camera. It rather harked back to my earlier words about nostalgia. Wolf made the point that times have changed and people’s perceptions of photography and its role in society are creating problems for dedicated exponents of the art of street photography. It must have been wonderful to have been able to wander the streets without people questioning ones intentions. Is that why the images of yesteryear are so captivating, because everyone looks so at ease with the camera?
One of the interesting things about photography is its ability to misrepresent its subject matter. In the early days of photography, the relative insensitivity of photographic emulsions to light meant that most photographs were taken in good weather. This perhaps creates the illusion that in the old days the weather was always nice. Wolf Suschitzky’s stunning image “A milkman- Charing Cross Road” shatters this illusion and is unusual in its depiction of the London of old . The wet road reflects light back and creates a frame around the milk cart. Wolf’s closing comment last night was to encourage everyone to continue taking photos, in good weather and bad.