Street Photography Encounters With V

March 31st 2023 : A Rainy Friday in Nottingham City Centre creating street photography with members and friends of the Royal Photographic Society in the East Midlands Region.

Street photography is a genre of photography that involves capturing candid images of people in public spaces. But for me, street photography is much more than just capturing snapshots of random strangers. It is about the experiences and encounters I have in the process.

For me, street photography is about walking with purpose, being present in the moment, and connecting with the world around me. It’s about observing the world with an open mind and an open heart and being open to the unexpected.

By approaching street photography with this mindset, I find beauty and interest in the most unexpected places. I strike up conversations with strangers, learn about their life, and capture a photograph that tells their story. Or I might stumble upon a scene that captures the essence of a city or a moment in time.

I believe that ultimately, street photography is about connecting with people and the world around me. It’s about creating a visual record of the human experience, and celebrating the diversity and richness of the world I live in. I walk with my camera with curiosity, empathy, and an open mind Street photography can be a powerful tool, and a passport for exploring and understanding the world.

In today’s world, it’s not uncommon for people to avoid interacting with strangers. Many individuals may feel uncomfortable striking up a conversation with someone they don’t know, and social media and online communication have only added to this disconnect. But sometimes, taking the time to talk to a stranger can have a profound impact on both parties involved.

On the last day of March, 2023 I organised a street photography a visit to Nottingham for members and friends of the Royal Photographic Society East Midlands Region, eleven photographers joined me. As I walked with V (my Fuji X100V) during the day I stopped to talk to a number of strangers, and one opportunity saw me stop and chat with a woman named Jennifer. At first glance, there was something unique about her – words were etched into her forehead, reading “reach for the skies.” Intrigued, I approached her and struck up a conversation. What followed was an incredibly meaningful interaction that left a lasting impression on me.

Jennifer shared with me some personal stories but despite the challenges she had faced, she remained positive and inspired by her mantra to “reach for the skies.” Her outlook on life was infectious, and I couldn’t help but be moved by her resilience and determination.

As we chatted, I couldn’t help but wonder why more people don’t take the time to engage with strangers. Sure, it can be uncomfortable or even risky in some situations, but there is also so much to gain from these interactions. In Jennifer’s case, being photographed and talked to had made her day, and I was grateful for the opportunity to connect with someone so inspiring.

Perhaps it’s our reliance on technology that has made us more hesitant to engage with others in person. We can communicate with people around the world at the touch of a button, but when it comes to face-to-face interaction, we often shy away. But there’s something to be said for the power of human connection, and the joy that can come from even a brief interaction with a stranger.

Later on, as I left Nottingham, I found myself thinking about Jennifer and her words of encouragement to reach for the skies. I also thought about the importance of taking the time to connect with those around us, whether they’re friends, family, or even strangers. It can be easy to get caught up in our own lives and forget about the impact we can have on others, but a simple conversation can go a long way in brightening someone’s day and reminding us of our shared humanity.

As I thought about Jennifer, I thought of the others I had spoken to, such as the first encounter of the day, which was with Mr Pickwick. I spotted him drinking beer with his friends in a Wetherspoons and was immediately drawn to his bowler hat and Victorian-style attire. I was eating my breakfast at the time, but stopped to ask if I could take his photo, he agreed with a smile and told me the story behind his unusual name.

It turned out that his friends had given him the nickname because of his love for Victorian fashion. While some might have been self-conscious about standing out in a crowd, Mr. Pickwick embraced his unique style and was happy to be himself, regardless of what others thought.

In a world where conformity often seems to be the norm, Mr. Pickwick’s attitude was refreshing. He was unapologetically himself and found joy in expressing his individuality. As we talked more, I could see that his friends may have found him a bit eccentric, but they clearly respected him for being true to himself.

I left our brief encounter feeling inspired by Mr. Pickwick’s confidence and self-assurance. It reminded me that sometimes the things that make us different are the very things that make us interesting and unique.

As a photographer, I’m always searching for those special moments and unique personalities that make each individual shine. And in Mr. Pickwick, I found a true gem – a reminder that it’s okay to be different and that happiness comes from being true to oneself.

In a world where we often try to fit in with the crowd, it’s refreshing to meet someone who stands out in all the right ways. And while our conversation was brief, the memory of Mr. Pickwick and his unwavering confidence has stayed with me ever since.

As I continued my journey through Nottingham, I came across yet another interesting stranger who caught my attention. Her name was Theresa, and she worked as a seamstress in a small shop located in one of the city’s arcades.

As a lover of vintage fashion, I was immediately drawn to Theresa’s profession. I remembered my grandmother telling me about her own experience working as a lace maker, a similarly established occupation for women in Nottingham. I knew that Theresa’s shop was a place where skilled craftsmanship was valued and that she had a story to tell.

I could have simply taken a photo of her through the window, but I felt compelled to speak with her and learn more about her craft. I walked into her shop and introduced myself, asking if she would be willing to pose for a portrait.

At first, she was hesitant. But after a few minutes of conversation, she agreed to let me take her photo. As I set up my camera, I learned more about her work and the challenges she faced as a small business owner. She also told me of her own love of photography, and how she had learnt about it during her degree.

One of the other photographers in the group commented on the cost of Theresa’s services, pointing out that having her alter a pair of trousers would cost £18. It seemed like a lot, but I couldn’t help but think about the financial overheads of running a small business in the heart of a bustling city like Nottingham.

Despite these challenges, Theresa remained dedicated to her craft and passionate about her work. Her little shop was a testament to the value of skilled labour and the importance of preserving traditional crafts in a modern world.

As I left her shop and continued on my journey, I couldn’t help but think about the valuable lessons I had learned from these encounters with strangers. Each one had their own story to tell, and I was grateful for the opportunity to capture a small piece of their lives through my camera lens.

In a world that often feels increasingly disconnected and impersonal, it’s easy to forget the power of human connection. But as I reflected on my experiences in Nottingham, I was reminded of the importance of reaching out to others and taking the time to learn about their lives.

By connecting with strangers and listening to their stories, we can gain a greater understanding of the world around us and the people who inhabit it. And in doing so, we may just find that our own lives are enriched in ways we never thought possible.

This was the first of a series of 2023 Street Photography Encounter Days where I invite photographers to join me in visiting somewhere with our cameras. I have run many similar events over the years.

I tend to stop and talk to strangers, but other photographers prefer to just photograph. What we do together is develop a sense of place, and then afterwards, I create a photobook/zine of the day, as a momento of our day together. These days are great fun. If you would like to hear about future events, and join in please click here and then the follow tab on the eventbrite page The page will open up in a new tab in your browser. Thankyou

2 Replies to “Street Photography Encounters With V”

  1. A very insightful article Stewart and most interesting connections with strangers. But, being nit-picky, is taking such images truly street photography? I get the importance of connection with the subject but can such images be candid when they are set up? They are lovely images btw

  2. Thank you for your comment David, and I am pleased to read you found the article insightful, and you enjoyed the images.

    In response to your question, I would argue that street photography is an evolving practice, and its boundaries should not be too restrictive, although it should be based on real life occasions and not staged.

    Of course, the practice of street photography has a rich history and has been shaped by a range of influences over time. Its roots can be traced back to the advent of photography itself, and it has been shaped by the work of influential photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, and Garry Winogrand. While the genre has evolved over time, it does remain rooted in the idea of capturing candid and spontaneous moments in public spaces (Bate, 2019), which all of my street photography does. However, Pink (2013) argued the use of conversation as a means of building relationships with subjects and capturing a sense of place is also a common approach within documentary photography, and I view street photography as a sub-genre of documentary. If it is the approach of taking candid photographs of a subject during the conversation you are concerned about, then it is an approach that I share with photographers such as the magnum photographer David Hurn, who set up the first school of documentary photography.

    In the video of the day in Nottingham you will also notice more typical street images, taken without conversation.

    Bate, D. (2019). Photography: The Key Concepts. Bloomsbury Publishing.
    Pink, S. (2013). Doing Visual Ethnography: Images, Media and Representation in Research. Sage.

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