I have been in a 'funk' for months when it comes to creativity. I’d done little to no photography for many months, so was in desperate need of a kick start.
Then I read on the Film Photography Podcast Flickr group about a meet-up/photo-walk right here in the UK. The idea of meeting up with fellow film users was just the thing to get me going again and I was encouraged by the fact that FPP guys Michael Raso and John Fedele were making the trip over the pond just to visit us UK listeners. I'd not done anything of the kind, doing a photo-walk with a group, let alone a bunch of film nuts.
In the days leading up to the June 18th meet-up day, I thought about what gear to take, a mixture of what I enjoy using, and what would be fun to 'show and tell' to the fellow FPPers.
Number one on my list was a Contax 645, with the three lenses which I always want with me, a standard a wide, and a portrait, in the case of the 645 that is 80, 45 & 140mm respectively.
To accompany that my favorite 35mm camera a Contax G2, with the 28 & 45 lenses.( I'd thought about bringing my Contax RX slr but I figured I had all bases covered, though the 60mm macro is a great all round lens, along with the 50 & 85mm 1.4s for low light shooting would have tempted me another time)
Then for the fun stuff, my two quirkiest cameras had to come for the trip. The Zeiss Super Ikonta is about as manual a camera can be, outside of large format. It's a joy to use and produces lovely results. Then the most unusual of my cameras, the Bell & Howell Dial35. This is actually a Canon Dial35 mk2, badged as Bell & Howell. It is a half frame 35mm camera, with a coupled light meter, and wait ... a clockwork motor drive!
Just to add to them, I popped a Rollei 35se in the already over filled bags. As for film, I loaded them with a variety of colour, b&w and ASA speeds, both Kodak, and Fuji.
Up at 5 am. Caught the coach at 5:45, arrived at London Victoria 8:15 which gave me plenty of time to stroll across town to the meeting place. Passing Buckingham Palace, there were already quite a lot of tourists snapping away. I took a shot or two just for the sake of it. I continued up to Piccadilly where I took a photo at The Ritz hotel, then another at Piccadilly Circus.
As I wandered up Regent St, I saw a chap lining up to take a photograph; he had in his hands an old 6x6 film camera. I could see that it wasn't a Hasselblad, but hey, it was exotic all the same. I sidled up and said "you don't see many of those these days". He smiled and nodded. I wondered if he was another FPP listener on his way to the meet up, but he took his shot and went on his way in the opposite direction, so I thought maybe it was a coincidence, but perhaps he'll turn up there later.
As I was still in plenty of time I walked the streets around Soho. Its years since I'd been up to London and even more since I'd been in this area of the city. Carnaby St is a famous road for it's being the place to buy trendy clothes since the 60s. It was pleasantly quiet at this time on a Saturday morning. There is a warren of little streets and alleyways which was interesting to explore.
Eventually as I circled the area, I approached the meeting place, the Lomography shop, but it seemed closed, so I ambled past it to the corner of the street where I would wait. From that vantage point, I could see when any others turned up. Who should I see first but the chap with the 6x6. Ha, I knew it. I approached and asked if he was Darren, "no" he said, so we introduced ourselves. It was Huw. He'd come from Swansea in south Wales.
All of a sudden as if from nowhere others started to arrive at the shop, until there was quite a large group gathered outside. We introduced ourselves, before finding that the shop had now been opened and some of us went in, while the smokers finished up their ciggies.
We gathered in the basement and chatted among ourselves, a bit of 'show and tell' as we oggled one another's cameras. There were plenty of exotica on display. Filip Bunkens had brought even more than me, his flagship being a Mamiya RB67. Long-time FPP listener “Donker” Dave had a breathtaking Noblex panoramic camera - what an amazing thing it was. I've not seen anything like it. There were plenty of plastic cameras, there were viewfinders, rangefinders, SLRs and Polaroids too.
FPP regular John Fedele was in the corner talking to a couple of young ladies, FPP founder and host Michael Raso was chatting with one of the members of the Lomography staff. Mike was moving around the group with his Fuji Instax taking mini portraits of each of us, writing our details on the back of each photo. It was really good to meet up at last. Here we all were from all corners of the country sitting around in the basement of a plastic camera shop in Soho.
The staff introduced themselves to us. Liana shoed us the Lomo LC-Wide angle camera with it's 17mm lens. We passed it around to have a look at it. They then showed a stop motion film they'd made using the LC-W. The video showed the camera being unpacked in the shop, then its journey across London by foot and tube to the second London Lomo where the processing lab is situated. The film was really impressive. The quirky nature of the Lomo camera worked well with the style of the film. It was less than a couple of minutes long, but really absorbing.
We then took the Lomo tour. This was not a tour of the shop as I'd imagined, it was a tour from this shop to their processing lab location. It began with a group shot outside in the street. We had a laugh as we bantered and heckled the photographers. Mike had his big Polaroid snapping away. Huw had a beautiful Voigtlander Bessa. Dave took a group shot with his awesome Noblex beast. We thanked Liana and her colleague then we marched off with another to Oxford Circus where we got the tube across town.
As we went, we were able to get to know each other a little more. Where we'd come from, what we were up to, etc. FPP listener Thom also had an RB67 and we chatted about cameras and music. It wasn't long before we arrived at Liverpool St, where we emerged back into daylight from an overcast sky. As we walked toward the other Lomo shop, we snapped away at each other and at the streets and building. I fired off a few with my Dial35, Filip with his RB67, others with Olympus Trip 35s.
Soon we were at our destination, and were greeted by our hostess who ushered us downstairs. There we continued to mingle and chat. I talked for a while with Darren Riley and his wife. It was he that had arranged the whole London meet-up with Mike and the boys from the states. We talked about his music, and how he was now dividing his time between that and photography.
Darren “Pancho” Riley is the leader of Pancho Ballard and the Banditios. Hear their music at CDBaby!
At the Lomo lab Mike and John did some interviews and a bit of filming with the Lomo “Lab Rats.” We were there for a while and did some more camera show and tell. One of the younger FPPers had a beautiful Bronica medium format rangefinder camera with a matching flash. I gave out some of my Moo cards with my contact details. The ones of Debby Harry seemed particularly popular. I'd taken those photographs in 1979 & 80 when I saw Blondie in Newcastle.
We went for lunch at a nearby restaurant. Out came more cameras. Huw had bought a Diana with a Fujifilm Instax Mini instant film back, 'Point and Shoot' became his catch-phrase of the day. Lynette produced a Yashica TLR and took some photos once we'd loaded the film properly. It was the first time she'd used it and she was loving it already. We all ate and talked, I gave out cards to the rest of the group.
Next on the itinerary was the Museum of London. Off we went again. More street photos were taken. Mike continued his interviews. John realized tat he'd left his “brolly” at the restaurant so he and Dave went back to retrieve it. That wasn't the only thing left there, Mike later wondered what he'd done with the box of Instax portraits he'd taken throughout the day, Dave phoned the restaurant to ask if they'd found them. They asked if it was a green box - "yes!” - but they'd thrown it into the big bin and that was that! This was only an hour after we'd left!
The London Street Photography exhibition was stunning. It was fairly busy which made it less than a relaxing experience but the images on display were wonderful. There was an accompanying documentary film running in an annex of the gallery, all about street photographers, which was interesting. It was called “Behind The Lens.” (I contacted the gallery about it. It is an in house production, hence not available elsewhere, which is a pity.)
From there we were off to the South Bank, passing St Paul's Cathedral on our way, then crossing the Thames via the Millennium Bridge. We regrouped outside the Tate Modern and then continued our walk along the south bank. Then there was a sharp shower from which we took cover. FPPer Alex joined up with us. He knew the area well and directed us to a local pub where we settled. He had a lovely Leica M6 among other cameras. It was a nice pub with friendly staff. There was a covered area outside where the smokers assembled, some of us stayed inside for a while before joining them. The canopy was a good thing, as the sharp showers continued.
One by one people were taking leave of the group to catch their trains, etc. I had to leave to catch my 8pm coach, having bid them farewell. A march to Embankment tube station, a few stops later a short bus ride to Victoria Coach Station with a few minutes to spare. The journey home allowed me to reflect on the day. Arrived back in Cheltenham at 10:30pm feeling really good. It was a great day.
Now the wait to see the results on Flickr. Amazingly, within an hour of getting home some results were already up there. Ed had scanned his Instax photos and posted them, even more impressively; “Tea Two Sugars” had developed his films, then scanned and uploaded them. What dedication to his art.
The rest is now there for all to see as we've all put up some of our photos from the day. Brilliant experience all round.
FPP in the UK
Slideshow from Flickr.com
Special thanks to the kind folks at Lomography UK!