old street

The eyes have it.

I've never felt more observed than when I'm taking photos.

That's a bit of a strange thing to say, but once you make a commitment to get out there and do some street photography you become hyper-aware of eyes.

There are two sorts. The first in London is obvious - the 'surveillance state' of Britain is everywhere. You can throw in as many Big Brother cliches as you like, but until you're out there taking photos you don't really notice the number of cameras pointing at you - big or small - at every major crossroad or outside every big department store. I suppose in the current climate of Russian spy tomfoolery and chronic distrust of the population, in general, it's not a great surprise. 

Getting over this element of it (and I've yet to be thrown in the back of a van and my passport removed in central London), the second element of being observed is people themselves - and the area they're inhabiting.

This may seem a bit ironic seeing as lots of the time someone like me is sticking a lens in their face, but I was struck yesterday how contextual the attitude to this is depending what part of the capital you're in.

I wasn't really in London for a shoot day but had two meetings in distinct parts of town. Firstly a cafe stop just off Oxford Street and the second at an agency in Old Street. As there was time in between, I took the opportunity to get the camera out.

What struck me was the attitude. In the hyper-busy, relentlessly noisy Oxford Street, I was constantly eyed with suspicion as if I was up to no good - people actively turn away or shift if there's a camera near them - but in the slightly more relaxed Hoxton and Shoreditch borders nobody noticed me, and if they did they didn't seem bothered. It's almost like I disappeared a little.

I've been pondering this a little and I've yet to come up with a rationale, apart from perhaps a small theory that people around the more 'media' type areas of the East End are used to people waving cameras around at them as it's quite urban and street, but apart from that I'm at a loss. Answers on a digital postcard, please.

The other slight oddity I've noticed is the difference in attitude between a phone camera and a 'proper' camera - I've seen people looking very uneasy - like the old soul is being stolen -  when a reasonably sized lens is out and about but if someone is taking a picture with an iPhone? Not a ruffle.

Obviously, both objects take a picture, just one of a higher quality, but I can only put this down to the ubiquitous nature of phone ownership - people are desensitised. Bit odd though.

Anyway, enough Tinker Tailor Solider Photographer here's some of the images from yesterday - try to spot your author. 10 points for the first who sees me.

Eyes down.

Tech Corner:
Batis 85 and Zeiss Sony 55 - the latter mostly used for the Oxford Street shots.