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Joining The Amazings for street photography and sociability

I spent yesterday at An Amazing event on street photography … by which I mean in part that it was organised by The Amazings, a social enterprise in East London helping people  who have retired, or are about to retire, to share their skills. Also it actually was amazing, in a gentle sort of way.

The invitation was simple:

Spend the day with Andrew and learn all there is to know about the art of street photography.

Andrew is an exhibiting photographer and screen printer, who takes inspiration from the likes of Cartier Bresson. The session will start with a basic introduction to Andrew’s work, street photography and top tips on how to use your digital camera or DSLR. Then you’ll hit the streets, learning how best to choose a subject and how to take the perfect shot. Andrew’s activity is for experienced and beginner photographers alike who want to learn more about capturing the streets of Hackney.

The session will end at Hackney Central Library where you can compare each others efforts and learn from each others work in a creative critique session.

I paid my £25, turned up … and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Could I experiment with my iPhone 4s, and the add-on lenses I had bought from Photojojo? I had brought along a little Leica D-Lux 4 in case not. There were lot of rather more impressive-looking Canon SLRs …

In the event, Andrew Pegram explained that success in street photography wasn’t about the kit, but being unobtrusive, standing outside what is happening, looking for the moment. Choosing, framing and isolating. There were some useful notes to back up his talk … and then we went for a circular walk. Across London Frields, down Broadway market, along the canal, and back up Mare Street.

It was a delightful couple of hours. Partly because the route has lots to offer, including a great salt beef bagel in the market, partly because taking photos pushed me to look more carefully, partly because wandering about with a group of friendly strangers with something in common to talk about  soon becomes an engaging social experience.

I ended up using the Leica rather than the iPhone, apart from a little video I shot with Andrew. I regretted afterwards that I hadn’t used an exernal  mic … but then thought this might have reduced the spontaneity.

Back in the library, at the end of the walk, we compared shots, and I found I was a little envious of the long lenses on the Canons for some purposes.

I love the idea – and experience – of The Amazings because it is positive, simple, encouraging to older people, and inclusive of anyone who wants to share and to learn. I left thinking how those joining groups could carry on and share more of their skills. I see an Amazing network emerging. I’m in.