Fotogym – Environmental Portraiture

Environmental Portraiture – A picture of a person or people that also shows the essence of what they do.

The Express Building on Fleet St
The Express Building on Fleet St

I’ve been a member of the London photographers meetup group (lpmg) for over a year, but this is only the third time I’ve been to an event. The previous ones had been pretty good so my expectations were high for this one.

The plan for the fotogyms is always roughly the same – a lecture/talk by someone in the morning followed by some hands on practice in the afternoon and then back for a review.

The talk on this occasion was given by Tim Saunders, a professional photographer who has previously worked for the MOD and currently works for the Ambulance Service. Considering that he told us he hates public speaking he gave an informative, interesting and quite funny talk about some of the techniques and tricks in environmental portraiture.

This was all looking great till he dropped the bombshell of the assignment. Go and ask people on the street to take their photo (in their environment), hopefully instructing them how to pose for best affect and for added spice – getting a model release form. I have to say that this slightly filled me with dread as I’ve tried this sort of thing before and not had much luck. I was determined to give it another go though.

Quite a few people were getting together to go as a crowd and I did consider trying to muscle in, but decided that I should be brave and try to do this alone. I’m not entirely sure this was the right decision.

Grumpy cabbie
Grumpy cabbie

For the next two hours I wandered around the west end of London, taking some nice street shots but failing to actually ask any people to pose.

Eventually I thought that a London cabbie would be a good target and even asked one for a picture. He agreed, but was pretty grumpy about it and it kind of put me off asking any more. I also considered some street performers in Covent Garden, but I felt that this wasn’t in the spirit of the assignment.

Covent Garden stall-holder
Covent Garden stall-holder

In Covent Garden market I asked a few of the stall-holders for photos and one in-particular was both very amenable and also quite photogenic. I was pleased with the result.

A number of times I was about to ask someone, and then kind of bottled it and often, even when I did I probably came across as nervous which doesn’t really help.

I entered my market stall-holder photo for review and came away feeling that it wasn’t so bad, although several other examples were clearly much better.

Overall a fascinating day, although it would be too strong to say that I enjoyed it. This is a type of photography that I’d like to do more of, but I’ll need to get a bit more confident if I’m going to make a success of it. I can’t fault the fotogym though, it was well organised and well worth the £10 fee.


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