The lengths we go to

by David Collyer.

David Collyer slaps on the sun cream and sets across town. A photographer on a mission…

A certain breed of photographer has gained notoriety, and admiration from the public and other photographers for the adverse conditions they endure, and the risk to personal safety, just to nail that shot!

Don McCullin famously took a piece of shrapnel in the crown jewels, and a bullet to his Nikon, in Vietnam. Sean Flynn rode into battle on a motorbike with nothing but a Leica and pearl handled revolver to show the enemy; a strategy that ultimately proved futile and indeed fatal. Frank Hurley obviously got very cold as a result of agreeing to take holiday snaps for Shackleton. All great men. Heroes to some.

Britain endured a mini heatwave recently. As I sit here at the end of July, typing this column, looking out of the window at the pouring rain, I look back to the week of Summer just gone, where the mercury climbed to the heady heights of 30º plus, and I stepped up to the plate. I endured! Slapping on the Factor 30, slipping on a panama hat to protect my bald head, and making sure my toes were suitably protected to avoid the dreaded Birkenstock template sunburn, I loaded my trusty Bronica S2 with a roll of Fomapan, and set myself a challenge. I formulated a plan.  I had to walk across town to the Post Office and back, and in that time I was going to take twelve frames of twelve people.

Random encounters, one shot per person, if it works it works, if it doesn’t, crash and burn. It’s a good way to test my skills, and it’s a good way to meet strangers and have interesting conversations.

I love shooting with the Bronica. It’s a conversation piece. People are interested to see it. Having a photographer using a medium format camera to photograph them in the street is totally alien to most in the world of quick phone snaps. It creates a totally different dialogue, a different bond of trust between those involved.

Not all the shots worked, but some did, and I got some good portraits. Ultimately though it was fun, and that’s what it’s all about after all. As for that heat, I love it, but carrying a 1960s brick like the Bronica around is an endurance in itself, let alone in those temperatures. I survived, however, without shrapnel, or a deadly brush with fate, and unlike Frank Hurley, my toes remained largely unscathed, if a little pink. The lengths we go to!

Images © David Collyer 2021.

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You can read David Collyer’s article “British Life” here

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