Photos in the Afternoon by Maddie

Now winter has passed and spring has begun, stretching the daylight into the evenings. I’ve enjoyed walking in the late-afternoon again. No longer a completely solitary experience; I am accompanied by a clunky camera, one of those big professional looking ones with the cardboard tube-like lens. The strap is wildly uncomfortable, pressing into my neck and rubbing its nylon edges onto my skin as I walk. Though, if I position my scarf correctly I can avoid obtaining two raw pink slashes across the base of my neck. Each afternoon I’ve tried to construct a new route to take, building up my collection of photographs: too many telegraph poles with sloping wires shooting off in different directions, birds on rooftops, family bike rides, my own shadow trailing limbs & contorted, bending over the curb of pavements, the final threads of five o’clock sun.

I have no idea what I’m doing of course, no idea about angles or composition, exposure or shutter speed, what each little symbol means or if i really should have pressed that button. I’m enjoying winging it, it feels freeing, pure enjoyment in capturing little moments of a day regardless of how it turns out. Capitalism tricks us into believing that hobbies should have some end product, that they should be monetised and be constantly generating profit. But I’ll let you into a secret: a hobby is a hobby if you enjoy it. You don’t have to be good at it, you simply have to enjoy it, there needn’t be any end goal. Of course it’s hard to escape the guilt capitalism enshrines in us for spending any moment of our lives not being productive, not making you or anyone else money but I, for one, don’t want to monetise my hobbies. I don’t want capitalism to suck the fun out of it. It’s mine. It’s at my own pace, it’s whatever I want it to be and to do when I want. 

This new found love has (like always) extended into diving into reading as much as I can dig out from the digital cosmos (google) about photography. Admittedly most of this has been reading about photographers; I’m endlessly interested in the lives of other people and how their experience informs their art. I think that’s what draws me to street photography more than any other “style”. It’s experience encapsulated in a small rectangular box. Unapologetic in its honesty, so perfectly ordinary that I feel the images can be matched to parts of my own life, photos feeling like jigsaw pieces from my own little puzzle. I found myself drawn to Helen Levitt’s work, from her candid black and white shots to vintage dye-colour transfer prints that are so lucious in colour they are almost startling, shaking up memories. It seems the best photographers hold their own unique distinguishable qualities, easy to match their name to their work. The name ‘William Eggleston’ is flashing across my brain like an LED moving sign. He sits on a throne of brilliance (well, at least, he should), his photography is nostalgic and poetic; the soft sensitivity to colour and light drifts me back to a summer afternoon in childhood, face freckled and pink, spilling a trail of watery footprints down the driveway and across the street, chasing down the ice cream van. 

I wish the inspiration I’ve found in the work of Helen Levitt or William Eggleston, Vivian Maier or Jeff Mermeistien could magically grant me the skill to capture an entire narrative in a single frame, capture emotional resonance in the ordinary. But, for now, I’ll keep enjoying the afternoons taking not-so-great photos. (10,000 hours to master a skill. Right?)

A little bit about the author:

I’m Maddie, a second year BA English and Creative writing student based in the North West of England. I’m currently in pursuit of part-time/ freelance work to undertake alongside my studies, ideally related to contemporary art and culture, as well as social and collective issues. 

I also write fiction and poetry, and I’m currently working on a piece of short fiction inspired by the work of Shirley Jackson. 

As an enthusiastic, adaptable and inquisitive freelancer I’m eager to expand my writing portfolio and always open to new creative collaborations. I’m also passionate about volunteering for non-profit organisations. 

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