So how does it work in these situations, when photographers have the potential to outnumber the subjects?
I don’t often work as part of a ‘pack‘ and feel uneasy and hemmed-in by the papparatzi style approach that somehow can pervade this sort of situation. Take for instance Appleby Horse Fair. I had the pleasure of photographing this event again under a gorgeous blue sky and in front of a large and gathering crowd. A crowd of photographers had gathered, each armed with a long zoom lens to enable frame filling shots from the dryness of the river bank.
Hmmm… Problem number one. That’s not my style. I like to be in the thick of things. Up close and personal with the gypsies and their steeds! Would I offend? Would I get in the way? My apprehension doubled when I recognised Will Cheung of Advanced Photographer magazine, a well known and hugely respected editor of photo magazines for as long as I’ve been a pro.
I sat on the bank for a while, watching the photographers work, eyeing up the horses and assessing the mood of the situation. An hour or so passed before I could bear it no more! Slipping off the high bank I waded thigh deep in the water and approached a muscly young guy riding bareback on a flighty stallion. After confirming that he was ok with me being so close I crouched in the water and began my shooting. Water level, wide angle, just feet away from the spray and flay of hooves. My way!
Not wanting to dominate the scene I withdrew after a few minutes, retiring to the sidelines to see if I could sense any ‘issues‘ from the other photographers. However the adrenalin rush of the moment continually called me back to the rush of cold river on horse and gypsy. I laughed with them, swapped email addresses, danced nimbly through the wilder moments, dodging swish of mane and Fairy Liquid filled water splashes.
Several hundred shots later I had what I wanted and slunk off to the sidelines. Here’s the killer crunch though. One guy asked if I got my shots. I told him yes. He told me he had too ‘but you were in most of them’… He was smiling and didn’t seem in the least offended. I tried to feel bad but no, he could have joined me in the water too. Did I do bad? Did I overstep the marks of Appleby Etiquette? I’ll have to see if Will mentions me in his ‘Editor’s Column’!
Here are a few of my favourite shots rendered as high contrast monochromes.