Square Up To Racism

These days:

My eyes aren’t good enough to set the controls without glasses, my brain isn’t sharp enough to promptly work out the exposure, and my fingers aren’t nimble enough to focus on a moving target.

But I don’t take the Mat out often enough and I’m very fond of the square format.

So if everyone could just hold it right there for a few more moments please…….and……..got it. Thanks.

Stand Up To Racism, March & Rally, London, 18 March 2017
Yashica Mat 124G / Kodak Tri-X / Developed in Rodinal 1+99 for 60 minutes B

Black Cherry Fair 2016

This weekend was the annual parade and fair in the small town where I live. There’s a little bit of history behind this.

Way back in 1440, the Abbot of Chertsey was given permission by Henry VI to hold an annual fair on St Ann’s Day. This provided a good income for the Abbey as it was able to collect tolls for ‘stallage’ ( any ground occupied by a box, basket or barrow) and for ‘pickage’ (the right to make holes in the ground for erection of a tent). At some point during the following century the name was changed from St Ann’s Fair to the Black Cherry Fair as it’s known today, and it carried on for another four hundred years. Sadly after such a long history the fair petered out during the first half of the 20th century, but was eventually revived in 1975 by the Chertsey Chamber of Commerce who saw it as a good opportunity to promote local businesses.

Originally the fair took place on St Ann’s Hill which overlooks the town, but these days it’s in the centre of town on Abbey Fields, the site of the old Abbey. There’s the usual mix of fast food and fairground rides; hot dogs and candy floss, the waltzer and chair swings – best not experienced in that order. A number of local companies run stalls and try to promote themselves with giveaways and raffles. Of course, being me, I always overthink why I’m approached by particular stallholders. Was a flyer for the local gym thrust into my hand because I look like the sort of guy who goes to a gym? Or do I look like someone who desperately needs to? What is it about me that caused the local undertakers to think someone in my family might be needing their services in the near future? On the plus side, I had a chat with a very attractive woman around my age who tried to convince me to join the local wing of one of the main political parties. Rather than tell her that I voted for the other guy, I listened patiently and considerately to her gentle encouragement, and walked away with her contact details saying I’d give it some serious thought. I’d like to think this was an attempt on my part to foster some much needed political unity and understanding in these troubled times, but in all honesty it’s because I’m so mind-numbingly shallow.

I suspect that not much has changed since the fair restarted in the 70’s. There’s still the Glamorous Granny and Bonny Baby competitions that seem like a throwback to an earlier, more innocent age. But in the five years I’ve lived here I’ve also seen some newer traditions start to gain ground. The much-anticipated ‘HE’S NOT WORTH IT DAVE!’ event has now become an annual fixture, where local youths fight outside Simpsons Chicken over some perceived slight, whilst their girlfriends try to drag them away. And becoming ever more popular each year is the Alcopop Challenge, where teenagers compete to be the first person requiring medical attention after drinking two Peach Bacardi Breezers.

Last year I took along my Yashica Mat. This time I decided go 35mm and went with the Nikon F90X.

Nikon F90X / Kodak Tmax 400 / D76 1+1

Frontispiece

It wasn’t just the fact that she phoned that surprised me, but that she actually phoned. Not a text, tweet, email or whatever, but a proper let’s-party-like-it’s-2005 phone call.

Would I like to go to a photography exhibition at Tate Britain?

She was standing on the steps when I arrived. She looked different. When we’d met on the anti-austerity march she was wearing a ‘Bad Grammar Makes Me [SIC]’ tee shirt, and a tatty but snug pair of faded jeans. This time she’d made what my mother would call An Effort. Because that’s what’s socially adequate people do when they arrange to meet up. I cursed myself. I only have the one look, what an ex-girlfriend once disparagingly termed Columbo Chic.

She warily eyed the Yashica slung over my shoulder and reminded me that she didn’t like having her picture taken.

‘I get self-conscious and pull stupid faces,’ she explained. ‘You have to catch me when I’m not looking.’

She turned and bounded lightly up the steps, her heels clacking against the stone. I did a quick guess-focus and snapped off a single frame. At the top she turned to face me, and I gave what I hoped was a sheepish, self-effacing grin.

She shrugged. ‘I hope you got my best side.’

‘Actually, no.’

She frowned, and whilst she tried to work out whether I’d just complimented or insulted her, I started to wonder which of the two would make her the most uncomfortable.

Yashica Mat / Ilford FP4 / Rodinal 1+99 60 minutes