You may have guessed (being called ‘capitalfaces’ and all) that I spend the bulk of my time shooting around Britain’s great capital. And it is great. I work in London too, which means on average I spend about 6 days a week – work and ‘play’ – in and around the city. I’m often asked if I get bored of it, and the simple answer is ‘no’… in my humble opinion, it is the greatest city in the world.
There is something going on every day – a festival, a march, a run, a game, a concert, a gathering, a fete, a vigil, the list is endless. It’s streets are teeming with life anytime, day or night, and it is never EVER boring. From Stoke Newington to Southwark, life happens at pace and although the intense bustle is not for everyone, I thrive on it. I couldn’t live in London however, as I think the ‘spin cycle’ of city life would eventually become too much for even me (I live in a small village about 16 miles north of the Emirates Stadium) eventually, but to have easy access to a world capital like this on a daily basis is one of the great joys of my life.
Im also often asked where the best places for street photography are. If I’m honest, I think pretty much ANY London borough offers up something worthwhile if you pound the streets long enough, but here are my favourite three.
3) Brick Lane/Spitalfields/Hanbury St
A short walk from Liverpool Street station, you’ll find this trifecta of visual stimuli’… Brick Lane is one of the most popular areas in London. In the summer especially, its difficult to move (I find a superwide lens helps in this instance). Along this street you’ll find colourful street vendors selling food from all over the world, exotic smoothies, buskers and performers, plus the usual shops selling vintage clothing, leather goods, a cafe serving nothing but breakfast cereal (dont go, its crap) and a plethora of fantastic places to eat – this is also home to London’s famous ‘Curry Mile’ and the most fantastic Bagel shop. I recommend the salt beef bagel with English mustard. Its incredible. Although much of East London has been taken over by the hipster invasion (not to mention the selfie stick carrying tourists), there is still plenty of authentic London fare and characters to keep your memory card full. I suggest you start on the corner of Hanbury Street and Brick Lane and walk the full length up, cross the street at the end and go the full length down. And take your time to look around – there are a LOT of people and you wont want to miss a magic shot.
There is much more to see in the summer months, for sure, but winter times – though quieter – do tend to bring out the local element, which I really enjoy too. And you wont have to queue for hours for a bagel either…
2) China Town
You may think China Town (close to the West End and Soho) would be an easy place to shoot street photography. Well, you’re partly right – the buildings and streets are adorned with cultural decorations and lights, which look pretty cool, and the atmosphere is pretty special too – but be warned, the locals are bastards. Don’t be surprised of you get someone shouting and swearing at you if you get busted taking their picture. A heads up – they don’t like that here. Not one bit.
Having said that – this is a great exercise for photographers wishing to refine their timing AND compositional skills. And never was there a better time to invest in a small mirrorless system. You’re asking for it if you lug about your 5d and an L lens…. pack light and be as nimble as Spiderman on crack. You’ll get your rewards if you don’t become obvious….
For shooting in China Town, I would even go as far as to suggest taking a short telephoto. One doesn’t want to get too close…if you know what I mean. Also, shoot at dusk or later here, to get full benefit of the incredible back drop. This place is magical at night.
- Dalston Kingsland/Ridley Road
This part of London is freaking awesome for street photography. I found it totally by accident too…funny how these things happen.
Similar to China Town, it pays to be deft and deceitful here. However UNLIKE China Town the locals here are absolutely lovely, but this part of London still has very much a ‘community’ feel to it, which on one hand makes you feel very welcome and familiar, but on the other, a polite need for privacy as people go about their business. You would do well to respect this here.
The star of the show is without doubt the Ridley Road Market. On a hot summers day, you could be in downtown Kingston. The vibe is like no other in the city – reggae blaring, colourful clothing, amazing food, exotic fruit stands, and authentic African and West Indian stores lining both sides of the street, selling everything from fresh fish, electronics, beauty services and wigs. This place rules.
Its worth walking up and down the High St too – still plenty to see, and a little less bustle.
So that my three top picks. For now… 🙂
But please remember, there are literally hundreds of great places to shoot street photography in London. Im still a regular in Soho, the West End, Regent St, Oxford St, Finsbury Park, Trafalgar, The Strand, Hyde Park (Speakers Corner is wonderful) , Kensington, Mayfair…the list really is endless.
Have fun regardless – youre in one of the greatest cities for street photography, and unlike many other great cities, London has incredible textures and back drops which just add more secret sauce to your images, whatever the weather.
As always, feel free to stop over to my Instagram: