London, Brighton, Oxford, Bath… all places used to being behind the lens. Places where the tourists, the hustle and the bustle all outweigh the suspicion towards someone wielding their camera gear outside a shop, house or business.
Sometimes we can really use this to our advantage as street photographers. The extent to which we all carry cameras around with us means many people don’t think twice about getting in our photographs – on the streets of, say, Soho or Westminster.
But it took a trip to the small town of Horsham in West Sussex for me to fully appreciate this.
Horsham is a special place for me. It’s the nearest town to where I grew up. It’s a quiet, respectable, welcoming sort of place. A shopping trip here is like a pleasant, therapeutic stroll compared with a plunge into the thunderous, pushy crowds of Oxford Street.
It’s not as used to being behind the lens, though – it’s not on the tourist trail. Neither am I aware of anyone else who’s tried taking street photographs in Horsham. I haven’t seen any, anyway. So of course, why wouldn’t I want to take the opportunity myself?
I have to admit, I found photographing Horsham more difficult than I expected.
I was sometimes noticing someone who could have been worth photographing. But it wasn’t very busy – a relaxed, sparsely populated kind of afternoon with shoppers minding their own business and no one else apart from me photographing anything. It just seemed like an uncomfortably brash invasion of privacy. At that moment, I was simply too uncomfortable getting close enough to complete strangers and snapping them.
The usual, hectic city surroundings I’ve become used to were suddenly gone, and therefore so was my comfort zone. Outside of the ‘anything goes’ defence of the tourist traps, people simply aren’t used to seeing us take photographs that aren’t immediately explicable. In this respect I was suddenly more aware that the people around me probably didn’t know about street photography, or hence what I was doing.
So this is why, ironically, it was the small town as opposed to the big city where nerves held me back a bit more. Now I know what to expect, I might be better at diving right in the next time I’m there. And maybe, somewhat unexpectedly, it will be the quieter streets of my home town, Horsham – as opposed to London – that will help me overcome more of the nerves that inevitably come with street photography.
In the meantime, I’ve posted up a few of the photographs I did take. I hope you enjoy them.