On Facing the world, and the Serendipitous Photograph

by John Cogan ARPS

The front door marks the point of no return!  This is where my accouterments are checked and I am occasionally frisked.  There is a checklist I have to submit myself to.  It is administered out of love and the knowledge that I am one of the most forgetful and clumsy people ever to come out of Yorkshire (perhaps that is why it was so easy to escape?).

“Have you got your inhaler, in case you have an asthma attack?”

“Check!”

“What about the tube of glucose in case you have a hypo?”

“Check!”

“And your phone, just in case?”

“Check!”

“Your hearing aids?”

“Check!”

“Spare batteries?”

“Check!”

“Money?”

“Check!”

“Bus pass?””Check!”

“And you know where you’re going?”

“Yes!”

“Do you really need your camera?”  What a question!

Please note that I have picked up my Fuji, and made sure I have a spare SD card and charged battery about my person.  Looking at what I carry it is a wonder I am able to leave the house without the support of a couple of porters; but having said that, I should point out that the native porters of Hetton Le Hole are renowned for their high altitude ability and skills with heavy loads.  Daily training is obligatory for them and you can see lines of them running up to the Seven Sisters before they settle for brief refreshment at the Kopt Hill hostelry.

I am a great believer in serendipity!  For one thing you can’t be a Street Photographer and not believe in photographing the unexpected.  On recent trips to York and Whitby the value of having a camera with you, ready and primed to capture a decisive moment or two was never so well displayed.

A quiet stroll down The Shambles, trying hard to avoid the mobs of tourists and souvenir hunters, eventually led to a small, yet intimate, square complete with trees and the Duke of York pub.  Surrounded by an animated crowd were several sides of Morris Dancers.

The fashion for mocking these ardent proponents of ancient customs escapes me.  I find it short sighted and misanthropic to poke fun at people who have found a way of combining keeping fit with conservation.  Those who participate are said to have rock-hard calf muscles and the ability to drink copious amounts of real ale, though I cannot say I have experience of either of these talents.  The coconut dancers with their shiny clogs, blackened faces and frilly skirts are exemplars of men who have discovered their true selves.  Even fastening castanet-like clacky things to their knees marks them out as not to be messed with!

Arriving in Whitby, the sole purpose was to end a fine day out with a quality fish and chip supper at The Magpie, finding the streets by the harbour to be full of pirates was unusual but this is Whitby and you come to expect the unexpected.  Obviously, there was a hierarchy of pirates ranging from those at the bottom of the social order that could afford parrots made out of twisted balloons to those able to obtain stuffed or soft toy ones.  The top of this rarified social pyramid was the couple who paraded along the water side with their real parrot; a fine green specimen who was obviously enjoying the attention.  Sad to say, there was even a replica Jack Sparrow who had obviously seen the inside of several hostelries during the daylight hours.

So, how do we come to regard the images garnered throughout these visits?  Some are obviously street images.  They are random pictures allowing us to record a single event; they maintain their integrity and can be viewed in isolation.  Those images needing others to provide a coherent narrative become documentary whilst the posing Jack Sparrow and the cooperative Morris Men, knowing they were being photographed, were complicit in the act of taking a photograph.  These were portraits!  Yet, we have an interesting dilemma here.  Can we claim that the portraits which, though they were “made” in the street, are street shots?  Most street photography records “natural” events and posing isn’t really natural.

With that thought I will leave you to mull over the following images and decide how you would best describe them?

York Morris Dancing

York Morris Dancing

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Morris men 1

 

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Morris men 2

 

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Morris men 3

 

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York ,Morris dancing 3 mono

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York Morris dancers mono 3

 

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York, Morris dancer talking with audience 5

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York, Morris dancers father and son mono 1

 

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York, Morris dancers waiting 4

 

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York, Morris Garland 2

 

 

 

 

 

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