I lived in London for almost two decades. It’s a city I love, even though it lacks the beautiful weather of where I grew up in California. And when you grow up in the sun, it’s hard to live with out it. So really it’s testament to what an incredible city London is that I managed to last so long there.
I no longer live there (we swapped it for the southern-California like climes of Andalucia) but I go there often to see family and work.
I have have done so much shooting in the city, and made three books about it. I know the city better than my London-born wife!
I have also taken hundreds of people on my workshops there at dawn, so I feel confident that I can show you the best parts to shoot.
Without a doubt East London is my favourite place to shoot in the city. For these reasons:
The mix of architecture is fascinating. You have ancient, hundreds-year old buildings sandwiched in between glistening glass towers. It’s so trippy
The history is so vivid and interesting. The little squares, old alms houses, the livery buildings, markets that have been running for hundreds of years.
The abundance of different cultures is exciting. East London has traditionally been the place where immigrants arrive first, and set up their lives. You’ll find layer upon layer of different cultures who’ve left their influence on the city. It makes it feel so vibrant and interesting.
The street art! Some of the finest street artists in the world make mesmerising images all over the east. Every time I go I see something new.
The people – all over East London there are interesting businesses running, projects evolving out of the diversity of influence, good music to listen to, festivals and fun to be had.
If you love photography, and have London in your sights, I encourage you to check out the east. Explore and see what you can find.
Hope you enjoy!
East London at Dawn: photo book
For over a decade photographer Anthony Epes has shot many of the world’s iconic cities at their most peaceful time, dawn. This month marks the publication of a collection of his photographs from one of his most explored haunts, East London.
You haven’t heard from me for a while and I’m sorry about that. I’ve been mulching in a creative bubble. I have a super cool project; a new hotel has commissioned me to put together a limited edition book of East London at Dawn. As a photographer this is the kind of work you dream of: being paid to fulfil one of your creative ideas and, as so many of you who’ve been on my London workshops know, East London is my favourite part of the city.
But while I’m doing work like this – creating, shooting, thinking, looking at my images, I find it really difficult to live in the real world and do all those other things that life requires of me – emails, bills, etc. Di says I start acting like a cloud. I forget to return phone calls, I’m not great at remembering what’s happening in my diary. At least I can say, look man, I’m just an artist. And people sort of, sort of, understand 🙂
I think the point here being that any kind of creative pursuit requires more time than you think, and it requires a totally different brain space to the one that is keeping you going on a day to day basis. So although I totally, totally advocate keeping your camera at hand and taking photos as you go about your daily life because that is a powerful habit to develop for your creativity – remember, too, that carving out time for some dreaminess, drifting and creative mulching is also super beneficial for your photography.
Now let’s get to the main point of this post. The main point of this post is illustrated by this photo that I took a few mornings ago in Wapping.
I walked past this butcher and thought – awesome! Capturing people up at dawn is really hard, less so at the moment as dawn is so late in autumn and winter, but it’s still difficult to find people doing interesting things. I knew Di would love this shot – that blue early morning light on the buildings contrasting with the yellow tungsten inside. It really was a perfect combination of elements.
I lifted my camera, shot this, but I obviously wasn’t happy with it because the positioning is all wrong. Then I saw that the butcher had spotted me. Guess what I did? I carried on walking! I had been totally overtaken by the fear and just left the scene.
To be honest it sort of surprised me how fearful I was. I have a lot of years under my belt of photographing strangers; I teach a workshop about it! It just shows you, though, that fear is not something you overcome and then that’s it, it’s gone. It can come back at any time. And of course we professionals are not immune.
But you know what? That’s OK. For me the best way is to accept that fear is a bit like clouds in the sky or rain in London – it comes and then it goes. The worse thing for me to do is let it stop me from taking the shot – or in this case, going back and taking the shot.
I’ve written about fear a few times on my blog, and I will continue to, because I truly believe that fear in its many forms is the main barrier to improving your photography. It’s not just the thing that will stop you from photographing strangers – it will also stop you pushing yourself further with your creativity. It will stop you from envisioning what is possible to do with your photography – and then getting on with it.
Fear is an insidious and pervasive force that affects us all in different ways across our lives. But in terms of creativity it can severely limit how much you’re prepared to push yourself to experience new things, to work at seeing the world in new and fresh way and to create something that is unique to you.
It’s good to note though that it’s totally natural to feel fear when you are creating.
“We’ve evolved to distrust creative ideas: except in a crisis, there’s little survival benefit to trying something new.” Oliver Burkeman
I see fear all the time with my students, and often they are surprised when I tell them that everyone experiences fear when they are taking photos. They are not unique or alone in this. With them I see fear come up in the form of:
Not staying at a scene long enough
Self-consciousness when using a camera in groups of people. So instead of being in the moment, connecting to your environment and composing your image, half of your mind is distracted with what people might be thinking or what is happening outside the moment of the photo
Not shooting what you really want to photograph because it scares you too much
Not getting started! I see this a lot. Worrying about doing it just right, so people don’t even get themselves out the door. (Perfectionism is just another form of fear.)
“The real question, then, is not whether creativity provokes fear, but what to do when it does. Far too many authorities urge you to conquer it… but as with any emotion, launching an all-out attack on fear is counterproductive. That just puts it centre stage, and risks reinforcing the notion that creativity must – and should – be one endless, bare-chested struggle.”
So what I encourage in the dealing with fear is:
Be patient with yourself. Fear is just a feeling. Don’t react to it. Let it come up and eventually it with leave you. Probably the worse thing you can do is start adding lots of thoughts and judgements about your fear. Thoughts are like adding fuel to the fire. Let the fire just burn itself out.
Accept that it’s part of being creative: putting yourself out there in terms of showing your work, being out there in the world with your camera, doing something outside of your day to day life is going to provoke feels of discomfort. And really, if you are feeling discomfort you are on the right path – it shows you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone, you are onto to something new and different.
I also like this idea about overcoming fear by distracting your mind and creating habits:
“There’s nothing wrong with fear; the only mistake is to let it stop you in your tracks.
Athletes know the power of triggering a ritual. A pro golfer may walk along the fairway chatting with his caddie, his playing partner, a friendly official or scorekeeper, but when he stands behind the ball and takes a deep breath, he has signaled to himself it’s time to concentrate.
A basketball player comes to the free-throw line, touches his socks, his shorts, receives the ball, bounces it exactly three times, and then he is ready to rise and shoot, exactly as he’s done a hundred times a day in practice. By making the start of the sequence automatic, they replace doubt and fear with comfort and routine.” Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.
When I am really struggling with fear I like to remember what Seth Godin advises about starting small:
“What we need to do is say, “What’s the smallest, tiniest thing that I can master and what’s the scariest thing I can do in front of the smallest number of people that can teach me how to dance with the fear?” Once we get good at that, we just realize that it’s not fatal. And it’s not intellectually realize – we’ve lived something that wasn’t fatal. And that idea is what’s so key — because then you can do it a little bit more.”
So I will be heading back to Wapping to get that shot – maybe it’ll be worth it and it’ll make the book, maybe it won’t and it won’t be the shot I want. Ultimately, though, I need to do it for myself. To show that I am doing the best that I can for both myself and for this project – since photography is totally an inner game and loosing confidence in myself is not a path I want to take. And because:
“Can anything be sadder than work left unfinished?
Yes; work never begun.” Christina Rossetti
I’ll be coming out of my creative cloud pretty soon. Which is awesome if you have an email that you’ve sent me and you are waiting for an answer (sorry!). The book is hitting the designers soon and I’ll have a bunch of organising and ‘real work’ to do – working with the printer, launching the book, sorting out my new website etc. Which is all super cool. I love what I do, and I feel so super grateful that I get to live like this – taking photos, working with other photographers, putting my ideas and images out there. Life could actually be no better.
Thank you for being part of this community of photo lovers, it’s so awesome working with you, hearing from you and talking to you about your work.
I’d also like to ask something of you today – Di and I are currently working out the subjects of our next few months of blog posts and we want to make them uber useful. We’d love to know therefore:
“What are you most struggling with photographically right now?”
Just drop me an email. I promise to answer 🙂 We can then write posts that are totally focused on what you need right now on your photo journey.
Have an awesome weekend – and happy photographing!
Hello and Happy New Year!
I hope you are all getting on well with 2012. Beginnings can be hard but remember 2012 will be 2013 in no time so lets make the most of it. As Steve Jobs said “Soon you will be dead.”
A lot has changed in photographic technology since 2002 when London at Dawn was first published. I was thinking that the new updated book should reflect those changes. Digital photography is awesome. I love the kit, the quickness and the low cost of shooting. Great stuff! I was thinking of adding images made with High Dynamic Range(HDR), like the one above, to my upcoming re-release of London at Dawn, due out in June of this year(I still shoot mostly on film). What do you think? Should I or not?
I promise more feel good photos (even cemeteries can be feel good!) to come this year, so clear those puppy pics off your desktop and make room for great London images. They will inspire you to have a good day when your out in the hustle and bustle!
There are many elements that are basic to a good photograph; composition, timing, colour, blah blah blah(googleit). But mostly it’s about nice light – especially when its fleeting, a moment gone, never to return, never quite the same again.
I was shooting at Tower Hill yesterday at dawn, not a great morning, but lots of potential (wisewords: patience is a quality and attribute for all photographers). I stood there looking across the river at the Shard (hard to look at anything else really, it makes South London look like a toy landscape) rubbing sleep of my face when, bingo, the pre-dawn twilight illumed the southern sky with rainbow pinks and reds and blues (is pink in the rainbow, googleit!) that lasted two minutes then back to basic grey. Worth the wait.
Anyway, that’s not the photo I’m posting today. Todays photo is of a book in my bedroom…, the light on the book reflected off a mirror from the light streaming through nebulous curtains from a setting sun…it only lasted twenty seconds.