Documentary Street Photography in Brussels

I've been slowly going through all of my 2014 images over the past couple of weeks to firstly update my portfolio, and also compile a review of my best weddings of the year. It's something a lot of photographers do at this time of the year, and for me the portfolio part in particular is important to showcase the best of the best work I've made since the last review (I typically do this a couple of times a year). It's a slow process to get right, and I usually ask for second opinions from my colleagues Allister Freeman, Isabel Maria and Ian Martindale, returning the favour when they compile theirs.

Whilst going through my images, I realised that I hadn't blogged one of the very few opportunities I had for personal work in 2014, which was when Allister, Isabel and myself took a day trip to Brussels for some street photography. Whilst I carry on reviewing my wedding portfolio, here's the Brussels set, starting with my journey to London.

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None of us had been there before or knew much about the city. So loosely armed with a guide book and a bunch of cameras (all mirrorless - no DSLRs), we set ourselves the task of nothing more than walking round to get the flavour of the place with some documentary street photography.

Our walking around was hampered at various turns; not least by Allister's flip-flops which fell apart within 30 minutes of arriving. Street photography tip there - footwear is important. We'd arrived on one of the hottest days of the year which brought challenges of hydration to counter the litres of sweat lost. With Belgium being known for it's fabulous beers, hydration inevitably lead to consuming some of those beers, which lead to large amounts of time sat outside cafes or in the park. I class that as people watching or observation - crucial parts of street photography.

Joking aside, it was a really interesting challenge for us to go off and explore a city with no real reason other than photography. It's something that pushed us all a little with our street photography, and the kind of challenge we like to set students who join us on our photography mentoring courses. We barely scratched the surface of a really interesting city, and my only regret is not having enough time there to explore further. It was a lot to fit into a day, but with busy schedules it's all we could manage, and it was a nice way to make some images outside of the wedding photography world we spend so much time in.

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Shortly after arriving we stumbled on this sprawling street market. It must have taken some of the vendors hours to get setup, such was the quantity and variety of items they had for sale - most of which would probably have been disregarded as rubbish by many. There were some fascinating items in amongst the strange and sometimes bizarre. Classic 80s portraits anyone?

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Although similar, I've included the following two images which show just how different a similar scene can look by turning around from a different angle, and converting one to black and white. A completely different feel.

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Street photography - or travel photography as I suppose this might be classed as well - for me encompasses so many things, and I'm sure it's different things for different people. It's partly about capturing the vibe or feeling of a place, whether that is through architecture or people. It is also about shape, light, shadow - really the classic, unchanging elements of photography that contribute to the artistic or creative side of image-making.

On a technical note, this was the first proper usage I had given the Ricoh GR in the environment within which it is almost without equal - street photography. The GR is a slick, matt black, unobtrusive camera with a decent size APS-C sensor. It is silent, fast, has incredible levels of control and configuration options, and produces beautiful images. I shot most of the day in black and white and very nearly posted the images unedited as they are so good out of camera. As it is, there were some beautiful colour options so I reprocessed the RAW files in colour to include here. Other than my old trusty Leica M6 (which I still miss), the Ricoh GR is undoubtedly the best camera I've used for street photography, with a lot of shared qualities of the classic cameras, lenses and film stocks that are so linked with street photography.