My photo walk participants and I will grab a couple of Canon EOS 1300s and Canon IXUS 175s to capture the people and continuous urbanisation on our walks around our chosen city. My walking buddies and I chat about how, London’s changing all the time, whether it’s improving or just the opposite is in the eye of the photographer! Photo walks are taking place around the world encouraging people to learn new skills and move their bodies to stay well. There’s no need to go overboard with kit – if you’re a walker more than a photographer a phone camera works as followers on social media like these images just as much. A photo walk provides one-to-one and group events for walkers worldwide. It’s a social and cultural activity; participants enjoy it more than shooting pictures and walking alone. They happily “share” stories, like and repost beautiful, funny photographs before memories fade of how it was before and after streetscape makeovers. This is the true value of walking and shooting images, it’s why I believe wellbeing walks have grown and woven their way into the vibrant tapestry of London’s social life.
Ras Kwadwo photographer enjoyed the walks organised by ACAVA and The Venture Community Association he says: “I learnt a lot in terms of the possibilities and creativity that can be done with the camera. I would also like to know how I can make a living from my pictures.” This is a gigantic dilemma for you snappers – finding the time to upload your precious pictures of street scenes and people to social sites to earn you some cash. Most of your snaps stay hidden in hardware consuming 1000s bytes of storage — it may seem better than having your images whisked away by those craving your shots like the fancy-frosting on a Hummingbird cupcake. So it’s no surprise that you’re reluctant to share your snazzy snaps across photographic platforms and rather leave them languishing on memory cards, storing them up for a rare showing at a birthday bash or anniversary event. There are loads of books giving marketing advice to photographers a couple are the UK Freelance Photographers Handbook 2016 and the US Photographers Market 2017.
There are many camera groups in the world one of the first was the Camera Club of New York, started in 1884, by Eastman Kodak. They launched the $1 Brownie which established photography as an affordable hobby for ordinary people. It’s why so many cameras are sold in the world today! “We walk with a purpose,” says Scott Kelby of “The Worldwide PhotoWalk” which brings photographers around the world together on one day of the year to shoot images and raise money for their special causes. Scott is the bestselling author and broadcaster of digital photography TV shows and books such as The Adobe Photoshop CC Book for Digital Photographers 2017 (Voices That Matter). Books and walking also make a marvellous marriage lovers of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales can recreate his literary pilgrimage strolling from London to Canterbury. Professor Woody Caan, author of Drink, Drugs and Dependence From Science to Clinical Practice reckons Chaucer would’ve agreed organised walks aid wellbeing: He says: “I have been to Walsingham and Canterbury, and was impressed that groups of people find this ancient type of journey restorative. A guide and peer support is probably a good idea, if the pilgrims undertaking a long walk are mentally or physically distressed.” Walking groups using photography in London are an opportunity to document the changes to an area undergoing urban development. People attend to take pictures of the area as it changes shape because they prize the streetscapes familiar; as a favourite piece of clothing. Bric-a-brac is lovingly shot to look like the finest antiques you’ll ever see.
View and Chat about Images You and Others Have Shot During The Photo Walk Another Plus Point?
I love chatting with others and sharing a brew! As an artist and communicator I enjoy having a laugh and gossiping with people. The delicate pastries and robust coffees served by the café owners are fresh and fragrant. Surely the table and chair filled pavements are made for photo walkers to sit and pick pictures? After all a computer room is ideal but any dry surface works well when you’re panting for a piece of cake and a steaming mug of tea?
In his book The Lost Art of Walking, author, Geoff Nicholson talks to people who only walked at night, in the nude, for 1000s of miles in one go, in fancy dress, for charity, or for no reason at all. “There is something about the pace of walking and the pace of thinking that goes together. Walking requires a certain amount of attention but it leaves great parts of the time open to thinking. I do believe once you get the blood flowing through the brain it does start working more creatively,” says Nicholson. He also examines how walking inspired the writing muse of Charles Dickens who wrote an essay about his night-time walks.
“1 Some years ago, a temporary inability to sleep, referable to a distressing impression, caused me to walk about the streets all night, for a series of several nights. The disorder might have taken a long time to conquer, if it had been faintly experimented on in bed; but, it was soon defeated by the brisk treatment of getting up directly after lying down, and going out, and coming home tired at sunrise.”
From the essay “Night Walks” by Charles Dickens (Chapter 13 of The Uncommercial Traveller, 1861)
I Wanted to Find Out If Photo Walks Increased Wellbeing and They Did!
Last year I became the first artist to lead a photo walk for the Venture Community Association and ACAVA. Isabella Niven, ACAVA Programme Manager, says: “The project, funded by Public Health England through the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, is designed to provide local people in north Kensington with the opportunity to engage in a creative, active and social activity; getting people moving, thinking creatively, reducing social isolation and improving wellbeing.” Several sessions into the project I realised the most fervently committed, very open-minded, photo walkers, were men aged over 40-years-old. I found out that the three-year project had been created with the focus of engaging men in this activity in the North Kensington area. The Association of Cultural Advancement through Visual Arts (ACAVA) curates an exhibition for photo walkers at the Maxilla Gallery where artists like Michael Horovitz, author of underground British poetry book, entitled Children of Albion rent studio space.
The Venture Community Association was founded in 1960 it’s one of the oldest adventure playgrounds in Kensington and Chelsea. It’s in the Golborne ward, which is the second most-deprived ward in London. It provides outside play and sports activities for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The charity teamed up with the Childhood Trust and Catalyst Housing to raise over 11,000 pounds to provide holiday activities. Naami Padi, Director of the Venture Centre says: “I’m trying to make sure that our playground (the best in the West!) has enough money to give our fantastic kids a wonderful summer.” Despite funding cuts the centre will be able to run a full holiday programme thanks to generous donations on ‘The Best Playground in the West!” crowd funding page.
Since the early 1900s outdoor play has been championed by pioneers of the nursery movement like sisters Margaret and Rachel McMillan. In the early days it was about playing, learning and sleeping outside. Though kids don’t sleep outside anymore, outdoor play is still an important activity in nurseries and schools. Professor of Public Health Woody Caan says nature walks can help youngsters develop. He says: “these relate to their Biophilia (developing an appreciation of nature) but also they are group activities that underpin learning outdoors and connect shy children to build social confidence.” The Glissando Panyard is hidden behind a royal blue door on Wornington Road. A series of images and video with the hashtag #glissandopanyard tells the story of this magical space within the Notting Hill Playground on our blog Pace Photo Walks Tumblr.
“We’ve got a few themes running through the project. One of them is the story of the pan yard, home to Glissando Steel Orchestra. It’s a purpose-built steel band rehearsal room next to the Venture playground. We were invited to have a nosey around it with our cameras. We met Bertrand Parris, who was tuning and blending a steel drum. He’s co-founder of the orchestra with Pedro Burgess. The two pan pioneers started the ensemble in 1978. Mr Burgess composed and arranged the music and Mr Parris made the instruments. The strains of steel pan music can be heard today. The musicians play every genre from calypso to country. Glissando continues to be a place for people of all ages and backgrounds to come together to beat out their favourite tunes on the sweet steel drum.”
From the Tumblr Post “Pacing The Panyard” (pacephotowalks Tumblr, 2016)
Leading photo walks is something I’d never done before, or even considered. I checked out the ACAVA photo walking brief and, to my surprise, found that I had relevant interests, and work. The brief called for someone with an interest in the Golborne area I’d written a multimedia poem entitled “get on radical’ about the Notting Hill race riots. This poem and others can be read in my poetry collection “The Rhythm Writer” available in print and eBook. I’d set-up a writers’ collective, supported Toni Morrison on her tour entitled “Jazz” and performed this poem on BBC Radio 5’s Talking Poetry up-and-coming poets’ showcase. I started up my own business working as a journalist for the tech start-up Tidyup Media, at the time editing, captioning and uploading DV tapes I’d paid for a decade ago of my cousin cooking melt-in-the-mouth Guyanese roti bread. It turned into a one-off programme entitled “Aunty G’s Amazing Roti” available to watch in the UK, USA, Japan and Germany.
Dee Semple aka “Onayemi” is an artist journalist leading projects in London. Her photo walks discover ways the environment affects the lives of residents and vice versa, how geometric boundaries affect the physical and cultural contrasts of sickness and adversity. She’s one of the few artists to be invited to deliver night-time walks by the Association for Cultural Advancement through Visual Art.