These two young boys were busy dredging for scrap metal – they had a magnet on a long line and threw it again and again into the water, hoping for a lucky find… They were on a small island just off the riverbank, that was used by the boatmen to moor their boats overnight. We’d been using it to film some landscapes away from the crowds.
We were staying in an ashram on the far side of the river – away from the city and the fort. Each day we crossed by river boat, about a dozen people on each boat powered along by a couple of oars. The first picture is from the morning we left the KM and it was the day before the main bathing day: for several days the crowds had been growing larger and larger and on this day it was estimated that there were between 10 and 15 million people present. On the next day, the most auspicious for bathing, the papers told us there were 30 million people present.
This was an epic sight – as far as I could see around the horizon, along the banks of the rivers, were millions upon millions of people, all patiently waiting for their turn to bathe in the waters.
While we were working our way through the back streets of the old quarter of Jeddah, shooting video for a TV documentary on Arabia, I saw the strong afternoon light catching this bicycle outside a bakery shop. It was around 3pm and very hot and quiet as many people were at prayer. I made the rest of the crew stop and wait, handed my C300 to the producer and shot a sequence of pictures. Even though I knew the others were waiting I tried to work the scene and to figure out the best shot. Looking back at them in Aperture, it’s possible to see how the sequence developed to the final shot which I think is the best.
First I tried working with the bright yellow of the bike’s rack and its reflection in the window, lit by the strong shaft of sunlight.
Then I tried switching to landscape format and including more of the street scene.
I liked the way that was working but wanted someone to bring movement and some back light into the top left of the frame. So I hung around for a few minutes and waited for some people to come by…
That seemed to be working well. But then I saw a small boy, wearing a yellow top, come out of the bakery and run off up the street. I took a couple of shots, tracking him as he ran, switching halfway through from portrait to landscape, before capturing the final frame that I like the best.
At the weekend, the overland trains have a completely different atmosphere and are used in a totally different way. During the week, they shift 100,000s of commuters into the city from the suburbs and then back home again in the evening. At the weekend, the overground can be almost deserted with a few dozen people heading off to visit friends or heading to the local shops. It can be very mellow and gently soporific, gliding gently and quietly between stations, no rushing or pushing, glimpses into people’s back gardens or the rear of their houses, elevated views of suburban London, and new views of the city.
A couple of weekends ago, I spent a few hours riding a loop of the Thameslink overground line that starts from my local station and heads south to Sutton and Wimbledon, before returning northwards and ultimately arriving at St Albans. People were day dreaming, talking on the their phones and being generally quiet and peaceful. At each station perhaps one or two people got on or off from my carriage and I took some decent shots of people dozing or in one case two jolly ladies waving off a friend.
But then the peace of the carriage was disrupted by two young boys, they hurled themselves into the carriage and began taunting a large group of much larger boys on the opposite platform. The older boys seemed more amused than offended and the two young lads seemed good natured too.
Then the small one began to dare the larger of the two to slap him, to take it in turns to hit each other. Within a few moments it was clear that the smaller boy was really going for the big one, who put up with a couple of slaps and punches before he began to put his weight into it too.
They quickly became a whirl of fists and slaps that lasted a few moments before they spotted me and turned and fixed me with an intimidating glare: well, as intimidating as a 12 year boy can be to a 6’5″ 200lb 46 year old…
At the next station they hopped off and ran by my window with a cheeky smile, leaving me to take some of the landscape shots I’d set off to take.