Shooting Street Portraits in London with a Rolleiflex 3.5E Planar.
The plan was a fairly simple one, which perhaps needed a few tweaks for it to work properly, but it seemed to me to be workable at the time. I was to go to London, specifically to Whitecross Street for their Street Party (subtitled ‘Rise OF The Non-Conformist), and there I would set up my Rolleiflex 3.5E (Planar) on a tripod and offer to take free portraits of anybody who wanted one. This was the first time I had used the Rolleiflex since I bought it, so it carried some risk as I wasn’t 100% sure it was all in good order (though it appeared to be) and had no experience in using it, I jumped in at the deep end I suppose.
With this being a Medium Format camera I wasn’t going to be able to show anybody an image there and then, I would have to get the film developed and scanned and, having taken the customers e-mail address, send a small copy with a price list.
On the face of it, this worked out quite well, I used three films (Rollei Retro 400S, 12 images per film) and had everything written down and ready to go. Everybody who had their picture taken understood the process and everything was to plan.
About 10 days after the event I sent out 34 e-mails with a small digital version of the image attached. I offered a full size image to one person for free as it didn’t turn out well enough to sell, 3 of the e-mails returned as unknown, leaving 30 that got through to their intended recipient. I received a nice reply form the person I offered the free image to and duly uploaded it for them. One person replied to say they’d have a think about it and see if the other person in the image with them wanted a copy and one person placed an order for a 5×5 print, I sent an invoice for payment.
As a plan to break even it failed rather miserably, however it did offer me some things that were invaluable, unquantifiable in monetary terms even, I met and talked at length to a lot of people. Most of which didn’t have their photograph taken but it was an enjoyable experience. I also had over 34 people pose for a photograph and that was great experience for me in using the camera, talking to subjects and generally learning how to put people at their ease when you are pointing a camera at them. I also learned about using the camera and, while the results ranged from average to good, that was the order that they progressed, so I was getting better. Yes, I would have liked to cover my costs as this would have convinced me to do a similar thing again, but, in hindsight, would I have paid the same amount I was out of pocket just for this experience? The answer is YES, in all likelihood I would.
There may well be a next time, as I think that with some good printed examples people are much more likely to want to buy their own photograph (ever the optimist). So now I have to teach myself how to make prints, after I’ve bought all the equipment of course!