I had never been on a solo photowalk before, but after the initial awkwardness, it turned into a completely rewarding experience. If you haven't ever been on a solo photowalk, it's definitely time you give it a try!
Camden Town is one of my favorite places in London. I pretty much love everything about it: the countless stands selling overpriced t-shirts looking [mostly] all the same and cheap merchandise, the food stalls on Regent’s Canal, the Stables Market’s Horse tunnel and its peculiar architecture, the punks passing out tattoo shop flyers to the people passing by. I’m not much of a fan of crowds, but I like Camden so much that I can even manage to like the hordes of noisy tourists there.
To me, Camden is all about people and colors.
I happen to go to London quite often, and I never miss the chance to go to Camden, but some months ago, for the first time in my life, I embarked on a solo tour of Camden Town. My intention was to go shopping crazy and snap a few pictures every now and then if I ever remembered to be carrying around my SLR — when I’m browsing through clothing, records and food I tend to forget about everything else, you know.
It didn’t occur to me that the roll loaded in my Canon AE-1 was black and white film, but it turns out it accurately conveys the alienation that seized me on the first part of that day.
I was walking down Camden High Street like I did so many other times, and all of a sudden, while I was looking at the colorful façades all around, I felt like it was my first time there, like I didn’t belong to that place.
All of a sudden, I could no longer feel the joyful atmosphere. I was just a lonely stranger venturing in a kitsch, concrete jungle.
After a few minutes, I managed to fought back the temptation of taking the tube and going back home, and I decided to take advantage of being on my own, with no one champing at the bit ’cause they want to go shopping or get something to eat. It was just my camera and me. I resolved to be brave and to go looking for things I never had the time to notice on my previous shopping tours to Camden.
I didn’t buy anything, I didn’t stop at the stalls. But I saw the only quiet side of Camden Town: what’s above your head.
I also found out that side streets in Camden are just like any other side streets in the world. I know this sounds funny, but it made me feel like I could relate to the place a bit more.
People in Camden do the same things we do: they buy things, walk on the sidewalk, take the bus…
And when it was time to take the bus myself and leave Camden, it didn’t feel like I was finally going home from a land so far away. It just felt like leaving and, of course, like I’ll be coming back.
So, end of the story: when you decide to go on a solo photowalk tour, it might be intimidating at first, even if you’ve already been there. You’ll most likely feel awkward, the camera will feel much heavier and bigger than it actually is. You might either feel like everybody’s looking at you or like they’re doing their best to remind you you’re all alone and out of place. Don’t let these feelings bring you down. Fight them back and you might finally see [and capture with your camera] things you’ve never noticed before, and you will end up with pretty pictures and new found self-confidence.