A long-time fan of plastic cameras, Argentinean writer and photographer Lorraine Healy is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera. In this article, Healy ponders the best choices for shooting multitudinous events, like public marches, rallies, and demonstrations.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… Within a span of seven weeks, I attended two separate Women’s Marches: one in my local community on Whidbey Island, in January, and another in my native city, Buenos Aires, in early March. The annual Women’s March in Buenos Aires on March 8 (Women’s Day, internationally) has been growing in numbers with every passing year. I knew I was going to be there during the date and, when I attended the local Women’s March on Whidbey on January 21, I made sure I photographed it with cameras I would be taking on my trip down South, so that I could get a similar look on the images from both marches.
I have a great fondness for parades and events that gather people in numbers for some fun purpose. It is one of the great delights of street photography, I think. And sometimes one’s best shots come from turning the lens away from the parade and shooting the people watching it. But these two events, so close one to the other, seemed different to me. These were not “fun events” (except, it turns out they were!). There was in both a sense of gravitas and purpose that was different from other events I shoot. So when I was making choices about how to shoot them, I needed to do some thorough thinking.
I grew up in downtown Buenos Aires in the 60s, in a second-floor apartment in the University district. It was a time of extreme political volatility and there were daily student marches right under our balcony. The following day you would see images of the signs, placards, shouting people, all in grainy black and white on the newspaper and as well as on TV, which was black and white only. I think these images from my childhood must have really imprinted how I think of “photographs of rallies and marches” because right away I decided I was mostly going to shoot with black and white film. I had a couple of cameras loaded with color film and was close to finishing those rolls, so I took them along for good measure, but my pre-visualizing of these images was black and white.
Then, what cameras? I thought that wide angles would be best because I would be able to capture more of the many-peopled scenes, plus I would have the Holga 135BC with its 60mm lens at hand, to get a little bit closer. I went with the Pentax K1000 and the LC-A 120 for wide-angle vision. Total weight of my equipment was also a deciding factor, not so much in Langley where I knew the loop of the rally could be walked in 45 minutes. But in Buenos Aires, even though I knew the route to the inch, I had to deal with added unpredictable distances: how close would public transportation put me to the starting point of the march and how distant from the subway home I would end up being at the conclusion. And when you are walking along with 100,000 other people, well, you just can’t plan on being done in 45 minutes!
One of the decisive differences between shooting “ordinary” street photography and shooting rallies or marches is that people going to these gatherings expect to have their pictures taken in some way or another—either because they end up in somebody’s media feed or a newspaper. A close-up portrait of yours truly ended up in a photographers’ collective on Facebook. What’s more, because of the political statements attendees are trying to make, they really, really want you to take their picture, and especially show the signs they are carrying. So that makes the photographer’s task a lot easier.
Of course, there is always room for candid shots, and moments of being thick-in-the crowd provide angles one doesn’t encounter very often.
And the sheer numbers in Buenos Aires (about 100,000 plus people) provided me with the opportunity to try every kind of shot I wanted: closer up, as above, or from farther afield (see below), to show the masses of people in all their diversity. But the 1,200-people march in Langley (which was a real crowd, given that four busloads of Whidbeyites had gone to the March in Seattle, and given the local population count) gave me the gift of some magically unplanned super impositions, due to my old Holga 135BC’s death throes. I did not know it on the day and I took the camera with me to Buenos Aires without having seen the developed film, but the shutter was opening only when it felt like it, totally or partially at random, and the film was advancing at a “creative” pace.
The Holga 135BC was officially retired to the garbage can after it became obvious that the shutter was opening fewer and fewer times with each roll. Both marches were enormously fun, with people clearly finding a lot of joy in being together for a shared cause. It was very cold that day in Langley and indescribably hot and muggy on March 8 in Buenos Aires. And when I showed my friend Paula, with whom I had gone to the Buenos Aires March, scans of the images, her comment was: “Wow, they look really 60s-like…” So I guess what gets imprinted in the future photographer’s eyes in childhood never really goes away.
Lorraine Healy (@lorrainehealy) is an Argentinean writer and photographer living in the Pacific Northwest. A long-time fan of plastic cameras and she is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera, available as an eBook from Amazon.com.
written by Lorraine Healy on 2017-04-05 #places #lifestyle #travel #medium-format #120 #35mm #street-photography #argentina #pentax-k1000 #us #holga-135-bc #lomography-earl-grey-100 #jch #lomo-lc-a-120 #black-and-white-color #japan-camera-hunter-black-and-white-film