A Weekend in Hamburg
By Gerry Walden
22 Nov 2016
Ever since the day I bought my first 35mm camera (a Russian plastic Cosmic35 with a fixed 50mm lens) I have been trying to capture the life around me. That was about 1960 and, at 15, I had access to the school darkroom. At that early age I enjoyed taking photographs of people in the street, trying to emulate the work of the greats of Magnum, icons such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa together with many others, especially Robert Doisneau. Of course I failed dismally but I like to think I gradually improved. I studied every book I could get, and as soon as I was earning my own money I took out a subscription to 'Life' magazine, which popped through my door every week.
Since then I have always enjoyed the 'hunt' of street photography, although it was not known as that until fairly recently. It was just images of the people around me. Over the years since I have had a number of solo exhibitions at various places in the world, culminating in a one-man show at the prestigious Royal Photographic Society here in the United Kingdom, and the recent publication of a number of my images on the National Geographic web site.
The Internet has of course expanded access to great work, and in turn given me a platform to show my efforts to others. It has also introduced me to many fine photographers in every corner of the globe, some of whom have become face-to-face friends.
One of the problems though is that art needs refreshing once in a while. You plod along doing your own thing, but it all gets a bit repetitive after a while and you feel the need to look through the eyes of others and see what they are doing. As photographers I feel we often work in a vacuum. Few people will give a genuine evaluation of your work for fear of upsetting you, and even fewer will say "Have you thought of trying this?" To put it simply I needed to be stretched out of my comfort zone but how?
Craig Semetko and I have been Facebook 'friends' for some time, and I had often admired his street work which had a modern American edge to it. We had never met, but when I found that he was doing a weekend workshop in Hamburg under the auspices of Leica Fotographie International (https://lfi-online.de) it was too good an opportunity to miss. So with more than a little apprehension I set of not really knowing whether I would gain anything or not. The main thing was that it was a small group and would be held in English, plus my German is not to bad so I could talk to people in the street.
We were a pretty mixed bunch (six in all), and Craig was a great mentor encouraging us to step outside of our comfort zone. The ground rules were quite basic: produce five good images by the Sunday afternoon using no lens longer that 50mm, with 35mm being the recommendation. Sounds simple, after all you had a day and a half to do it, just to get the five images. Some of the participants admitted they were a little scared to photograph that close to people, but were re-assured that they would not get physically assaulted, and off we went.
The end results were staggeringly good, and I learnt a great deal from it. The workshop certainly stretched me at times, trying new suggested techniques such as shooting from the waist without looking through the viewfinder etc., and I am pleased I took the plunge. People asked me why I was doing it, surely I knew how to take a good photograph, but the weekend was worth every penny I spent on it. Organisation was good but not overbearing, the teacher was superb and I would happily go again tomorrow if circumstances permitted.
All the images shown here were taken with a Leica M9 and post-processed in Lightroom CC. The lens used for everything was a Leica Summarit-M 35mm f2.5 and I shot at 800iso to give me depth of field in the gloomy weather.