Documenting Britain

Strangers in Paradise

I am embarking on a series called Strangers In Paradise named after the song by Tony Bennett. I will photograph people in the streets of the Northwest of England and sometimes further afield. It is an exploration of people in Britain in the tenties as well as an investigation into the happiness tenet of smiling at and speaking with strangers.


January 13, 2015

The impish weather is playing with me at the moment but I guess that this can only be expected in mid winter. I look at my radar weather app every week and decide which day I am going to do my photographs and where I will do them.

So after a little shilly-shallying I decided that I would head off to Delamere Forest today. So that’s exactly what I did. The weather was perfect and I looked forward to photographing walkers and hikers amongst trees and by lakes. However, when I arrived there I discovered that no one else wanted to visit the forest today. And to further add to my chagrin the car park cost four quid, (my miserly heart almost imploded when I saw that). So I took some Instagram images for fun and decided that I would do Delamere when the weather was more clement. However, as I was about to set off a young man emerged from the foliage and I took the opportunity to take one portrait.

A town called Tarporley was near by so I decided that I would head there instead. If Crewe is a nettle then Tarporley is a dock leaf - it was just the antidote to the last town I visited which made me feel like I was in a scene from The Walking Dead. Now, in all seriousness I wish every town was like Tarporley: beautiful, tidy, clean. I can imagine if you live in a town like Crewe that it doesn’t help lift your spirits and I would much rather that both the poor and the rich were able to live in more attractive surroundings but I guess that’s a utopia.

Tarporley had 40 people living in it at the time of the Domesday and I suspect that there aren’t too many more people living there now. I know this because a man approached me and gave me a free copy of ‘Guide to Tarporley and a History of Tarporley and Surrounding Areas’. He said I thought you might find it useful. It heralds lots of attractive possibly Georgian buildings and has a myriad of places for lady’s who lunch to go and lunch like ladies. However, I must say that everyone was incredibly friendly and I think I had a 100% strike rate with people saying yes.

I feel a sense of liberation now that I have freed myself from the documentary element of the work. Now I am just focussed on making nice pictures and experimenting without fear of the inevitable failure. It’s play at the end of the day and play is always joyful and this is why I photograph because I want to feel joy.

It rained mid way through and I sat in the car for an hour wondering whether to come back another day. However, I persisted in staying and I’m glad that I did. I am trying to stretch myself and this project is helping flex some muscles of resilience, perseverance and patience, (three qualities that I have lacked in the past).

One last thing to note is that I am sometimes rewarded by the photography gods and it happened again today. I had asked the manager at the petrol station if I could photograph someone by one of their pumps. The manager kindly agreed to this. Whilst I waited there I spotted a young woman with blue hair and a blue coat but I couldn’t reach her in time. Later on when the rain had stopped I started to walk the streets again and noticing a playground down one road I headed there and lo and behold the woman with blue hair was right by the railings. And she agreed to the photo in front of a blue climbing frame. My reaction to that was in my best Northern twang “right nice”.

I headed home elated, a great day’s fishing.