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.


February 12, 2015

A change of plan today as I had intended to go to Alderley Edge however I saw on my calendar that I had an appointment in Winsford so I went there instead.

It’s relatively close to Northwich and my Mum taught there for many years. My friend Lyn went to that same school and I had friends called the Kellys who all lived there when I was at sixth form. So I’m relatively familiar with the town’s delights.

I parked my car in the free car park and straight away I was attracted to a bush that was just coming into early bloom. I set up my camera there and soon came along a young chap who was whirling his key chain back and forth. I asked if he was willing to do that whilst I photographed him. “Yes” he said and the job was done.

I then headed for the leisure centre and I went inside to speak to the manager who quickly agreed that I could hassle their poor unsuspecting customers to my heart’s content and take my portraits outside. I soon photographed a man wearing a white tracksuit in front of a geometric structure. He said he was waiting for his five year old son who was autistic and he was teaching him to swim. I then photographed another chap with his young son by the side of the leisure centre. And then in quick succession a woman in front of a large pylon.

A lot of these backgrounds were familiar to me as I had been there before and taken Instagram shots of them all. So I knew where to head for next. I set up at the side of Asda and waited there for a while. However, soon a security guard came along and asked me to move on in an incredibly polite way.

So I next headed into the town centre and I saw a woman who I had seen the last time I visited. She has a Motability scooter covered with pictures of Elvis and she blasts Elvis songs out at full pelt. After a little chat she agreed to the photograph. She was a hoot, (I say that with full WI vigour). I had actually moved from a previous position when I saw her so I headed back and set up my camera there again. It was a staircase and I asked a woman holding some flowers to stand on one of the steps. Whilst I took the shot I noticed the light at the end of the tunnel of the subway connected to the staircase. I moved a blue bottle into position so the light shone on it and next to the bottle I asked a woman with bleached hair to stand in the light.

I then headed to the fire station and the police station to see if I could shoot Fireman Sam and the filth. However, as suspected I was asked to write to head office. It’s par for the course but I always like to try my luck. Nearby was a billboard with the tagline ‘look Mum no hands’. I set up there and asked a man with a no nonsense moustache to stand under it with his bike between his legs and his hands off the handlebar. I’m trying to play with words at least once each week.

The last four of the day were two men who worked for a local tire company stood amongst their wares, a man and his Cocker Spaniel stood between two concrete plinths, a Cambodian couple in front of an orange door and finally a 73 year old man and his son who both had walking sticks and indeed two very large digital SLRs to stand at the brow of a hill. They were both from Middlewich camera club and we had a nice little geeky chat about Box Brownies and 620 film.

I suspect I have taken more slightly drab, uneasy on the eye images but I enjoyed myself nonetheless.