I’d been thinking about doing a photowalk covering 24 hours in Tunbridge Wells for a while. I decided to go ahead with it last Friday whilst walking the dog in the afternoon. I had a spare weekend with no wedding to shoot, so this would be a good time to do it.
The plan was to go into Tunbridge Wells at midnight and walk around for the next 24 hours and finally go home a day later. I had no set plan as to what I was going to shoot. Total freedom. Perfect.
If I was to do it again, I would probably not choose to have a boozy evening with a couple of friends and a half hour power nap at 11pm just before starting it though. Probably not the best preparation for a night to come without sleep.
Although there had been a small thunder storm the evening before, the weather looked like it was going to be OK and generally warm. I was going to travel light. I was only taking my Fuji X100s camera which I love using for stuff like this. It’s small and discreet and produces fantastic images. It has a fixed prime 23mm lens (equiv. 35mm) which makes things simple. No changing lenses or zooming in and out. The only thing I don’t like about this camera is that the batteries die too quickly. I have four of them but was pretty sure they wouldn’t last so the charger went with me too. Apart from this, all I had in my small rucksack was a jumper, toothbrush and bottle of water.
Last year, I did a project called portrait365. I photographed one person every day of the year and posted the photo each day. I loved doing this project and was looking forward to including some more portraits into this project.
I did have some concerns about how things would go. I’m used to photographing in dark places at weddings with available light but I don’t do much at night. I knew that getting portraits at night was going to be tricky. I wasn’t using any flash so I’d need to stick to the areas with a bit light – street lights, window displays, takeaway shops etc. I was also slightly wary of walking around on my own with a camera where there’s groups of people out on the piss and not knowing whether to approach them or not. I generally erred on the side of caution picking couples and single people rather than groups of lads/girls.
One thing I did find was that after about 1pm, Tunbridge Wells is relatively quiet. I thought it would be a lot more rowdy for a Friday night/Saturday morning. Any activity seems to be confined to the stretch from Calverley Road to the train station. The expensive hoardings (where the old cinema site used to be) detailing the delights of the area, also seem to be the urinal of choice of the way down to the kebab shop. It was in here that I met a friendly bunch of lawyers from Cripps LLP in fancy dress. How Tunbridge Wells is that? I must thank them for sharing their spicy chicken wings with me.
I knew that after about 3.30am most people would be gone. Tunbridge Wells definitely isn’t a 24 hour town. I don’t know of anywhere you can go (apart from a petrol station) after this time to get coffee or anything until about 6am.
This time from about 4-6am felt pretty weird. The streets were empty apart from the odd bit of shouting here and there. I walked down the middle of as many roads as I could as this is one of life’s simple pleasures as I doesn’t happen that often. The man in the Bicycle Bakery on Camden Road was making his dough at the back of the shop and had unknowingly worn a good colour t-shirt (pink) for the photo I took of him.
Foxes were everywhere. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get a good shot though. Every time I found one, they moved on. I even tried going back round the other way to catch them out but you can’t out-fox a fox.
I passed by a couple of blokes sleeping it off in a bus shelter just before 6am on my way to Morrisons for a coffee. This satisfied the craving before I finally got to sit down properly at The Black Dog cafe for breakfast at 8am.
From here, I went up on to the Common and came across a woman meditating on the top of Wellington Rocks. This I’d never seen before and tried to capture it from all angles. It turned out to be someone I photographed last year; in fact I did two people again from last year’s portrait project and met a previous wedding couple outside the station on their way up to London.
In the Calverley precinct, I chatted to Phil the busker and Micky, a homeless bloke. He told me all about his problems and was keen for me to get his story out there. He, like lots of other people, asked me what I was doing it for? I just told them it’s a personal project, different from my main wedding work, something to keep my creative juices flowing. I often find these things lead on to something else, just by who you meet, the way it’s seen on social media afterwards and a way of keeping your name out there. On the day, I met people that knew of my 365 project or were guests at weddings I had shot so that was all good.
Lunch was from Samovar Foods at the farmer’s market. The owner, Jenka, was a great seller and was keen to get me to sample all the traditional homemade Russia food she had made – it was all delicious.
It was lovely to meet up with my family at 5pm but by now, I was flagging. For me, 24 hours was beginning to feel too much. Luckily, the weather had perked up and now there was some lovely, warm evening light so this helped me focus for a while. However, once the light had gone, I knew I was going to struggle again. Having a couple of pints didn’t help and my general tiredness was getting the better of me. I shot very little in the last few hours but rewarded myself with a kebab before the walk home.
So, would I do it again? Yes, probably, with some changes here and there. But it was good on the whole. It made me realise how much I had missed spotting and photographing interesting characters. After completing the 365 portrait project, I often see people out and about and think they would have been good for my portrait. At least I managed to get a few done so that was good.
I think the fact that I had 24 hours in Tunbridge Wells meant that I actually took my time a lot more. I don’t actually think I shot that much. When I work on a wedding for about 8 hours, I’m a lot more busy and shoot a lot more pictures. I think the thing is that I’m generally a procrastinator. I know I could manage my time better than I do. I like people watching and I like watching the world go by. I think the job I have is probably about right for me though.
24 hours in Tunbridge Wells
I have put these photos up on my Facebook page and I really appreciate the comments and shares I’ve had already. Please feel free to comment here if you like; I love to hear what you think.
If you like any of the photos enough to buy them, you can do so here.
And finally, if you’d like to see last year’s project, here’s the link portrait365.