During these days of enforced homestay, my thoughts have been turning increasingly to those carefree days when I could grab a camera and take to the streets of the Medway towns, here in Kent — the “garden of England” — although my time is mostly spent in urban bit of the garden. We’re luck because of the surprisingly large number of special costume events hosted locally, much of them inspired by one of our most famous sons, Charles Dickens.
The Joker image, below and a personal favourite, was shot in the Pentagon Shopping centre in Chatham during comic con, and is testimony to the adage of always be aware of your surroundings.
I passed a group of young people all wearing a variety of costumes, but what stood out was how good this young man looked starring as the Joker from the recent DC universe film. I enjoyed the film, and think it is a unique perspective on how the Joker became the Joker. It is worthy of the awards it has been taking. I stopped to ask him if he was up for an image, and he happily pulled the pose now included in this article. This was shot on the Df, with the 50mm 1.8G kit lens. He seemed suitably chuffed that someone had shown an interest in his costume, and taken the time to get an image of him.
Mild, beige and boring
I started this article last year, in an attempt to write about something after a poor week in Yorkshire that produced no images of a quality I could use. The sky was poor, the weather didn’t pull the goods, and then other issues interfered in the last opportunity of 2019 to catch something decent. This year (2020) has hardly been productive, the winter has been mild, beige, and boring, and now we have some viral input to hamper our efforts further.
I have come back to the article as Covid 19 is currently biting the human race on the backside. Why? Well, the mean streets of Medway are a wonderful place to practice your photography. The rich background of historic buildings, cobbled streets and people dressed up at the plethora of events, just makes it feel like fun.
Virus stops play
That is until Covid cancelled the Dickens, the Sweeps and potentially every other decent street event for this summer, and perhaps beyond — who knows? I was rather looking forward to seeing Queen at the 02 arena in June, but I have now been notified my tickets have transferred to 2021 when the gig will now happen.
Is it possible that for a whole twelve months we won’t see any goths, steampunkettes, Micawbers, Princess Leicas — um, Leias — and those other interesting characters on the streets of the Medway towns? That is almost a tragedy on its own. As Covid-19 drains the life out of the Spring and Summer, our well-stocked hard drive memories are perhaps all we can expect from the 2020 season.
This article is a mix of images from the Seargeant archive. I took a leaf out of those other Macfilos contributors and dipped in to the unpublished files from my backup drives. The humorous part of mine is that as I delved in the 2019 files, I discovered a batch of never-used images from the 2019 Dickens, Sweeps, Chatham Comic Con and the Winter Dickens and Steampunk events. I hope you find the bunch of images enjoyable, and a little vignette to keep you engaged until our event return.
There is often just an enjoyable randomness to street events, often those things you cannot plan for — they just happen in front of your camera. The art is being in the right place at the right time to capture those gems. Or as I often put it, milling around on the high street looking lost for hours at a time until something happens. The hope is that our little magical box of electronic gubbins does its job as advertised.
At the big street events I attended in 2019, I spotted a number of new actors driving (or is it riding?) around on Segways. They seemed to pop up at every event, and whizz around, introducing a new-found mayhem to street events. Segways seem to be the ideal basis for a one-person float.
I like the creativity that comes with these new contraptions. I spotted Christmas elves, two fairies, balloon riders and Granny Turismo over a span of eight months in 2019. Perhaps this is catching on in the street performers book of world tricks.
Two cameras, more batteries.
One of the important lessons I learned from 2019 was in checking batteries. I went to the Sweep’s festival in May armed with my trusty Df, and contently set about enjoying myself. I got a decent position for the street parade, and started to shoot away. And then the camera died. The legendary long-life battery on the Df, however legendary, was clearly exhausted. It does shoot around a thousand images minimum but therein lies the trap. Sometimes, too much battery life inspires carelessness.
It’s a bit like a Kindle which can last for a month or more — you put off charging until one day it runs out. A more power hungry tablet used as a book reader, in contact, needs charging every day so it becomes routine and you never run out of juice. Anyway, I whipped out the reliable old X and continued unfazed.
Alongside the Segway actors, I find that with the combination of steampunk, Dickens and other gothic or historical creations, the costumes make a great part of the scenery at Rochester’s street events.
The fairies attended the Christmas Dickens and Steampunk 2019 event. There is a really nice guy who creates this wonderful attire, and attends every year with an armada of interesting and different concepts floating around the cobbled high street. I was looking forward to what he would bring to 2020, sadly now I may never know, unless there is an outside chance the Christmas Dickens and Steampunk event manages to make it.
Personally, and rather morbidly I have grown to view Death as the character portrayed in the late Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels: A being who presides over the world, maintaining the egg timers of us mere mortals. It should come as no surprise to find that he is a routine star at the Dickens events, probably because of the Pratchett imaging of the character.
All of Death’s images were captured on my Df, another thing that seems to have started its route to demise during 2019. Perhaps Nikon will wake up to the viability of a still-image-only shooter, like the Df, but with a better autofocus system.
So, there you have it, a brief visit to the mean streets of Medway over 2019 through the eyes of the Nikon Df, and the Leica X Typ 113. An inevitable mixed bag of Dickens characters, Star Wars personae, Segway street artists, Death — oh, and the Joker. I’ve been looking forward to the start of the 2020 event season, just to see what new ideas the creative participants had dreamed up.
Sadly it seems we may have to miss an entire year and look what 2021 brings, and hope there is enough of us left to put on a good show in memory of those that haven’t made it.
I am still enjoying my Leica X Typ 113 camera with its superb fixed 35mm Summilux lens, and I am thinking of adding a Visioflex to see if it adds a new dimension. Once the trade embargo at Red Dot Cameras lifts, perhaps I can be the first customer through their electronic door. It may even lead to a future article on my experience of using it. I have a few other articles in prospect, including a new lens review and a different type of story that may surprise.