Decisive moments

In part two of his New River walk from Clerkenwell to its Hertfordshire source, local author Barnaby Rogerson pounds park and pavement along the elusive watercourse, writes Barnaby Rogerson

'Connection', taken by William Hall in Hatton Garden during lockdown, 2020
‘Connection’, taken by William Hall in Hatton Garden during lockdown, 2020

The first Clerkenwell Community Photography Competition has now closed and is being judged. The initiative has encouraged all parts of the local community to give photography a try: from young people with camera phones, to older people who remember the Box Brownie. The point is that photography is now truly democratic. Expensive kit isn’t essential, and there are no longer pricey developing and printing costs.

It’s been fascinating to see the entries coming in. There have been various themes emerging, some expected, some truly surprising. As a beautiful public square, Clerkenwell Green has proved a popular spot. There have been quite a few shots of foxes, who are clearly a part of our community.

And bizarrely we’ve had four very different but great shots of buses on Rosebery Avenue – one from a younger entrant, another from an older entrant. Lockdown obviously had an effect on the range of images. Isolation has meant there weren’t a huge number of portraits and certainly no shots of crowds. But plenty still reflected the local community. Heywote Bekele captured her favourite shopkeepers and traders with simple portraits of them in their doorways. “For me, it’s the people that make the community,” she explained. Jon Cox shared a shot of cousins Kenny and Tommy, both born and bred in Clerkenwell – “In the shot they met up for a cup of tea and sandwich during the Covid lockdown in St Luke’s Churchyard where they were joined by an uninvited guest – a pigeon” – as well as Al from Scotti’s in Clerkenwell Green having fun. 

And William Hall captured early lockdown love with his shot, called ‘Connection’ (pictured above). “This was taken in April 2020, three weeks into the first lockdown,” said William. “Cast in shadow and compressed by emptiness, I saw them because there was no one else around. It felt like a distillation of love in the time of Coronavirus.”

We had some excellent entries in the Over 65s age group, and there were quite a few highly talented photographers just below that age group, too. “I’ve reached my early 60s, and become invisible it seems,” wrote one entrant – but as any photographer will tell you, that’s sometimes a good place to be.

At the younger end, we also received some highly impressive shots. Two brothers, both under 10, sent shots of nature taken in Myddleton Square, as did their dad and mum, who sent an intriguing shot of Exmouth Market that looks like it could be from 100 years ago. Meanwhile, youth group SoapBox Islington, based on Old Street, ran a special internal project to generate some superb entries.

‘Red fox cub’, Myddleton Square, Nicole Valente (18–35 category)
‘Red fox cub’, Myddleton Square, Nicole Valente (18–35 category)

Now comes the judging, which will be agnostic of age or experience. Likewise the prizes – which include a £50 prize per each of the four age categories (under 18s, 18–34 years old, 35–65 years old, and over 65s.) and a special £100 prize for the image that best illustrates The Peel’s mission of creating a more ‘Connected Community’.

There will be prints for all the winners and runners up and a £1,000 commission for a real-life project and an internationally respected 12-month mentorship programme. Also for those keen on a career, one prize will include spending a day shadowing a professional to give a glimpse into the real world of professional photography and portfolio reviews from professionals. 

All of these could be awarded to someone in their 60s as easily as someone in their teens. You can show promise at any age and ‘up-and-coming’ doesn’t necessarily mean young. And whoever wins those special awards, they will provide a great start to a new career or even a second career. But most of all, we just want to encourage people to look around the local area with fresh and creative eyes. Who knows, perhaps a little photography group may form where people can swap ideas and share pictures, or go for the occasional photography walk?

‘Pigeon with attitude’, St Luke’s Gardens, Aidan Taub (35–65 category). “Taken while out and about on my lunch break in Clerkenwell.”
‘Pigeon with attitude’, St Luke’s Gardens, Aidan Taub (35–65 category)

Please check in to see the latest news and final details of the judges’ decisions and exhibition details: https://www.clerkenwellphotography.com/