A text from a reporter on the Dudley News posed the question “Can you do a picture of a local councillor in the dark on a council estate where there have been reports of young teenagers walking the streets carrying pick handles and hammers? A sort of Mean Streets of Netherton picture…”
Mean Streets of Netherton?? Netherton is not New York. At all. Netherton is not even Dudley. Netherton is only just Netherton.
“Course I can. No problem.”
A picture in the dark, on an estate where the locals patrol the pavement with pick handles and hammers, at a time of year when the wind and rain is just picking up nicely…how could I make this worse for myself?
A tripod and flash technique that I’m a bit of a stranger to would be a decent start.
So off I went. Eventually. Because this was my last picture of the day, following a bunch of other pictures for other newspapers, which meant I arrived at the job with the bare minimum of preparation. All will be fine. A great little motto.
I met the councillor at the pre-arranged spot, and started to set up my kit. Within seconds, possibly milliseconds, a group of schoolkids who would have done Fagin’s gang proud, appeared just five feet in front of me.
” Why ya takin’ a picture of our ‘ouse?”
“I’m not taking a picture of your house – I’m taking a picture of this lady with the street behind her.”
“Dad, ee’s tekkin’ a picture of our ‘ouse!!”
Dad came striding over.
“Why’m yo tekkin’ a picture of my ‘ouse?”
“I’m not taking a picture of your house. I’m taking a picture of this lady with the street behind her.”
“Yom tekkin’ a picture of my ‘ouse. I saw ya bendin’ down.”
“I’m just framing the picture. I haven’t taken a picture yet.”
“Om gunna be in the perpa.”
“An’ I am..”
“GERRIN THE ‘OUSE NOW!!”
“I ay fuckin’ gooin’ in” chirped one of the cherubs of the gloom.
In a bid to show his credentials, one of the youngsters, a lad of about 10yrs (he couldn’t have been a teenager, he wasn’t carrying a pick handle or a hammer) spun himself backwards in his plastic go-kart, flew off the pavement and fell out into the road. “Fuckinell” he proclaimed, and I think it was some kind of self praise rather than a criticism of technique.
So eventually, I shot the councillor at 1 sec at f11 on a 24mm lens, manually metering the scene, with the flash fired remotely to give some modelling light.
I was quite happy to leave that area of Netherton. My aunt lived a couple of streets away many years ago, and it just seemed so different then. I grew up with rough kids, but there were boundaries. Mean streets.