Up West by David Solomons

Street photographer David Solomons's latest project centres on the West End of London. Entitled Up West, the work captures offbeat moments in the bustling capital city, and here Solomon's outlines how he manages to photograph these engaging scenes.

When I first started shooting in the West End, like a lot of people I was drawn towards the busiest parts of town like Oxford Street as it offered the most obvious opportunities to create these chaotic looking crowd scenes that is the bread and butter of many street photographers.

I guess early on I was no different, and the way I would approach it would be to walk along very slowly and pick out a person or a situation that I felt interested me.

Then, I would position myself a few metres away and knock off a shot or maybe two.

However, they are extremely difficult to get anything decent as you have no control in what goes on around the subject matter, and I found the success rate was very low.

As I was shooting film at that time, this proved be a rather expensive and somewhat limited way to go about shooting a project, so I started to look for quieter subject material that fitted in with my brief.

Image copyright David Solomons
Image caption Oxford Street, 2002

I spotted this lady standing outside Selfridges and was just attracted by the way she was dressed.

I approached from her left side, so had little idea with regards to how it would look with the background.

I just took one shot, and I got really lucky with the rest of the composition and didn't notice the man throwing the window crawlers, until I saw the negatives a few weeks later.

Image copyright David Solomons
Image caption Whitehall Gardens, 2009

Most of my later work was more considered.

Here, I spotted the man on his phone but also the dozens of pigeons walking around him.

As I was shooting from a longer distance, I took about six to eight frames and had a bit more time to compose all the elements.

I usually decide quickly on one position and rarely move around the subject to find a better angle.

I liked the green tones in this one, landscaped areas and parks are often overlooked in street photography, and I wanted to show those parts of central London that offered people a bit of peace and quiet.

When I first started the project, I gave myself a pretty open brief - go to the West End and shoot whatever you think looks interesting.

Even now, I always go out with an open mindset - but as this project progressed, I started scribbling down the kinds of shots that I thought would add to the story.

I would often find rich pickings in Soho and Mayfair, but places like Marylebone and Fitzrovia were much harder to get good images from.

I also took the decision early on that Up West wasn't just going to be about people wandering the street going shopping, and I wanted to explore other aspects of the West End that I considered to be significant, like theatres, demonstrations, events, pubs, that sort of thing.

Image copyright David Solomons
Image caption Marble Arch Subway, 2008

This is the cover shot for my book on the project, and it came about in a bit of a weird way.

Normally, I prefer to go out shooting on my own as I don't like the distraction of wondering where another person is.

On this occasion, a friend of mine I was with felt sick and needed to go to the bathroom, and the ones in Marble Arch Subway just happened to be the nearest.

So I waited outside and noticed this boy playing keepy-uppy and just started shooting.

I remember it was quite difficult to get a clear shot as there were dozens of people walking past in front of the camera.

I was unaware of the Banksy graffiti until someone else mentioned it after I posted the picture on Flickr.

Image copyright David Solomons
Image caption Trafalgar Square, 2003

I took this picture after the war had just started in Iraq, I wasn't looking to shoot anything specific relating to that, although I do remember there was a sombre atmosphere around at the time.

Then, out of nowhere, this old guy walks straight towards me with an old war helmet on, I remember thinking, 'Does he seriously think the bombs are going to start dropping here again?'

It was one of those character shots that just had to be taken.

Image copyright David Solomons
Image caption Piccadilly Circus, 2009

There was some degree of preparation for this as I wanted to capture something of the essence of the well worn phrase "It's like Piccadilly Circus" albeit on a pedestrian level.

The pavement space in central London is ridiculously narrow compared with most other modern cities, and there are many of these bottlenecks where you have a huge flow of people trying to get through areas that were sometimes only a few metres wide.

It was usually so busy and chaotic that I knew that if anything happened it would be over in an instant and I'd never be able to capture it if I held my camera normally.

So I would walk along whilst looking through the viewfinder, and when I noticed this woman getting her jumper caught I was able to snap the shot within a second of me seeing it.

Image copyright David Solomons
Image caption High Holborn, 2010

I was walking along Kingsway and saw this girl with a missing index finger.

When she got to the crossing, she put her hand on her partners waist and I managed to quickly get two shots.

Some bloke saw what I was doing and assumed I was some pervert taking a picture of the other girl's [bottom], so he gave me some verbal abuse.

It rarely happens that I get shouted at as I'm usually pretty sensitive as to how people perceive me.

But this is the only time that it's happened where I was actually really pleased with the picture.

Image copyright David Solomons
Image caption Manette Street, 2007

Almost every pub and restaurant you go into nowadays has some sort of fancy sink with designer faucets.

Many basements in central London, however, are notoriously cramped, so there is usually very little space when it comes to providing decent sized washing facilities.

Taken in The Crobar, a famous heavy metal pub in the heart of Soho, I was drinking there with some friends and just needed to go to the bathroom.

I've no idea how the blood got to be there, I just got the impression someone recently got punched on the nose and came down to treat themselves.

I like the fact that as well as the blood in the sink, everywhere else you look in this shot there's something that has been broken, chipped, worn down or defaced.

Image copyright David Solomons
Image caption Strand, 2010

Homeless people have pretty much become a no-go area these days as it's either looked upon as being too predictable or exploitative.

I honestly didn't see the guys reflection when I stumbled across this scene, as I liked the bizarre perpendicular angle made by the crutch and the prosthetic leg.

I also liked the overloaded buggy, whose front wheels are also at an angle, and the other details like the tagged wall and Wicked poster add something about the period it was taken.

David Solomon's is a member of the street photographers collective In-Public and you can see more of his work on his website. Up West is published by Bump Books.