London Art Spot: Linda Wisdom

Linda is a street photographer in every sense of the word, creating moments and images from lines and light and shadows. A stickler for great composition, she lets her art follow the words of Ted Grant, capturing Londoners’ souls rather than the colours of their clothes. Linda is a Londoner through and through and knows this city inside out. She was also a recent Sense The City competition finalist so you can find her ‘St. Pancras International’ photograph currently on display at the London Transport Museum until March. Then she’s preparing to participate in the London Photography Festival, mid-May.

Read on for a few words from Linda on what’s important to her in composing a shot and the delight when she realised she captured one of her favourite shots at the perfect moment.

LLO: How do you think being a born and bred Londoner influences the way you approach photography in this city? 
LW: I think I have a good sense of the city and the people of London being a Londoner myself. I know where I want to go when I want to take a particular style of street photography. I generally know where to find certain types of characters or to find some new shapes and lines for working geometry into a shot for example. You discover a lot of shortcuts and backstreets when you have been in a city a while, which are usually have more interesting things to photograph then the main busy streets.

LLO: You have one hour and a camera. Where do you spend it and why?
LW: All depends on my mood, the weather, the style I want to capture! I’m usually walking around from place to place so it’s difficult to choose a specific location, but I do love areas like Brick Lane, Soho and the City. A photographic scene can present itself no matter where you are or where you go; that’s the beauty of street photography.

LLO: Your street photography is nearly exclusively shot in black and white. Explain this decision. 
LW: There’s a famous quotation by Ted Grant “When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!”. I believe this is true in my case. My main objectives are usually on composition, shapes and lines, light play, decisive moments or character study. Unless a scene has strong colour elements in it that can only work in colour, I tend to convert it to black and white so you focus on the intended composition.

LLO: Tell us about one of your favourite photographs that has a specific “London” element in it, one that could only have been shot here. 
LW: This shot (below) I guess could only have been taken in London. I love this location in Trafalgar Square as this wall is like a clean ‘canvas’ background for a strong subject to walk past. It just happened to be raining and the pavement reflections were really clear. When I saw this woman coming along with the ‘I Love London’ umbrella I made sure I was in position to get the shot.

LLO: Do you think London is street photography friendly? Why or why not? Have you ever had a negative experience?
LW: I’ve had mixed reactions from people if they have spotted me taking their photo, but it’s all been mostly positive. As a street photographer you have a responsibility to respect other people’s opinions if they don’t want their photo taken. But if I’m ever approached I usually tell them the reason I took their photo, which is usually a compliment anyway, to which they walk away with no issue and in some cases are flattered.

LLO: Which elements are most important to you when composing a shot?
LW: Definitely composition. I also love using light elements and geometry in my photos. I dislike messy or too busy compositions!

LLO: It takes some guts to be a great street photographer. How did you overcome any initial fears or anxieties about photographing strangers?
LW: A combination of things… mostly building up your confidence over time – I’ve been taking street shots for about three years now. Sometimes, if you see a shot you really really want to get, you just have to put any anxiety aside and just shoot! Having the right kit you feel comfortable with and knowing your settings to get the shot as swiftly as you can candidly. Another thing is understanding the psychology of other people; I usually see there is a paranoia in their eyes or their body language change, when a camera is pointed at them and the questions they usually ask me suggest this. So, I now know what to say and what do if I am ever approached to resolve a situation and this seems to work.

LLO: Which photograph are you most proud of to date? Tell us the story behind it.
LW: This one (below) was taken on 1st December 2011. I was out alone one rainy, cold evening in Central London with my camera as I wanted to get some night street photography shots.  I already had a few shots, but nothing special. My camera was getting wet but I persisted (as I do!) hoping to get something I was really happy with. I got to Leicester Square and loved how when people where crossing this particular road the car lights between their legs looked really cool. Everyone was wearing dark clothing, but this guy stood out in his beige Mac so I took a few shots but wasn’t sure if I had got a good one. It was only when I got home and checked my photos on my computer that I saw that he happened to be looking up just at the perfect time and knew I got the shot.

LLO: Is there anywhere in London where you have not yet taken your camera but would love to do so? 
LW: Not that I can think of. I’ve taken my camera to most corners of London, but there are places I have yet to go of course. Street photography isn’t location specific, it’s better to be at the right place, at the right time. I want to go to New York City though to take some street shots!

Thanks Linda!

See more of Linda’s work, visit her websiteFlickr page or Facebook page.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

5 comments on “London Art Spot: Linda Wisdom

  1. Oh boy, this girl has a huge portfolio and unusually I didn’t get bored, some really good stuff.

    She is right of course, 9/10’s of photgraphy is composition and she seems to get it right almost all of the time… and with a great sense of humour too.

    It would be interesting to know whether Linda is trained or whether she is just a natural.

    Oh… and cigarettes… don’t you just love ’em… must be somewhere around 30% of her pics are of people who have been forced outside by the puritanical government, just so they can enjoy a smoke.

  2. Pingback: Bob the Big Issue Cat | Little London Observationist

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