I first got interested in photography at school in the 1970s. I was hopeless at most forms of art; I couldn’t draw or paint or sculpt. But the school had a darkroom, and one of the art teachers brought in an old SLR for the small group of us who wanted to learn the entire process of shooting, developing, and printing. I was immediately hooked, loving the combination of art (visualising the picture) and science (in bringing it to fruition).

My first serious camera was a Zorki 4, a birthday present from my parents. A lot of saving from part-time jobs got me a used Pentax Spotmatic F. Then, while at university, I settled on a Canon A1 after reading a review by the late great Victor Blackman. He’d been invited to a press junket at Brands Hatch and wanted to know if an all-electronic camera could stand up to the treatment pros would give it. So he put it in the grass in the paddock and left it there for half an hour during a heavy downpour. The Canon PR person wasn’t too pleased, but Blackman explained that pros spent a lot of time standing around in the rain, and the camera had just passed its first test.

The Canon and a pair of Vivitar Series 1 zooms (the 28-105 and the 70-210) served me well for a long time until I went digital. My partner’s interest in shooting film rekindled the flame. I’ve got an EOS 5 now, so I can use my existing EF glass. But I recently got an EOS 650 as a potential second film body. It came with a Canon 28-105, and these five frames were the outcome of film testing that combination.

I’ve lived in London most of my adult life, and Oxford Street seems to have been in constant decline, with more and more shops peddling junk to tourists. But on the way to the Photographers’ Gallery to buy more film, it crossed my mind that a wander along Oxford Street with a camera might be an interesting idea.

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This is the product of a Sunday afternoon stroll from Marble Arch to Bond Street. Fomapan 100 from a bulk roll in Bellini Duo Step (because I’ve also got back into processing my own film). They are possibly a little more contrasty than I’d care for, so I might return to my way-back-when favourite HC110. Last time around, Kodak Tri-X in the old-style HC110 was my combination of choice. For various reasons, I didn’t like ILFORD HP5 PLUS, but looking at today’s prices I’m not sure I can justify buying Tri-X anymore. Kentmere 400 in the new version of HC110 or Pyro 510 might be the next ones to try

Since I’d done no more than half of Oxford Street by the time I’d finished the roll, there might be a part two to be shot starting from the Tottenham Court Road end.

In the same way I don’t think photography is just art, I don’t subscribe to the idea that “street photography” is a special genre. There’s a little too much artifice in that approach for my liking. Rather than waiting for the “decisive moment” why not test yourself by going out somewhere and seeing what you can come back with?

~ Steve

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