Type the phrase “best thing to come out of Yorkshire” into the Google search bar and press enter. In the space of 0.25 seconds, circa 24,000,000 results will be offered in return. York – it’s magnificent Minster included – is surely one of them, the city itself effervescing history from it’s cobbled streets. The brilliantly named “Shambles” street, which boasts overhanging buildings dating back to the 14th century was once known as was once known as “The Great Flesh Shambles”, probably from the Anglo-Saxon word “fleshammels” which literally means “shelves of flesh”, the word for the shelves that butchers used to display their meat. Absolutely fascinating.
A day trip to York is something I would recommend to anyone. The Minster is overwhelming both in terms of its size and ornate architecture. The Minster’s current project aims to restore the Great East Window which contains the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in Britain, and was designed by a ‘grand master’ of glass art, John Thornton. According to the Minster website; “started in 1405 and completed in 1408, the main part of the window depicts the Apocalypse, and is recognised around the world as being some of the finest medieval stained glass still in existence”.
York itself is a labyrinth of shopping streets where upmarket names such as Mulberry and Jo Malone rub shoulders with independent fashion boutiques. Retail appears to be thriving in the city – the weekday of October half-term on which I visited could have been the Saturday before Christmas such was the sheer volume of shoppers (and plummeting temperature). The city lends itself to some wonderful photographic opportunities and I feel that my first shot captures the essence of my fleeting visit. A crowd of tourists – many of them International – gathered in silence, listening to a local guide explain the history of such a striking building – a fine example of masonry and craftsmanship.
I went to a fashion show the other day. A fashion show with a catwalk and models and flashing cameras and women craning their necks to get a better view – BlackBerrys in one hand, Chanel 2.11s in the other. True, it wasn’t Burberry or Prada – it was a local charity affair – but it still had the same buzz of excitement that is felt (I expect) at the London shows. There was the anticipation of outfits to come, the collective intake of breath when a pair of truly high heels teetered their way down the catwalk, a fixed smile on the face of the wearer with just the slightest traces of excruciating pain and absolute terror visible on their otherwise flawless face.
I viewed the show from two angles simultaneously: between the hilarity of watching middle-aged middle-class women air kiss each other whilst exclaiming “Dahhhhhling I haven’t seen you for an absolute age” (although maybe I’m exaggerating a little – being northerners not everyone was quite so, well, you know what I mean), and the sheer thrill of marking out my territory in the photographers area before snapping away for the entire show – my new Canon 600d flashing for all it was worth – I felt both out-of-place and completely at home.
At one point the models began posing directly at my lens – clearly mistaking me for one of the real press photographers when in fact I was only there to have a play around with my snazzy new camera and try to figure out what setting I should be taking catwalk photographs on(!) – and at that moment I felt so elated, as if, even for a moment, I was a real photographer taking photos at a real show. Of course I wasn’t – but it certainly felt like it for about ten seconds. I don’t suppose anyone goes from being a keen amateur photographer to being signed for Vogue editorials overnight – it’s all about practise and making a name for yourself in the business. I don’t even know whether I want to become a photographer; I know I definitely want to write and be a “cultural critic” as one of my teachers put it the other day, but I suppose photography and journalism go hand in hand so who knows?
One thing that is definitely true, however, is that I absolutely love my new camera. It has really inspired me to shoot more often, which is perhaps the reason why on a four-day school trip I took over six-hundred photographs! I haven’t progressed to street style yet, mostly landscape scenery and natural shots of friends, but when I do I’ll be sure to look for inspiration from several of my favourite bloggers: Jill of Street Style: Pics By Polka Dot, David of The Nyanzi Report and Dvora of Fashionistable. On a final note, I have chosen to include these images of the show, purely of shoes, as the first of what I hope will become a steady stream of images to document my photographic journey. Some are blurred, out of focus or simply bad shots – but they are my first, and hopefully not my last, attempt.