Hive Photo Walk: a communal photographic event

As part of HIVEArts’ Photo North collaboration, a Photo Walk event supported by the Ilford photo products company had been organised. Representives from the rejuvenated Polaroid company and the Analogue Wonderland retail company were also present. When I arrived at HIVE the team were preparing to tuck into a substantial breakfast.

People moved to the upstairs gallery space as the time for the presentations approached. There was time to look at the exhibition and generally fraternise before he event kicked off proper. Chatting to the woman from Ilford I mentioned that the last time I had printed a black and white photo was in 1996, whereupon she somewhat alarmingly said that was two years before she was born.

First up to present was teacher, photographer and camera repairer, Peggy Marsh, who ran through a range of topics including camera care, film types and filters, all based around using Ilford’s black and white materials, as you would expect. This was meant to be a talk for beginners, but I found it useful and I’ve been using black and white film for 40 years. People were rapt.

Next up was Mandy Left from Polaroid. I’d picked up that this company had gone bust, but not how it had been rescued. Back in the day, the epitome of studio professionalism was checking a studio lighting set up with a Polaroid back. Now this isn’t necessary in the world of digital, although clearly film has never died. I probably won’t use Polaroid because I’m wedded to my black and white film, but again there were interesting insights.

It was time to start the walk and pick up our goodie bags, which contained badges, lots of Ilford promo stickers and a nice book of black and white photos, which is now on my shelf. Crucially there was a free film to select from a wide range of products. I thought we might get presented with a film on a take it or leave it basis. Naturally, I went for my all time favourite – HP5 400 iso in 35mm. There were 120 medium format films, but I’d selected my 35mm Yashica rangefinder with its street photography friendly auto-exposure for this day.

I had thought that this was going to be a beginner’s exercise, but if this was so, some of those beginners had some spectacular equipment including Hasselblad, Bronica and Mamiya medium format cameras. One guy was at the other end of the scale with a pinhole camera, a very nice one.
We set off from HIVE down Church Street towards the sea front, dodging cars and trams to reach the North Pier. I had found myself waiting outside the cafe for quite a while and with a free film to play with, dispensed with five frames while I was stood.

The party trailed out somewhat but stayed quite impressively together considering. People were chatting away but pictures were still being taken. Some rain turned up to make things interesting. I wound my lens to f4 and hoped I would be left with enough depth of field – it’s a 45mm focal length lens so there is a fair amount of depth of field to play with. Always shooting through a yellow filter loses an f-stop, one of the reasons I generally shoot with a fast film, but that filter means you’ll rarely have a burnt out white sky.

I’d never shot in a group before and had some trepidations about people queuing to take the same shot, which didn’t happen. It was a very sociable and pleasant experience. There seemed to be strength in numbers and people were shooting away with few apparent inhibitions. Non-participants looked on with bemused tolerance, even as they got photographed, deliberately or inadvertently. As you can see in the main photo, one chap decided to pose for me. This was air show day and there were plenty of people about. The only problem of this group photography was people standing in your shot, but I’m sure I was doing that to others too.

Our little group wound through Queen Street, passed the library and Grundy (where people nipped in to see the Bourgeois exhibition), down Dickson Road, into Topping Street, down Deansgate, onto Edward Street, through Cedar Square and back to HIVE. A thoroughly good time was had by all. There was time to look at Mandy’s wonderful Polaroids. Furniture was moved about and with people freshly equipped with coffee, more photographic conversations ensued, also the game of ‘who can get into this mysterious camera I picked up at a car boot?’

Another reason I use rangefinder cameras is my idea that a single lens reflex tends to make you a marked person. And I think the lenses are better, for less money. Standing by the cafe door, a member of HIVE staff spotted the Yashica and exclaimed, ‘Wow, that’s some camera!’, so there goes that theory. I also prefer a twin lens reflex with a waist level finder for candid work, the problem now being that these relatively big machines now also look so old-fashioned they tend to catch the eye. Hey ho! Using retro-technology is always interesting.

Coffee drunk, it was home on the bus to package my film and get it off for processing. I understand that there is to be an exhibition of work from this exercise. I hope it accepts digital versions of pictures, I get my negatives scanned nowadays and don’t bother with prints. I’ve included a few samples fom the day, which I hope you like.

This was such a nice time. Thanks particularly to HIVEArts and Ilford for putting it together. Let’s face it, I’m anyone’s for a free film.


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    I have worked in the housing and transport professions for several local authorities, specialising in policy, strategy preparation and bid writing. Having always had an interest in film, the visual arts in general, theatre, music and lterature, I thought it would be good to combine the writing experience with these interests to contribute to altBlackpool. In addition to writing, my hobbies include watercolour and pastel painting, photography, woodwork, cycling and vegetable gardening.

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