We sat down with Richard Morgan to discuss his London Street Photography courses at City Academy, what photography means to him and how to find joy in this particular hobby!
Street Photography is the most serious and the most fun thing in the world. And in my London Street Photography courses for City Academy I centre the students’ learning experience around this wonderful paradox. On the one hand, I show why street photography is a serious documentary and artistic practice, concerned with interpreting and representing our world and the times we live in. On the other, I want students to feel the fun of street photography, to understand that on some level it’s just pure play, that it’s walking and looking and thinking for the sake of it, that it allows your carefree curiosity to run wild.
And I think it is exactly because street photography is such serious fun that I became hooked on it as both photographer and photography tutor. It is why I keep heading back to the streets with my camera time and time again. Perhaps it’s to do with satisfying my desire to be both adult and child, to keep hold of and enjoy those two phases of life that constitute the human experience. You see, I want to be an adult and a child for as long as possible, and to nurture and let grow these parts of myself: I want the responsibility of adulthood, its weight, its self-awareness, its ambition. Yet, I also need the inquisitiveness of a child, its lightness, its tendency to forget oneself, its exploratory nature.
So, in my London Street Photography courses for City Academy, to help students take their craft to the next level, I develop their skills both as adults and children. Yes, we study very intentional and self-aware things like composition, framing, capturing the moment, and working with different light, and we take our cameras out to the streets to practice them ourselves. Yet alongside these rather ‘mature’ ways of learning, are more childlike experiences at the heart of the process. How to explore, how to see, how to interact with and photograph strangers are always high on the list of things students want to learn. And what it takes to get better and more confident with these things is not so much learning as unlearning: letting go of the fear of social judgement; forgetting, temporarily, yourself, how you look, what others think; adopting a carefree mindset, the mindset of a child as it explores the world through play.
The result is a very dynamic and fluid street photography experience, where students spend time doing both serious technical exercises as well as simply having fun in the city as if it were a playground. For every practice in compositional discipline, there are playful experiments with reflections, contrast, and colour; for every lesson in light exposure settings there are interactions with, and portraits made of strangers; and for every exercise in focusing, there is the curious pursuit of one’s instincts down an alleyway, just in case there’s some wonder of the world just waiting to be admired, photographed, and shared with others.
What I want students to take away is the idea that street photography is so much more than how to use a camera to take pictures in the city. It’s about developing a sensitivity to the world, learning to read scenes and situations as they unfold around you, and how, as adults and children, to be attentive to the poems of life in the public realm that move you. I want students to appreciate how street photography is a powerful artform that can change your life and the lives of people you meet, as well as being a hobby that anyone can take up and practice anywhere, anytime, in any way they want.
Richard Morgan is an award-winning street and social documentary photographer. He has worked on numerous commissioned projects, residencies, and scholarships across Poland, Russia, Italy, China, USA, and the UK. Richard left Poland to work on two major commissions for The Independent, the first documenting everyday life on the streets of Kaliningrad during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, the second a six-month exploration of the contrasts of modern Britain on the eve of Brexit. Richard’s work has appeared in exhibitions in London, Venice, and Poznan, and published in The Independent, The Guardian, The Telegraph, TimeOut, BBC Russian, and Daily Mail.
For more information on London Street Photography and to book your place on the course, click here.