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Posted on 22nd November, 2011

The Notting Hill Carnival:

A carnival of errors?

 

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Perhaps I should think more about social aspects, rather than photographic ones, but I can't help asking. Have you seen the pics by Getty Images tog Oli Scarff of the stabbing incident at the Notting Hill Carnival? As examples of inspirational street photography, these pics are the bees knees! I feel so inadequate!

 

Revellers at the Notting Hill Carnival, London, 29 August 2011

 

I'm sure that the stabbing incident (see my previous blog) is the thing most people will remember about the 2011 carnival. In fact, many people will use that incident as an argument in favour of scrapping the event. Plenty of those demands were made to London Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson even before the week-end, using the English riots as justification, but I'm pleased that Boris told the detractors to get on one of his bikes. Even so, I can understand people complaining about the disturbance, and increased council tax that the carnival causes. (I exclude litter because I know how quickly Kensington & Chelsea council cleans up the area). However, I wonder if the people wishing to see NHC's demise realise that it is, indirectly, one reason why their properties are worth so much compared with those in other parts of the UK. Why, you ask? Because one reason so many people want to live in London is to be in the heart of its cultural wealth. And anyway, do these same people really think that Boris would tell the world that London is too unsafe to run such a festival? What would that do to your property values, Notting Hill residents? One final thing I would say to critics of Europe's biggest street festival: try living for a year in a town that is sterile and bland, such as where I live.

 

Anyway, as you may guess, the NHC is where I was spending my money, and taking my pics, on Monday 29 August. After shooting in several locations, I ended up late afternoon at the junction of Ladbroke Grove and Chesterton Road. When the stabbing occurred at the junction of Ladbroke Grove and Oxford Gardens therefore, although I saw and heard nothing, I was less than 200 metres away. Not only that, but a short time later I was in a fast-food joint on Harrow Road, when a less serious altercation took place between an elderly woman, and, a man aged about 35. Together with my experience in Liverpool on 13 August (see my blog 'A fair Kop'), I'm getting to think that someone up there is testing my resolve to be doing street photography!

 

My pics from the carnival followed a typical pattern: a few goodies amongst a large number that are bin-bound. Chopped-off hands, focus and exposure errors, yawn, yawn, yawn. With the chopped-off hands, I'm claiming mitigating circumstances, as many of my 'victims' were just too hyper for my ageing reflexes. I can't possibly imagine what they were on, but I'll have what (s)he's having, I think. I believe that the exposure errors were related to use of flash, which I hoped would simply even out the strong contrast that was present. Well it achieved that, no problem. However, on many shots, overall exposure was also reduced, to the point where the black hole of Calcutta came to mind. My feeling is that the flash was not recycling quickly enough, so a battery pack is called for methinks. Focus problems I'm most upset about, as I was again trying to convince myself that manual rather than auto is the way to go. Unfortunately, I fell into my common trap of not checking settings often enough.

 

Some people will find the errors I make in my pics to be laughable. However, I more often feel like crying, as sometimes just a minor fault turns them around, from gems into smeg. So, I can't find them funny enough to describe Monday as a comedy of errors. Instead, carnival of errors seems just about right.

 

So, it's try again on Thursday, when I'll be at the Bucks County Show. On Saturday, I expect to be walking the streets, camera in hand, somewhere in the West Midlands. The big question though: will there be enough Indian culture, and enough characterful people, to tempt me to the London Mela on Sunday? My next blog will say, but can you contain your excitement that long?

 

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