I imagine my friendships as a spider’s web. Strands reach out in different directions; some towards college, others towards London or other parts of the country. A few have to stretch across oceans and bypass countries or continents to reach bloggers in America or Australia. Occasionally the horizontal skeins join one friend to another as lives overlap, often in unexpected ways. For me, the existence of this disparate collection of individuals and social spheres is a continual source of pleasure.
I’m always looking to add further threads to the web. Each unfurls the possibility of something new – another person to talk to, work with, enjoy the company of. They arise in a number of ways. The most obvious is mutual acquaintances, either introduced in person or recommended by a friend. A few were lucky chance encounters on residential courses or during events. Many have been found through London Fashion Week, with several street style photographers and other individuals met across the cobbles. Recently I’ve had the privilege to meet two bloggers slightly younger than me in separate cities, after long strings of emails. In both instances it was delight to move from computer screen to face-to-face encounter.
Such a diverse range of social interactions proves the irrelevance of age. Exchanges take place with people from fourteen to sixty-plus and carry a common theme – curiosity about and interest in other human beings. There’s a phrase that encapsulates this for me, taken from E.M Forster’s ‘Howards End’: “Only connect.” I most value the friendships that cut through the shallows and allow for this sense of connection – of conversation and debate, shared interests and contrasting opinions.
Talk between old friends has a different context than that of new acquaintances. One is characterized by ease and familiarity, the other often revolves around discovery. To find such new encounters, sometimes you have to take a plunge – be the brave one by igniting conversation with the person sitting next to you.
Then there are the other approaches demanded by pursuits such as street style photography. I experienced a nervous flutter on waylaying well-dressed individuals for Oxfam at Hay Festival last summer. Despite brandishing my camera, it still took a deep breath of courage to ask if I could photograph the passersby whose shoes, layers or smiling eyes caught my attention.
With photographer Fred however, I was in front of the camera for the images above. I met him after someone I know mentioned several times that he would “have to” get us to do some work together. I followed it up and several weeks later we met on a freezing afternoon at the top of Primrose Hill. I had little idea what he looked like, trusting instead that he would recognize me. His camera was a good indicator though. We chatted between shots, me taking very gentle steps in the green Office heels as we crisscrossed paths and chose suitable benches. A quick removal of the coat to reveal the sixties dress beneath was chilly enough to require a warm pot of tea afterwards. We discussed aspirations, inspirations, respective A' Levels and Cindy Sherman. As I walked back through the ever-darkening afternoon I paid special interest to the people around me: the dog walkers, the families, the joggers, the tourists, the couples, the lone strollers. Each undoubtedly had their own web of threads spinning out their daily encounters.
You can see more of Fred's work here.