Here's why I love photographing people. These pictures, of a 'Fun' dog show in Scarborough that I happened to stumble upon, say it all. My husband and I were savouring the Scarborough seafront, walking up to the iconic Spa Building when we realised there was an unusually high number of four legged visitors around. When we spotted one of them confidently perched in the driving seat of a bright red van we realised this was no ordinary Sunday Spa sight.
We wandered inside the sunny walled terrace to search for a cafe and find out what was going on. Dogs, children and hapless adults were running amock everywhere. The chatter of excited conversations and the intermittent barks filled the black and white chequered courtyard. Amidst the chaos I detected a pattern of people arriving with their dogs and registering inside with what looked like authoritative figures. It was obviously some kind of doggy competition. I might lose all my customers for admitting this but I am not the biggest fan of dogs. Big ones scare me, small yappy ones give me a headache and the rest slobber too much. Ok I'll admit I've been chased and bitten by dogs as a child so I am a bit wary as a result. Having said that I'm not a completely oblivious to their canine charms. I loved a dog once. It was the unforgettably adorable poodle my sister owned many years ago. It was called Nicky.
The day was sunny and warm and with hot caffeinated drinks in hand we decided to stay and observe this frenzy of activity for a while. There is something hypnotic about large groups of people, once you start to gaze your eyes get locked into the scene. More and more people poured into the courtyard shielded from the breezy sea by columns of large glass windows. I had never seen so many different varieties of dogs. It was slightly unnerved to admit to myself that I had no idea what kind of breeds they were. I can distinguish a Labrador (thanks to some toilet tissue ad) from a Sheepdog (thanks to a Facebook quiz that told me I'd have been one if I'd been born a mutt). That was pretty much it.
If it is still not evident what any of this has to do with my love of taking portraits of people then just consider this image. The happiness emanating from this stranger was infectious. Her smile filled the space and drew me to her through some hidden force of nature. I had to photograph her. I hope this image speaks of joy, sunshine, sparkly ocean ripples and humanity in harmony with itself and the universe. There is something magical about people coming together to do something they love and that brings benefits to others as well. With my camera I became a part of the moments in which these strangers engaged with me. I didn't even need a dog to be utterly immersed in the dog show.
After I'd snapped a few people with their furry friends some of the contestants started to treat me like an official photographer. They'd see me and smile to indicate readiness to be photographed. One young lady even tapped my arm and then pointed to her family with three lanky dogs. "Will you take a photo of my dogs please?" she asked ever so earnestly. Of course I would.
What was meant to be a gentle walk by the seaside turned into a spontaneous photographic project. This is why I love photography. You never know where it will take you and what stories will unfold before your eyes. The encounter may be short but the connection you make with people lasts in the images you make. A passing moment turns into a special memory. Just by pointing a lens at someone. It's magic.