Low light and night life in Wapping

Some photographers, such as the pioneers of street photography (viz Henri Cartier Bresson, Walker Evans and Walker Frank),
have sought to capture their subjects unaware going about their daily lives,
but some photographers I have discovered are turning things on their head, using planned, staged
shoots with models and rather than the subject being unaware, they seek to
catch their surroundings unaware.

Periodically, I’ll do a search of twitter for references to
Wapping and one tweet caught my eye (as it did WiW’s) about a photo-shoot in
Wapping. The tweet was by ‘NocturnalGirls’ which I’ve discovered is a fine-art (largely, but not always nude) photography project, which takes photos exclusively at night.

My own photography tends to be landscapes, architecture and
attempts to document my travels. The only people to feature are there for
scale, their incongruity in a scene or for my family album; the only books of
photographs I own are museum and gallery catalogues, a survey of communist
buildings and a book of aerial photographs. You can understand then that fine art nudes aren’t then something that features in my interest in photography.
However, I realised when I visited the Nocturnal Girls
Facebook page, that quite a few of the project’s photos include Wapping as a
backdrop, showing off its heritage and architecture in a slightly different way to a Wapping
Shindig history walk, so I fired some questions off to find out a bit more
about the project.
Copyright NocturnalGirls.com

Having spent many a happy hour taking low light photographs
of sunsets, piers, bridges and buildings, with long exposures I wondered how
the scenes were lit. Krukis who has run the project over the past five years,
uses only ambient light, which makes the choice of location important. The biggest technical
challenge is the need for long exposures, and as a result the models may have to
hold poses for longer then if they were working in a studio. So how does this
change the way Krukis works as a photographer? “What I have learned is not to
stress, take my time.”

From my casual photography, I understand the difference that
the weather can have on the feel of a shot during the day, and only this morning I had a conversation with WiW about this, but I imagine I don’t
feel it quite as keenly as Krukis and his models, though he acknowledges that
the models might be rather more exposed. “It’s not always fun in November,
being out doing this. I am glad I am just behind the camera”. 
One would expect it to be the models who are
keen to get home for a warm cup of cocoa, but no, Krukis tells me that they are
the ones pushing to continue the shoot when he’s too cold – “I am very
impressed with how tough these models are”
. Given a typical shoot might take in
four locations in an evening, I’m not surprised at the level of admiration
Krukis has. The weather not only limits how quickly he has to work, but also
whether he can even contemplate arranging a shoot- he tells me that that last
summer was literally a wash-out. However, over the past five years between
other work and projects he has worked with 40 to 50 models building up a
portfolio of soon to be published night shots.
For Krukis, the location is key – “the location is as
important as the model”
he says, “but sometimes, I can have an idea where I
think a model would look great”
So how does he choose and find locations? Krukis’ day-to-day photography work
means he is able to find locations in London and farther afield, but living in
Wapping has provided some inspiration. “I moved to Wapping two years ago, and fell
quickly in love with all the locations…I can understand why we see so many
photo-shoots happening in this area.”
Krukis clearly loves what he describes as Wapping’s “old
school style”
, so where are his favourite spots? “I have many, but I try not to
shoot in the same locations. But it has happened, and some of them are here in
Wapping – around some of the canals, and some of the steps going down to the
I imagine that snatching shots must be exhilarating, but
surely the shoots attract unwelcome attention? “This happens sometimes when someone
walks past, but from over the 60 shoots we have done, it is only been ones where
someone has called the police and we were then told to find a more closed
location to shoot on. But, we’ve had many people that are fascinated by it”
Importantly though, each shoot is agreed with the model – “I want the model to
be comfortable on the location”
Where next for Nocturnal Girl shoots?“I’d like to go back to Westminster Bridge to shoot there
again, since I was not happy with what we got the last time we shot there. I
also would love to do something on the Mall in front of Buckingham Palace, and
some of the markets. We have tried there, but security came too quick.”
Is there unwelcome attention from men wanting to sneak a peek?
“Boys seem to get embarrassed, and we have had some funny episodes with that.
Men on bikes, cycling past and almost ending up in the canal. I am not sure how
they would have told their wives what had happened”
Will local residents potentially bump into Krukis and his
models on their twilight strolls in future? “Yes, there will be more shoots here for
Nocturnal Girls.”

At the end of October, the project is launching its website, nocturnalgirls.com which will offer prints, books and more for sale. In the meantime, you can
follow them on Twitter @nocturnalgirls or on facebook. I’ve only seen a small selection of photos from looking on facebook, but (and without wishing to sound all arty) I thought the composition of a
post-industrial ‘The Birth of Venus’ on the ornamental canal by Shadwell Basin
was an inspired tribute to Botticelli.
Copyright NocturnalGirls.com
I wish Krokis continued success with the project and if Krukis’ plans come to fruition, we may also be welcoming Nocturnal Boys to the area.

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