Ciao da Firenze! I just got back from a 3 week intensive documentary photography course at London College of Communication, and it seems as though everyone I know is off on August vacation. School resumes in about a week, and since Florence is still about 10 degrees hotter than hell, all I want to do in the interim is stay inside with the blinds shut. I'll venture out for a cappuccino or gelato (or an Aperol spritz after dark), but otherwise I see no real motivation to leave the comfort of my apartment and its half-functioning AC unit. The solitude has been nice. After a 3 week long course of 10AM-5PM lectures 7 days a week plus shooting, I'm relishing the opportunity to indulge my inner hermit. Catch up with you later, society.
A few photos have resulted from those gelato/cappuccino/Aperol spritz runs... nothing groundbreaking, but I'm trying to get in the habit of carrying my camera with me more often. Here's a few scenes from Florence in August.
Back to the point of this post. As mentioned before, I did a short course in documentary photography with London College of Communication, and the experience was incredible. I'm not going to bore anyone with the details, but I will say that I learned a lot more than I thought possible in the span of 3 weeks. Admittedly, going into it was beyond intimidating. In fact, on the very first day, I ran out of the post lecture meet-and-greet after about 2 minutes because of nerves. Luckily, the group became quite close-knit over weeks of lectures, food and drink, and one very strange karaoke night at a Soho drag bar one of the other students was photographing. I'm happy to report that London grew on me, and I already miss my little flat in Camberwell.
For the photo project, I knew I wanted to do something out of my comfort zone. I didn't want to make another project based on street photos, but on the other hand, picking a topic that both involves outside sources and can be accomplished in 3 weeks isn't the easiest of feats. This led me to some Googling and, in turn, the discovery of the surprisingly active London speed dating scene.
It turns out that London often has multiple speed dating events per night, and this intrigued me for several reasons. Firstly, in the age of Tinder, who on earth decides that speed dating is the best way to meet their match? It's easy to laugh about the concept at first, but I had a hunch that most people chose to try it because they wanted to make a face-to-face connection in a big city. This is something I can empathize with. Being the kind of person who sometimes struggles with "putting herself out there" socially, London could be a lonely place for me as well.
I pitched this idea to my course leader asking how I could get permission to be a fly on the wall for one of these events, and her answer was simple: "Well, it looks like you have to go speed dating yourself!" In short, that's how I ended up going on a 5-minute date with roughly 100 strange men in the course of 3 weeks and then asking if I could take their picture. Requesting permission to take a photo has always been hard for me. I hate the thought of making anyone uncomfortable, so as you can imagine, asking strangers at a dating event if I could photograph them was about 20 times weirder. Some nights I came back with hardly any material, but the dates got easier as I went on.
Surprisingly, most people I met were perfectly lovely. I was right: it turns out that people come to these things because face-to-face connection in big cities isn't easy to come by. However, one cannot go to 9 speed dating events and emerge completely unscathed. There was the overly charming 40-year-old actor that gave every girl in the room an early-2000s era pop star doppleganger (I was given Avril Lavigne). One dude asked the girls sitting next to me if they would make out for him (unsurprisingly, the answer was no). After making our introductions, another guy looked me dead in the eyes and said, in all seriousness, "I have found my person" (totally not creepy at all). Someone else asked me straight up if I take my glasses off during sex. Lastly, and perhaps most horrifying of all, there was the guy that thought it would be a smart fashion choice to show up in Ugg boots.
In short, London was a little crazier than anticipated, the whole thing came together in the end, Florence is still hot, and I'm happy to be home. You can see the full project here. Lastly, for the final part of the course, we each made zines out of our work. Mine turned out like this...