The fair in focus, as seen by photographer Adrian Harrison

15 April, 2019

Our vintage rides and beautiful fairground art attract lots of photographers to the fair.

In this series we interview and showcase the work of photographers that have visited us and get them to tell us more about how Carters Steam fair inspires them to grab their camera and shoot.

Introducing Adrian Harrison and his set of Lomo photographs.

Hi Adrian, can you tell us a bit more about this set of images?

This set of photographs were taken in July 2012, just a couple of weeks ahead of the London Olympics.

The photographs were taken with a Lomo LC-A+ camera, which is a Russian spy camera used during the cold war. The Lomo lens is renowned for a very distinct look, with a slight vignette at the edge whilst capturing vibrant colours. Very light and small, the camera, although fixed focus, has 4 focal positions; 0.8m, 1.5m, 3m and infinity. The focus and depth of field is controlled by a small lever on the side of the lens, but as the view finder is not ‘through the lens’, you do need to be good at estimating distance, because the focus can not be ‘seen’ through the finder.

I was keen to create the final look of these images in camera, and through the development process. This proved successful, as there is no digital manipulation or post editing to the prints anywhere in the creative process.

The real joy of these prints is the marriage of the Lomo camera and the cross processing of the film stock. Cross processing is a technique whereby, in this case, a slide film is processed by the labs in chemicals that were designed to develop colour negative stock. The result is a colour negative which has intensified hues, making everything even more vibrant and vivid, perfect for a fairground!

One of the many challenges that faces a photographer when filming on bright days, is not over exposing the sky, whilst retaining detail in the rest of the image. The cross processing technique can help in this situation, as it not only retains detail in the sky, but really enhances the blues and clouds.

 

As rewarding as these images are, the results can be unpredictable, and as the negative is affected directly, the results are permanent and irreversible. But this is the joy, and can also be the frustration, of film.

The resulting negatives give a print that has a deeper grain structure and colour depth than any post digital process could deliver.

What do you like about photographing Carters Steam fair?

I own many cameras, that capture light in many formats, and over the last 20 years I have photographed the fair with all of them. I have been very lucky that once a year, in July, the fair arrives in Priory Park, Hornsey, North London, which is at the end of my road. It is a lovely site, with the fair framed by trees on three sides. From my 16mm and digital film cameras through to digital and 35mm film stills cameras, they have all captured the rich vibrancy, noise, and life of the fair in their own unique way. But at the end of the day, a good photograph is about composition, and Carters Steam Fair gives you many opportunities to create just that. I find the fair so stimulating, from the decoration to the transport, through to the engineering of the ride designs and their set up and pull down.

My favourite ride is the dodgems, I just love zooming around in the cars surrounded by the swirl of rock n roll music. But the two rides I find most fascinating, and which I watch for hours are the Yachts and Skid. I could never ride either as they would make me extremely ill, but I love their engineering and decoration. Both very heavy rides, designed, built and decorated many years apart, they were both at the cutting edge of ride thrills of their time, and of course the Skid was decorated by Fred Fowle, the master of fairground art.

Are there any tips/ advice you would give someone thinking of coming to take photos at the fair?

I guess my main tips would be not to rush your shot, know where the sun is and keep your eyes open, as you never know what you might see. If you have a particular shot and framing in mind, set up, and wait, don’t rush. Wait for the photograph to present itself in front of you.

Can you tell us a bit about you and your work?

I am a Motion Graphic Designer and short documentary film maker who has worked in the broadcast television industry for over 30 years. Throughout my career, I have continued to take photographs as the world of photography swung away from analogue film stock towards digital. My degree in Graphic Design had a large photographic content, so I have always had an interest in capturing light, composition and developing the results.

As my career as a Graphic Designer and Art Director advanced, my work was seen across the Sky TV network for nearly twenty years, and can now be seen daily on BBC TV output. Now, alongside my design and photographic work, I make short documentaries and a selection of these can be found in my vimeo portfolio.

But despite a career in the creative industry, deep down, I guess I’ve always wanted to run away with the fair!

Thank you Adrian for sharing your story.

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