Photography and travel have been inseparable since Du Camp and Flaubert visited Egypt in the 19th Century. Recording travel and adventure through images in photography (and painting/sketches) is an essential part of storytelling. A few imaging companies such as GoPro have even based their selling points around this necessity to have a camera as companion along on any journey. Even Leica’s own Safari Editions are testament to the people who specifically buy their gear with the intention to travel – the word “Safari” itself comes from the Kiswahili “Safara” meaning to travel.
Today, thousands of tourists and adventurers record the characters and places they encounter with Leica tools built for the road. Aside from time spent in America and some of Europe I haven’t yet begun to stretch my own photographic stories across as many continents as I would prefer, although one day I do intend to.
However, living in London affords my access to some of the most vibrant and engaging opportunities to meet the travellers who come over here, seeking the same exotic and foreign experiences I would be searching for in my own overseas travels. It is so easy to overlook ones hometown for opportunities to photograph with a global perspective.
In short, being a part of such a diverse environment means I can wait for the travellers to visit me. Living as close to the embassies and communities as I do gives me the chance to go out and document the culturally rich environments that are active but often hidden in the urban bustle of the city.
In November I was hired by the Asociación de Costarricenses Reino Unido to photograph a performance of the Folk group “Mi Linda Costa Rica” for their first ever presentation in the UK. The show involved a combination of concert and dance, in a changing sequence of styles and costumes. The atmosphere was light-hearted, and very friendly and welcoming.
It is always fascinating to see what elements of culture are emphasised by a folk group like this, as I find it often reveals an accurate insight into the way that participants of a culture view to be most significant to communicate to others. Whether that is food, or music, or language there will always be an element that stands out and declares, “This is who we are!”
Mi Linda Costa Rica was founded in 1973, and has represented Costa Rica since then in national and international festivals. Its members are experienced and passionate, and I think that energy is really apparent in the photographs. Their routine revives Criollo customs and traditions from Costa Rican folklore. The dances contained elements that represented a great love and respect for the flowers and animals of the country. It was a very visually symbolic exhibit of stories and rich cultural references many of which, I’m sure, were lost on me.
However, in the images I made at the event, using my M and Noctilux, I was able to tae away with me some of that colour and expression to share here. This was a high speed shooting environment, and the M would not be everyone’s first choice for working under those conditions – especially not with the thin depth of field afforded by the Noctilux.
During the dancing, I wanted to capture the motion of the fabric against frozen facial expressions. Luckily I was able to achieve focus in most of my shots and I’m quite proud of the results. The performers were very colourful against a rather muted, bland stage, but working with this contrast I was able to isolate the artists and create solid representations of their motion.
It was odd seeing this colorful display out of context, on a small stage in East London, and I do hope that one day I can travel to Costa Rica in person, to photograph and write about the culture and lifestyle first-hand. Until then, there are so many rich environments and stories happening within reach of the City just waiting to be discovered.
With thanks to the Classic Camera, the ACRU, and the Performers of Mi Linda Costa Rica.
Simon King is a London based photographer and creative. He works on advertising campaigns, portrait, and fashion shoots, and covers everything from parties to protests.