This is how I first saw Rosa – watching the world go by from Bookmongers in Brixton, south London. I wanted to take her picture, but the light was all wrong, with the shop window full of distracting reflections. So I went inside, to browse through the secondhand books. Photography would have to wait until another day.
What was wrong with the light that morning? It wasn’t balanced – outside it was much brighter than inside. I wanted to emphasise the shop interior and draw viewers into the picture. I wanted the light to fall on Rosa mainly from inside. To create that effect, the light outside needed to be “turned down”. I would have to wait and shoot late in the day. My second visit was in the middle of winter, when sundown in London is conveniently early (at about four o’clock in the afternoon). I started taking photos half an hour before sundown and varied exposure times. Using black and white film, I didn’t have the luxury of instant feedback that digital cameras provide.
Shooting just before dusk had another advantage – it reduced light reflections on the window. A polarizing filter can be used to reduce flare and reflections from glass, but I wanted some to remain. In real life windows have reflections. In my pictures they’re welcome unless they become intrusive.
What is your experience of taking photos through glass? Do you have any advice that you’d like to pass on?