Lee Thatcher: Street Storyteller by Jen B.
When I first saw Lee’s work several months ago, I was struck by the uniqueness of his feed. It’s obvious he has a knack for capturing people in vulnerable states, letting us visually participate in their intimate moments in a way that only a great artist can. Lee’s compelling work always tells a story, one that is enhanced by his dark, moody style. His portraits are interesting and sensitive. Let’s hear from Lee!
J: Jen L: Lee Thatcher
Most of my titles or captions are just lyrics from songs that I listen to as I edit pictures. I try to make them fit the image but it doesn’t always work out as planned. I think some photographers’ work is strong enough to present without a title, however mine have titles.
J: Tell me about your region, where you live. Describe the people, the culture, the architecture, and the environment.
L: I live in a small Cathedral city in the UK called Peterborough. The city is about 70 miles north of London. The town centre where I do most of my shooting is really small. It could probably covered on foot in less than an hour. This does present a few challenges for the street shoot but it also allows me to get to know it really well, knowing where the light will be best at which particular times. The only real distinctive building is the Cathedral; most others are quite low-level plain buildings. I find this quite useful, as often it’s the people I want as subjects not necessarily the architecture.
Love on the filthy streets is so divine – Editors
Some people have problems with taking pictures of homeless people. I have thought about this and decided that I don’t. If I am out shooting on the street I want to shoot what’s out there, and in my city the homeless people tell the story of the streets as much as the shoppers, the workers and everyone else. I think what is important is how they are portrayed. I have made friends with many of the guys on the streets and these days I try to show a side of them that maybe isn’t usually seen. In this shot John can be seen looking after his dog on a really hot summer’s day.
Everything John owns he carries around with him and at night he pitches his tent just outside the town centre. During the day John sells the Big Issue magazine to make money for food.
J: What got you started in mobile photography? Do you have any formal photography or art training? Are you involved in other art forms?
L: I got started by taking shots of my family, soon they became bored with me and I just kind of hit the streets. I was out walking in town one day and I kind of just started taking pictures of people in streets. I’ve recently diversified by working on a few collaborations and I still enjoy taking pictures of my family but I mostly take street shots. I love the way that everything on the street is always changing, the light, the weather, the people, it seems perfect to me. I have had no formal training and pretty much learned everything as I go along. I’m not involved in any other art forms at all as I’m not particularly creative. Mobile photography is my one and only hobby, I could shoot and edit all day every day if I had the chance. Once I’m in that “zone” I kind of forget to do the other important things like eat and sleep, it can be a bit of a problem I guess.
Better stop dreaming of the quiet life – The Jam
This shot is of Wes, a local street musician. Wes came to Peterborough from London years ago and is often found playing guitar in the streets. He’s a really nice guy and although the crowd he was with demanded money for there shots (which I always give anyway) Wes is always up for a picture. He comes across as one of those guys who even in his 50′s lives it up like a lad in his 20′s. A real interesting guy to shoot.
J: Your street photography is often dark and gritty. I love the way you capture a person’s essence in your photos. What catches your eye? What makes you decide, “It’s a keeper”?
L: Dark and gritty, I guess it is. I’m not sure why that is, maybe the music I listen to. I do prefer black and white for my images because I find it easier in a way. I always seem to mess colour up and I can rarely get something I’m happy with. I’m not sure what catches my eye exactly I just know it when I see it. It could be someone that stands out in a crowd, an emotion on a strangers face or a non-obvious contrast such as a happy and sad person walking down the street together or sitting together on a bench. I find that I’m paying more and more attention to everything since I started taking pictures. I’m also a big fan of umbrellas in my shots, which is quite useful with the lovely weather we have here in the UK. I like to find the aspect of a shot that caught my eye and then try to isolate that and draw the eye to it. I love trying to tell a story with a picture.
This brave new worlds not like yesterday – Roxy Music
This was a shot from about 8 months ago, for no other reason I really like the way I caught the guy sort of half in the shadows. It was one of my first ever street shots and I didn’t know what I had until I got home and saw it. It really struck me how the shadows can really play into an image when the contrast is right.
J: Who are your inspirations/influences? Artists, other mobile photographers, musicians, etc.?
L: Initially when I first went onto IPA about a year ago I remember seeing work from Carlein and Edysia. It blew me away and made me realise the potential of our wonderful mobile devices. After I moved to IG and became more interested in street photography I fell in love with work from Koci, Konstructivist, Dayzdandconfuzd and TravisJensen. Recently away from IG I have been looking at some amazing work from Rinzi Ruiz, Bernd Schaefers, Yasuhiro Ishimoto and Tatsuo Suzuki. All these guys are a constant source of inspiration to me.
I always edit my images on my iPad as I listen to music, most often it’s to the likes of Radiohead or The Cure or Bright Eyes, this influences the feel of the images I think.
Our points of view not listened to, different worlds and different rules – Bloc Party
This shot again is one I really like for the contrast but more because of the contrast between the subjects, young/old, trendy/not so trendy. The title seemed to fit real well too; neither the young nor the old really get listened to and with the gap between their years they may as well be in different worlds.
J: Where would you like to see yourself within the world of mobile photography in say five years? Where do you see mobile photography headed?
L: I’m not really sure. I’m enjoying every day as it is. As long as that keeps happening I’ll continue, if I stop enjoying it I’ll move on and find something new. I just look to the present; the past and the future are pretty irrelevant to me. As for mobile photography I think it will just become more and more the norm and the devices will continue to technically improve. That’s all well and good but for what I do the devices are just fine as they are (better batteries will be nice though). One thing I do like about mobile photography is with the exception of a few minor technical details we are all on a level playing field, so it all comes down to the skill of the photographer and not necessarily the lens or the camera. We all have the equipment to make something awesome in our pockets and that is a great feeling. We no longer have to think that we don’t have the budget to make something fantastic when we have these fantastic mobile devices.
We have got through so much worse than this before – Snow Patrol
This shot I love. The subjects in the picture are sat outside the bank and with the look on their faces and an empty trolley it seems as through they have hit hard times. Chances are they are maybe just hacking a rest before they hit the shops and fill the trolley, but in my head I see a different story that I found quite interesting. To me, if I capture an ordinary scene and can present it in an interesting way I’m happy with what I have achieved.
J: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
L: I guess the only thing would be for anyone reading this who may dismiss Instagram as a platform which is full of cat, flower and pizza pictures, get in there, find someone you like or admire and seed who they like or follow and start building your list. I get more inspiration and joy from Instagram than I ever thought possible I wish I got there earlier, it just needs a little tuning.
Finally, thank you so much Jennifer for asking me to do this interview, I’m completely flattered.
Thanks so much, Lee! It was a pleasure!
Alone together – Daley
I saw this scene as I was passing a bus stop in the town and I found it quite typical of my town. A real mixture of young and old and each just keeping themselves to themselves. This is what I have found Peterborough town centre to be like for the majority of people, they generally don’t want to know you, they just want to get in and out as quickly as possible with no bother.
You can see more of Lee’s compelling work here: