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Posted 20.03.18

Students hit the streets with award-winning portrait photographer Peter Zelewski

By Guest blog from Gem Pope

As part of the annual BA (Hons) Commercial Photography for Fashion, Advertising & Editorial trip to London, students took part in a symposium with a range of industry leading professionals such as David Ellis, Rachell Smith and Owen Harvey. Alongside this experience, the students were also offered the opportunity to attend a workshop with iconic street portrait photographer Peter Zelewski on the streets of East London.

Gem Pope, BA (Hons) Commercial Photography lecturer reports back on the experience...

On day four of our week-long London trip, we wanted to capitalise on the diversity of London and put together a street portraiture workshop. With this in mind, we knew we wanted to get a top London street portrait photographer to be a part of it and we were incredibly lucky to secure award-winning street photographer, Peter Zelewski, to jump on board with us.

Peter Zelewski works with students discussing his approach to street portraiture

Peter is a London based portrait and documentary photographer. Born in Detroit, USA he moved to London in the 1980s and studied at the London College of Communication (LCC). Through his fascination of people and love of the city, he was drawn to the streets of London to take photographs of its citizens which has resulted in two award-winning projects ’People of Soho’ and ‘Beautiful Strangers’.

His work has been featured in The Guardian,  British Journal of Photography, Esquire, La Repubblica, Huck, Leica Fotografie International (LFI), Time Out, Stylist, We Heart, and Eurostar Metropolitan. In 2015 he was awarded the third prize in the prestigious Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery in London and has recently published his first book ‘People of London’.

Students explore the art of street portraiture

The day started in Holborn, where Peter met us along with twenty-two of our students, in our hotel’s lobby. Loaded up with Quadra kits, Nikons and Canons, reflectors and sun bounces, we ventured towards Spitalfields in East london as our starting point. Peter gave our students a fantastic pep talk before the students set off in small groups, to different areas of East London.

We all spent the day meeting and shooting interesting characters, building up students confidence in approaching strangers, and understanding the complexities of managing composition, balancing of ambient light and flash lighting in a busy, uncontrolled environment. Luckily, Peter covered many miles of East London to make sure he had time to work one on one with each of the groups, giving them advice on all aspects of street photography.

One of our groups even got to meet and shoot the renowned artist ‘George’ of ‘Gilbert and George’, as well as the singer Mnek, who was at the time number two in the singles charts!

After a fantastic, busy day of walking, shooting, and talking, we all headed back to our hotel’s lobby where students immediately uploaded the images they had taken, whilst Peter supervised and gave feedback to all the students about their work. Peter gave us some great feedback about the student’s potential, and we plan to print a special edition of the best images from the workshop.

We interviewed Peter at the end of the day, to hear what he had to say about his experience of working with the students. Special thanks to students Harrison Abbot and James Will Jones for their work shooting and editing our video footage during our London Trip: