Santa on the tube, Nov 2013
Back in late November on a Saturday evening I spotted a couple of hundred people dressed as Santa Claus entering Baker Street tube station. I snapped a few with my phone and asked what was going on. “Its for charity,” I was told. Still curious about what they were up to, I googled and discovered an international event called Santacon which is not about charity. Its about having fun and spreading Christmas cheer whilst dressed up like Santa. Of course it started in the US and as long ago as 1994 and yet I’d never heard of it until now.
Santacon London UK 2013
I was pleased to discover that I hadn’t stumbled upon the 2013 Santacon. That was taking place two weeks later on December 14th. I thought it would be fun to blog about it for Christmas. The locations were kept secret until 24 hours before hand when only the starting points were released on facebook. The only requirement to going was that you had to dress like Santa. Well I knew I wasn’t going to do that because my interest was in taking pictures and not being in them.
A snapper’s paradise
The nearest rally point to me was at St Paul’s Cathedral. I headed there anxiously wondering if I’d be shunned for not wearing a Santa outfit. I needn’t have worried because everybody was desperate to be photographed by anyone with a camera. I spotted a lot of long lenses and people not dressed as Santa asking those in the more eye catching outfits to pose. And all the Santae, elves and rudolphs had cameras or phones to snap themselves as well. This couple, as you’ll see in the gallery below, posed for each other and outside photographers. So I joined in and clicked away taking a mix of posed shots and candids.
After hanging around for a while I spotted a good vantage point for when the Santae moved off on their parade. The man next to me turned out to be a freelance photographer who told me that press agencies from all over the world were present. I discovered this gallery of Getty images in the Mirror online later that afternoon. He also explained that it was very hard to sell an image of a smiling santa but looking at the Getty gallery that was their story of Santacon.
Santacon London 2013 – my story
I’ve never been to an event where so many people were either competing to take pictures or were looking to be noticed. It was an overwhelming experience. As well as working out what was genuinely interesting and what was simply taking the pictures that others were taking. I discovered afterwards that there is a real art to taking interesting posed shots by looking at what was online later that day. I really like this professional photographer’s work, Gail Orenstein who has used a special lens to create drama in her pictures. They really stand out and she got one of the on the front page of the Telegraph newspaper.
Looking through my own work I realised that my favourite shots are the observational ones like the above. And I discarded many of the posed shots I took because they are very hard to do well enough to stand out. I kept a few in the gallery to tell the story of the event.
My other favourite shot is of these tourists who had turned up to see the wonderful edifice of St Paul’s Cathedral and look rather appalled to see it littered with drunken Santae.
There are three galleries this week because I love sequences of pictures to tell stories. Its the frustrated film maker in me. Best viewed whilst humming Santa Claus is coming to town. I prefer the Bruce Springsteen version.
The Santae are coming
Look at Me! – the photo love-in at St Paul’s Cathedral
The Santa Parade London East begins
Merry Christmas every one. And a happy new year for 2014. Thank you to all who follow, like, comment or simply look. Its great that you’re sharing in my photographic adventures.