Kris Askey decided it was time to turn the daily commute to work in to a creative process. The photographer from Birmingham, frustrated with the lack of time he had to take images, used his time before and afterwork to capture the city and its people.
“I worked out I had about 28 minutes from the station to the workplace in the morning and had a bit more time after work finished,” enthuses Kris. “That gave me about an extra hour every day that I wasn’t using before. Then I suddenly had an extra five hours a week, just like that. After that, everything just spiralled slightly out of control, and I became a bit obsessed with photographing everyday life.”
Sharing some of the images on social media he has amassed around 8,000 in total. “Most of the photos I captured were quite spontaneous. I wouldn’t stand in one spot waiting for something to pop up. I enjoyed the idea of moving through the city and almost seeking the moments out, rather than waiting for them to come to me and happen.
I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of candid photography. I believe it produces real moments. Whether it’s at a family event or walking through the city, there’s thousands happening all the time.”
Was there a particular reason for choosing Birmingham?
No particular reason really other than circumstance. Birmingham was right on my doorstep and I had to walk through it every morning. It’s quite strange really when I think about it, because whenever I would go to a new place I would be taking photos of everything. But when I was in Birmingham for the first few years I didn’t give it the same treatment. I guess when you’re in a position of having something in front of you every day there’s a slight tendency to not realise it’s value and importance, almost taking it for granted that it’s there. I’m glad I realised that about Birmingham. The whole city gets a bad rep, but I’m not the kind of person to base my whole opinion from someone else’s reviews. It’s important to go check things out for yourself.
You captured Birmingham streets for a year – what kind of hours / days did you work on the project e.g. was it a frequent occurrence or taking
Opportunities when you were passing through? I started taking photos of everyday life during my commute. It was an opportunity to capitalise on the time it took me to travel to my full time job. After all, I wasn’t getting paid to travel to work so I may as well do something that made me happy during that Monday morning walk. Most of the photos I captured were quite spontaneous, I wouldn’t stand in one spot waiting for something to pop up. I enjoyed the idea of moving through the city and almost seeking the moments out, rather than waiting for them to come to me and happen. Sometimes you wouldn’t see anything for a few days, but then you’d have a day where hundreds of things would pass right before your eyes. Days eventually merged into weeks, then before I knew it the months turned into a full year.
Were there any particular places in the city that you found more inspiring or better places to capture people?
The way I walked to work couldn’t be changed much as it was pretty direct. However saying that, it’s not really the path itself that I was concentrating on. If you walk the same street everyday for a week, you can guarantee there will be a plethora of situations and exchanges that differ every day. I did start to venture out into different parts of the city over time, seeking out new vantage points or interesting compositions.
Why do you feel it is important to document the city in this way?
I feel like if you want an honest representation of a city and the life within it, then this is the only way to get it. I started to realise there’s a common theme with 95% of my photography and that is basically ‘People’.It doesn’t really matter whether it’s a model in a studio or an interesting person standing on the street. If you take the people out of the city, you remove the life from it. It just becomes an empty space. There’s a lot of photographers taking sunrise and sunset images of the city, which is great because they are brilliant at it. I feel like I’m doing something different, and more importantly I enjoy it. When I shoot on the street I’m shooting for me, and only me.
25 images have been chosen for an exhibition at The Print Room at 70b’ which is based at Park View Gallery in Kings Heath, Birmingham. Launching on 18th February for around one month the images will be available to buy as ‘limited edition’ prints.