5 Frames Cut from The Summer of ’20 – by Simon King / New Exit Group

In 2019 I co-founded a documentary photography movement with fellow photographers David Babaian, Andrew Blowers and Sagar Kharecha, with the intention of representing local stories in a strong and intimate way. The goals of our group have shifted from our founding objectives, but our heart and vision is dedicated to photographic storytelling with an emotional core. Together as New Exit Group we set out to explore what was available to us, and how we could tackle the different situations as a collective rather than individuals which is how we’re used to working.

We have recently finished work on our collaborative zine, titled BARDO: The Summer of ’20, which contains documentary work made from April to August 2020. Our curation process involved editing down from 400+ prints to just under 90 for the final sequence. That’s a lot of work to cut, but that doesn’t mean that those images were especially bad; just that they did not fit into the flow of the narrative of the zine.

Presented here are five images that did not make it into this zine, and one which did, along with a short write up about each.

This photograph was made by David Babaian on Tri-X with his 28mm Zeiss lens and M4-P. We spent a lot of time at protests, and shot as many variations on “tropes” as we did original (in our opinion) work. There will definitely be an opportunity for us to produce a zine entirely based around civil unrest, but we did not want BARDO to be entirely about protest, so many of these needed to be cut.

Another protest image, this time by Andrew Blowers, and a very minimal execution of a common sight – a protestor sat at the back of a Police van. Not an easy image to make due to the parallax found on rangefinder cameras – perfect alignment of the eye through the slit of the door would require some very precise adjustments! Andrew shot this on HP5+, and with a 50mm Zeiss Planar lens on his M4-P.

A peaceful scene shot by Sagar Kharecha in his local area of Milton Keynes. Sagar has been documenting some of the religious ceremonies which take place near the Nipponzan Myohoji, as well as other temples in the neighbourhood. This was photographed during a memorial for the nuclear strikes on Hiroshima in August. Sagar limited himself to a Nikon F2 with a 50mm 1.8 for most of the summer.

This character was a common encounter at the height of lockdown, always in the crossings at Oxford Circus, even when cars were speeding past him. I (Simon) photographed this scene on XP2, but a different angle and interpretation by Sagar Kharecha taken of the same man (who I believe is called Owen based on other interactions we’ve had since then) at a different point made it into the zine instead. The isolation here, organic and fabric based person with hand out towards the cold indifferent machines he is framed by, was what drew my attention, but Sagar’s image is much better and emphasises these themes in a clearer way.

This photograph features on the last page of our zine, and shows our shadows at the end of a long day photographing in Margate. It was taken by David Babaian on Tri-X, with his 28mm Zeiss lens and M4-P.

Thanks for taking the time to look through our work here – if you enjoyed what we’re doing, please consider checking out the zine itself, or just having a look at our website which has a little more context on what we’re trying to achieve through film-based documentary photography. You can also reach out to us on Instagram!

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8 thoughts on “5 Frames Cut from The Summer of ’20 – by Simon King / New Exit Group”

  1. Dear New Exit Group,
    You’re off to a fine start.
    I grew up on images published in LIFE magazine in the 1960’s, so your work is like meeting an old friend who has kept their moral integrity intact throughout the decades. I’m not implying that you’re repeating images seen before. You’re showing us that some things have not changed and still need to be addressed. The 21st century has not ben kind to many groups. Your work also lets our humanity show through.
    One quibble – was it necessary to identify the man wrapped in a sleeping bag (?) as a “character?” As you say, he’s living rough. He’s also someone’s son, may be a brother, an uncle and has been loved and loved people. He’s battling demons. Don’t strip him of his dignity by calling him “a character.”
    It’s just personal with me.

    1. Thanks Daniel, we really appreciate your comment!

      I think the “character” dilemma is an interesting one – for me I prefer referring to people as characters than subjects, which I think is less personal. To me character implies depth and connection, where subject is more photographic utility.
      I’d be open to hear if you have a suggestion to replace character, but please do understand there was no ill intent by me referring to him in that way!

  2. Hi Simon, I clicked through and had a look at BARDO; looks great! It was nice to read that it has been well subscribed. Good luck with it and other New Exit Group projects.

  3. Hi Simon,
    Just recovered for my annual ‘turkey coma’ induced by a great Thanksgiving dinner. We followed CDC guidelines as we visited my brother & his wife. Whew!
    Did anyone in your cooperative think of asking the man his name? Why not call him by his name? If he didn’t want to reveal his name, then say ‘this person has been spotted at several demonstrations…’
    I would generally define a person a ‘character’ if they made a deliberate choice to look at society norms and decide to not follow some or all of them.
    A person who suffers from an addiction or mental illness isn’t a character. We label them, they don’t seek the identification. The are vulnerable, more often than not the victims of abuse and ridicule. Labels don’t help.
    I’ve followed your work and enjoyed your many postings. You consistently display a unique eye.
    I never once thought you meant any ill intent. It’s not in your bones.

    1. Glad you managed to celebrate, and glad you managed to safely see family! I hope all have a wonderful winter.
      If you mean the man featured in my photograph here, he wasn’t a frequent at protests or demonstrations, just a regular appearance in the middle of Oxford Circus. All of us in the group do our best to engage when appropriate, although some prefer to be left alone.
      When Sagar made his photograph of him I remember they did speak about some of the “muscle cars” that were passing us by on the road, he was friendly and good natured. I don’t tend to ask many people their names, but that’s a personal thing, it’s not usually something that jumps to mind when chatting, unless they ask me mine first. Again, I think it’s just different ways of interacting with the world.

      I would say that everyone has potential to be seen as a character, and through photography we can identify aspects of people that would sometimes be overlooked, and enhance the everyday to the level of the “epic”, rendering that character for all to see. I really understand where you’re coming from with your own definition, and these comments have made me look at the way I write about the people in my images, and the different ways they can be interpreted.
      At the very least I think my image did him justice and that’s what matters to me; anything else is commentary.
      Thanks again for the discussion!

      1. Just saw this and thought it might be worth mentioning that I think this example of thoughtful, intelligent and respectful discussion between Simon and Dan is one of the good things about 35mmc. All readers stand to benefit from it. (As an aside, in Australia a “character” generally means someone who is perhaps a bit extraverted and who is happy to display their personality. I’m not sure if this relates to the discussion or not.)

      2. Hi Simon,
        This could be a great topic to discuss over a beer! Then we’d grab our gear and go out shooting…
        I want to return the wish of a happy, healthy winter to you, your family and friends. Hang in there; the vaccines will finally put us on the offensive to beat back this terrible virus.
        Merry Christmas.

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