Saturday, 19 December 2009

Christmas through the window

Or living my life vicariously

The English are private and rather reserved race, but come Christmas they throw caution to the wind and push back the curtains...well almost in some cases, and allow us a little peek inside.
I have written before about a journey home from my gran's where I gazed longingly into the lives of others as they too left the curtains open.
We currently live on an estate of houses built in 1905. It is mostly intact apart from a few pock marked gaps with newer flats built after the air raids during the second world war.
I have always preferred Edwardian houses to Victorian because of the squarer layout. Our house is no exception. The estate was built buy a Scottish monied landowner, it is teetotal (no cute pubs) but was specifically built around the station.
The houses are very varied in style and size. There are smaller terraced houses, semi's like ours, then double fronts and finally the great big detached villas over looking the park. If our postcode was SW instead of SE they would cost considerably more. Yet tucked away in an unfashionable suburb of London we struck lucky.
Now we have a dog I thought it would give me the perfect cover to take photographs. The dog was however a two edged sword really, great for stopping and starting, not so great when just as I was about to depress the shutter he would give the lead a good sharp tug. I of course gave him a good sharp tug back and cursed him under my breath. he then gave me one of 'those' looks. You know the one? "Oi bitch this is my walk not yours, put the camera back in the pocket and move it!"
Trust me he can say all of that and more with just one glance back.
This was just one obstacle I faced to put this set together, (the rest are on Flickr although be warned there are a whopping 60 of them and that is with a lot of culling).
I noticed that the fake trees went up first, I swear I saw at least two people naked whilst lining up a shot! A tripod would have helped as keeping a steady hand is not easy in the freezing cold low lit night, yet I quite liked the whole 'hit & run' feel to the images. I loved it that some houses threw all the curtains back to reveal the whole tree whilst other, more allowed just a tiny peek, a compromise between natural reserve and a need to show the street that they too were joining in.
At least half the houses have trees in the window, some of the double fronts have one in each. A lot had a tree half way between the knocked through rooms and so were less easy to capture. There was an amazing array of sizes and decorations as for the lights... interestingly quite a few had no lights at all in a bid to be eco friendly maybe. Others had all flickering all dancing lights that are really hard to photograph as by the time the camera has measured the light they have moved on! It is astonishing when you think, this set is just from the few roads around where I live. I stuck to only our estate but was spoilt for choice after the last weekend when the bulk of them went up. It is curiously addictive and it will feel strange to walk the dog without the need to stand and stare.
Next year I would really like to do a corporate series, I saw a few last night and I was suprised at how corporate/conventional they looked despite the money available. So you know me, if I say it I will eventually get it done.

P.S you may have gathered I have finally learnt how to post date my posts, so to speak, hence a couple will pop up whilst I am away.


miss milki said...

I love love love this! I too am a bit of a peeper through windows & wish I had the nerves to do something like this! And I love Christmas time when you get to see everyones tree.

Have you seen Yasmine Chatila's series " Stolen Moments" where she takes photos through windows in NY?

materfamilias said...

These are wonderful, Alison! I'd love them even if I didn't know the story about you walking your dog, aiming the camera at the unsuspecting householders . . .

northmoon said...

So interesting, I too am fascinated by other people's living spaces. Walking the dog would be great cover.