City Pancakes

I only really went to the City of London Pancake Races this year to meet up with other photographers. It’s an event I’ve photographed a number of times in previous years and I don’t really feel I had anything new to say about it.  It does have a certain surreal quality that I find amusing, and those taking part also obviously find it a day to at least metaphorically let down their hair a little, though this doesn’t stop the competition being rather cut-throat – as one might expect from the City.

It is of course all in a good cause, or rather good causes, with monies raised going to the four charities chosen by this years Lord Mayor – who this year was for the second time in the City’s history a woman, Fiona Woolf, a lawyer specialising in electricity industry reforms.  Beating Bowel Cancer, the Princess Alice Hospice, Raleigh International and Working Chance perhaps were rather harder to interpret for the fancy dress competition than some in previous years.

There was a small series of images of one of those taking part having his hat put on that had the quality of some ancient crowning ritual that rather amused me – this is the first of four on the web page. It’s partly those hands stretched down, but the robes give it something of a masonic or even druidic feel.

One of the photographers I had gone there to meet was John Benton-Harris, and it was an event that reminded me of his work from his early years in this country in the late 60s and 70s, a series of ‘Mad Hatters’ which forms a part of his commentary on the English class system.

Also present and taking pictures was another well-known photographer, Martin Parr, currently working on a project in the City of London. I’d not expected to see him, and found on talking to him that this was the first time he had photographed the event. I’ll be interested to see what he made of it – and the rest of the City.

It was one of the first events I’d deliberately decided to photograph using Fuji X cameras, with the 14mm f2.8 Fuji lens on the X-Pro1 doing most of the work but with the 18-55mm on the EX1 body.

I didn’t attempt to photograph the actual races and the rest of the event is relatively static, and the 14mm (21mm equivalent) was great working in the sometimes quite restricted places in the crowd.  Although it is a relatively large lens, the camera is still pretty unobtrusive compared to the Nikon – especially with the huge 16-35mm f4 wide-angle. Had I brought the Nikon I might well have chosen to work with the 20mm f2.8 Nikon lens rather than the zoom on this occasion.

But the really important difference is in the noise. Working at close range in a generally fairly quiet event (except for the starter’s cannon and the shouts of support during the actual races) the Nikon’s shutter is unmissable, while the Fuji was a whisper by comparison – even I could hardly hear it. Far less obtrusive than a Leica!

City of London Pancake Races


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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