In Focus Friday - The Big Issue

02 March 2018

SIG: Documentary

This week Bill Brooks gives us a glimpse into a divided country. This photograph was another very strong entry in the December round of the Documentary Group's bi-monthly competition (link).

Hi, Bill. Can you give us a little background about the shot?

This image was taken towards the end of last year, as part of a short documentary project called Sleepwalking. This project explores the factors that caused Britain to be so divided prior to the 2016 referendum - a growing disparity of wealth, concerns about immigration, the growth of the gig economy, unequal access to credit and so on. 

What was your plan for the day?

On this particular day in October I was looking for images that portrayed the wealthier side of Britain and so I caught the train into London and spent a couple of hours around Mayfair and Bond Street. I found my desired shots of wealthy shoppers fairly easily. Just as I was planning to leave, I saw this chap, down on his luck, selling the Big Issue outside a shop selling luxury fashion. For me, this picture captures the story of a divided Britain very succinctly.

What’s your routine just before heading out with your camera?

In terms of camera preparation I usually work in Manual mode, choosing an appropriate combination of shutter speed and aperture and setting the ISO speed to Auto. With my camera thus prepared, I can focus purely on my subject matter and press the shutter release as soon as that decisive moment arrives. In addition to planned projects I also enjoy the challenge of finding pictures wherever I happen to find myself. 

While you’re out what makes you press the shutter release?

Like most photographers I take both planned and opportunistic shots. For my planned work I like to explore an area ahead of a shoot, working out the best vantage points and seeing how light will work at different times of the day. 

Where can we find more of your work?

In 2013 and 2014 I posted a picture each day in a Flickr 365 group. After three years off, I have recently started again and a selection of my daily images can be found on my Flickr site (

What’s the best purchase you’ve made for less than £100?

Definitely my Zeiss-Ikon Nettar which I found in a garden centre junk shop for £20 

Zeiss-Ikon Nettar

Thanks Bill. That was a lucky find. 

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