Stokes Croft is a small inner suberb of Bristol that recently hit national headlines after riots broke out in the area. Although dubbed the ‘Tesco riots’ (an unpopular recently opened Tesco store was badly damaged in the disturbances) a great many factors contributed to it ‘kicking off’ and different locals all have a different take on what actually happened. Rioting aside, Stokes Croft is also a fabulous place for a hastily-organised guerrilla photo shoots with burlesque performers.
With emerging burlesque star and Stokes Croft resident, Velveteen Hussey and assistant Hazel (making her assisting debut) we hit the streets with minimal kit to see what we could create in an hour or two to show off her Clockwork Orange-themed stage costume. Walls decorated with graffiti, brutalist semi-abandonnned shopping arcades and the infamous local ‘Bear Pit’ roundabout all made for beautifully grimy backdrops.
Working with not too much stuff, I simply took a standard zoom lens, a Canon DSLR, Canon flashgun and a portable light stand with umbrella clamp and a Westcott folding ‘soft silver’ umbrella. This key light was mixed with varying amounts of ambient light to achieve different moods. As the evening light finally dimmed, the ambient light featured less, with the flash providing most of the lighting.
The great thing about a guerrilla photo shoot is the liberating speed with which you move from idea to realising ideas. We set up a great shot in front of a seedy Stokes Croft ‘massage parlour’ with it’s retro neon signage, placing model on a traffic island in the middle of the road. The flash light was held a good ten feet away to approximate the look of car headlights and it worked well. Other images made use of the wide range of street art for colour and texture. Stokes Croft is not short of interesting visuals.
Despite Stokes Croft having been used a a sort of dumping ground for social problems over the years – drug problems and street drinking are rife – a thriving creative community, those living alternative lifestyles, stunning pieces of street art (there’s even a famous Bansky piece slap bang in the centre) and a large student population make it an exciting place to be that is far from being the most dangerous part of the city. Plenty of locals and passers by took an interest in our shoot but it was all friendly and good natured.