It wasn't until I was pushing my way through the crowds outside Trinity College that I realised King's Parade might not have been the best place to meet someone you have never met before. Cambridge in the summer reminds me of an ant nest, where tourists, students, locals, and professors trip over one another in the bustle of their separate lives. It is certainly not the easiest city in which to find an unfamiliar face. But: here is a secret joy about the flickr community I am part of. Even the faces of friends I have never met before, the faces of friends who live everywhere from Lincolnshire to Los Angeles, are faces which are familiar to me, thanks to my laptop screen. I had come to Cambridge to meet Louise, and she was sitting on the low wall outside King's. I recognised her instantly.
I've been part of flickr now for more than four years, during which time I've had the pleasure of meeting photographers from all over the world. I've shot with Rona from Germany, Kay from Virginia, Alesha from Australia, Mat from Newcastle, and Gina from New York. Something that never ceases to amaze me is the ease with which friendship moves from the online world into "real" life. Perhaps it's because we've Facebooked and video-chatted before, but I think a lot of this read-made friendship comes from having followed one another's work for so long. For a lot of us, photography is an innately personal medium. Learn how someone else sees the world, and you will learn a lot about what makes them who they are.
So it was no great surprise to find that Louise and I barely stopped for breath as we set off towards Cambridge's botanical gardens. I felt like I'd known her for years - and in a way, I guess I have. We stopped under a willow tree next to the Cam and talked about lenses and love and literature. Like me, she's studying English for her degree; another photographer caught between words and images. It was exciting to talk about my two loves with someone who shares them. We followed the river a little way and stopped in a field of buttercups for flower portraits, but we caught up with ourselves again, and when we stopped talking long enough to check my watch it was late in the afternoon. A brisk walk to the botanical gardens, via a meeting with a herd of cows.
The botanical gardens were full of pom-pom plants and sweet afternoon light. Neither of us had eaten lunch, so we stopped in the café for sandwiches and cake and conversation about our trips to Africa. I thought they closed at half past, so we strolled leisurely through the ground and shot a few expansions under the trees.
One of the best parts of any flickr-meeting, for me, is watching how other photographers shoot. I have wonderfully supportive friends, but for someone like me who's never been able to share in her passion with other photographers, shooting with another who sees the world somewhat similarly is a joy. Sharing tips and techniques and constructive feedback is what brings our particular flickr community together. Louise has a slightly different expansion technique to me, which I'll try out during my Summer Onehundred. But she works a lot like me, too: on instinct and at the pleasure of her subject. At least, she did the day we met.
A man on a bicycle rang a bell from the path, signalling the garden's close, but we raced to the stepping stones where I shot for my friends in the autumn because it's my favourite. A nice lady quickly shoo'd us towards the exit, though, so we set off past the Fitzwilliam Museum to find photographs in the city.
It was rush hour, but there are enough cubby-holes to find a quiet place in a city with such a loud mind. Shooting somewhere so prettily urban provided some spice for my portfolio back home. It wasn't long before Louise had to head back to Magdalene, though, so we crossed the bridge over the late-afternoon punters and promised to meet again before the summer was over.
Perhaps we see the world through similar lenses because of our love of similar things: books and writing and telling stories. Perhaps it is because we think in similar ways, about travelling and volunteering and academia. Perhaps it is because we have had similar experiences with disloyalty and found in images a means of self-therapy. Perhaps it is because we both like to be in our own spaces more than we like being in others'. Perhaps it is because our love for photography came out of heartache and sudden growth-spurts.
I'm not sure. But isn't it a marvel, how two friend may go their entire life without knowing one another, were it not for the internet.
Louise's photographs from this day: