Friday, July 10, 2009

Photographing the Fringe on the Royal Mile

Being a photographer, one of my favourite locations during the Edinburgh Festival is the Royal Mile.

A fascinating enough place at the best of times - with its narrow alleys, historic sites and cobbled streets - it truly comes alive every August.

That's when the Fringe acts and street performers make the place their own, and the space between Parliament Square and the Tron Kirk is packed with colour, spectactle and noise (and photographers).

It is impossible to walk this section of the Mile without having dozens of flyers thrust into your hands by enthusiastically desperate performers; or to find yourself watching one of the many free performances on the temporary stages erected there. In fact, you can quite easily spend a few hours here without spending any cash at all and end up seeing excerpts from shows that would otherwise have cost you the price of a ticket.

The street performers are usually impressive as well: understandably, as the Fringe draws the cream of the crop to Edinburgh every year. Although their routines are often formulaic, they always contain feats that impress and entertain. I remember seeing the English Gents, for example - two bowler hatted acrobats that ended up being asked to join La Clique as a result of their quite outstanding street show.

From a photographic perspective, the Royal Mile is a goldmine. Artists and acts are constantly trying to outdo each other in terms of costumes or original ways to promote their acts (you will always come across a group lying down on the ground pretending to be dead, for example). And, being performers on a promotional mission, they are always happy to play up for the camera, resulting in shots that you'd be struggling to get otherwise. And of course, there are always the extremely photogenic opera singing Redman sisters...

The one exception to this rule are the living statue type mime artists, who will often expect (and in some cases demand) money for the privilege of taking their picture. Worst offender of all tends to be the 'Most Pierced Woman in the World', a notorious Edinburgh resident, who can often be seen hounding people for a somewhat unreasonable £5 photo fee. I'd advise you to avoid these - there's plenty more material out there on offer from performers only too delighted to pose for you for free.

With the explosion of digital photography over recent years, you may feel that photographers outnumber the performers at times, but if you're wanting to capture something unique, colourful and memorable, head to the Royal Mile with your camera ready and you'll not be disappointed.

Me, I'll be there every single day - even when it's raining.

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