When was the last time you got proper dressed up?
Guess for me it was the fancy dress party at my kids’ school. I went as Robert Smith from The Cure. That was a mistake. First and last time I wore lipstick. Running repairs all night and smeared all over the pillowcase the next morning.
Anyway... It does relate.
You see, each year, at Easter and Halloween, the seaside town of Whitby is invaded by Goths. Something that’s been taking place for quarter of a century now.
Why Whitby? You may ask.
Well, Whitby is the tiny port (more a walled sheltered harbour) where Count Dracula’s ship landed...way back when.
These days the Goths are joined by Steampunks and various others looking for a venue to meet up and parade. On the whole, the locals are fairly relaxed about the whole thing.
I was first made aware of the event when I saw a photog mate’s shots in a club. I was intrigued; stayed over with him and his family; venturing into the town on the Saturday.
It was quite the spectacle. Gotta be honest, I was like a kid in a sweetshop that first time. Took so, so many shots. Got some decent results but learnt next time to hang fire; be a bit more discriminating.
That was last April. Met up, stayed over again in the October. A little of the novelty had worn off, of course, but it still had that new and shiny feeling.
The bonus that day was the wind. At the base of the 199 steps that lead up to the famous Abbey, the wind blew off the sea; channeled by a street that wound it’s way up the hill.
This was cool, adding the extra element to the shots. Hope they didn’t pay too much for their hair does...some of them looked like Medusa, others like they’d seen a ghost; their hair stood up on end.
It’s cool up the top as well, because before you reach the walled abbey, there’s a church and splendid graveyard. A wonderful setting for Goth shots.
Back down the 199 steps or, if you prefer, the treacherous donkey track..it’s back to the cobbled streets; back to the fancy dress parade. On busier days it takes a while to get through the throng, especially given the wonderful array of characters. Push on down towards the centre of the old town and your eyes may alight on the fabulous fiddler singing old shanty songs; working a hideous looking marionette. The place alive.
Unfortunately, owing to a change of date and a schism in the Goth movement, the latest gathering, this April, was undersubscribed and very low key. Not only that, but the harbour was being renovated and was largely unvisited; certainly not as picturesque as on previous occasions.
The problem for me is, with less people about and less interaction, there aren’t that many ‘stories’.
Too many of my shots, this time around, were more akin to Street Portraits; not really what I look for. This also makes things tricky, as many of these guys shell out serious money and/or invest plenty of time in making their own costumes. But for some it’s not just dressing up, it becomes their persona for a day, maybe the weekend. So I learnt that getting candid portraits can be an art. You just have to persevere, and find the moment.
Preferably when they don’t look like they’re shouting “I WANT ATTENTION!”... to quote a certain young lady.
I guess we all have days like that. Absolutely gagging to get back to a favourite venue, adrenaline rushing, ready to perfect that shot. Then it just doesn’t happen. Still, we adapt, we have to. Got some material; albeit different from what I expected. The shots I present here are samples from all three visits.
It’s Steampunk next for me. My appetite has been whetted by those I first saw here in Whitby.
Slightly disappointed I didn’t see anyone dressed as Morticia from the Addams Family ..but hey, pretty difficult to walk along cobbled streets in a dress as tight as that...right?
Anyway...sure I’ll go back, sometime. There’s a wonderful vibe and fantastic characters. Just hope there’s a decent turnout next time.