This week I head back to one of my favourite West London stomping grounds, and take the awesome Paul and Sonja with me. Portobello Road has its own unique identity, with a melting pots of cultures. Plus, the place is full of colour; from the multicoloured shops fronts to the overflowing grocery market stalls, from the multicoloured terraced houses to the graffiti. I couldn't think of a better place to take a couple for a session and a hang out. Be sure to read through to the couple's Nearly Wed Q&A too...
West is Best. Living in Shepherds Bush for years put Portobello Road right on my doorstep. It had everything I wanted from a chilled afternoon; a huge market with everything from vintage to antique, independent clothing labels, a wicked record shop and some of my favourite pubs and cafes. This place had an incredible identity, it knew exactly who it is, and it didn't need to be gentrified or filled with hipsters to express that. I loved that about it.
It had been a few years since I was last there, but as I stepped off the tube my feet took me down my old route. It felt the same, it gave me all the same energy and excitement. This time, it was a Sunday morning though, 9am, not a day or time I ever spent here back in the day (I worked in a pub back then, and either closed Saturday nights on the bar, or opened Sunday mornings). This time, the streets were quiet; they were so empty, the morning sun was reflected off the tarmac and up onto the multicoloured shop fronts. Every now and then a local would shout to their friend across the street, and their laughs would echo up and down the road. The occasional sound of a car door shutting or a dog barking would punctuate the peace, but otherwise, all was still.
Gradually, as I got to the bottom of my takeaway green-tea, the crowds arrived. The tourists, the shoppers, the Sunday lunchers, the family walkers, the market go-ers... Aaaaaand, a cool couple in love with their own private paparazzi. Yup. That's me. The official third wheel :) So much of my job is basically photographing people having lovely private moments, something which becomes ever more obvious in busy city spots. Haha. It doesn't ever feel awkward at all...
Jokes aside, Paul and Sonja did brilliantly though. We picked a few spots which were tucked away, and kept moving up the long road through Notting Hill. When I was last here, social media wasn't yet the lived-experience-killer it now is. Back then, I didn't have to wade through endless hoards of instagram-lifers desperately snapping themselves and their friends in front of the trendy expensive houses and doorways. "You're in my way dammit!"
Jokes aside, it was the loveliest morning. We wrapped up the photo session with the most delicious Bloody Marys EVER in The Ginstitute, and chatted all things surf, music and wedding. Let's get to their fun Q&A, so I can stop rambling...
QUICK NEARLY-WED Q & A:
DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME YOU SAW EACH OTHER?
S: We met on a cold night after exchanging messages online and chatting on the phone a few times. The street lighting wasn’t great where we first met so it was hard to see, but I remember Paul walking down the street in a shirt and jeans, and thinking he was nuts to be out without a coat. If I’d known that he’d spent a few years living “up north” that might’ve been the excuse I would’ve given him, but I soon realised that it was because he wanted me to hold onto his arm and feel his bicep…
We got a proper look at each other once we got to the pub we’d headed towards. He looked like his photos (albeit a bit colder) and sounded like the guy I’d been talking to for the past few nights so I figured it was ok. It got warm quickly and I started peeling layers off until I got down to my dress. He then took another look at me and said, “you look strong!”. I knew it was safe then!
WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW YOU WANTED TO MARRY THEM?
S: Paul says “on a trip to Portugal, when he realised he’d found the one he wanted to spend the rest of his days with”. For me, there wasn’t a single lightbulb-type moment – more that I just didn’t want “us” to end. “Us” is our love of music, food, the seaside, and, … wait for it… each other. Awww…yack.
HOW DID THEY PROPOSE? HOW DID YOU REACT?
S: We’d taken a couple of days off to drive down to Cornwall before Paul started in a new job. He showed me his old stomping ground in Newquay and we ended up at a beautiful hotel at the headland where we were booked in for the night. There was a stunning view from the window and we watched the weather turned grey, windy and rainy. Paul then insisted on taking a walk further down the headland. The ground was covered in slugs, we were walking against the wind and when we finally stopped, Paul turned around and fell to both of his knees (I think he intended to go down to just the one but the ground was slippery!) and pulled out a ring.
My reaction – I thought it was bizarre that he was insisting that we go for a walk but thought there must be some method in his madness. As we got wetter and colder, I just got pissed off. So when he fell down and asked, I laughed!
WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES YOU WORK SO WELL AS A COUPLE?
S: Paul says “Consideration, love and booze”. I think we work well because we’re honest, don’t judge each other (unless it’s a particularly hideous outfit), share everything, have the same sense of humour and are able to make fun of and laugh with each other. We also complement each other in our strengths - Paul likes to cook nice food and I like to eat nice food. He likes to surf and I like to chill out on a beach with a book. We have differences in opinion and argue, but we move on. The pace of our individual lives just seems to match up, whatever we do. It just works!
These guys laugh a lot, and are the best company. I cannot wait to get to their London Wedding and capture what I know will be an awesome day!
Thanks for a wicked Sunday morning hang out guys, I didn't feel tipsy on the train home at all ;)