In the third of a series of articles by members of the Woodford and Wanstead Photographic Society, Robert Gibbons tells the story behind this image taken on the South Bank
A few years ago, I had booked to see The Wizard of Oz at the Festival Hall on the South Bank and had arrived early for the afternoon matinee, which was due to start at 2.30pm. I always carry a small compact camera with me and decided to kill time by wandering around on the off-chance of seeing any photos worth taking.
Squeals of laughter drew my attention to an area where multiple jets of water were squirting from the ground at random intervals with children running in and out, trying to guess the right timing in order to avoid a soaking. None of them were successful.
After a while, a couple of young guys spontaneously started to do handstands in the waterjets, and it seemed this might make an interesting shot. However, within a moment, a mother and her small son entered the scene, beyond and between the two handstanders, and I could see that the child was completely enthralled with the action and mesmerised with innocent joy.
As a photographer, you get a kind of visceral feedback when elements combine and the composition feels ‘right’, so I put the viewfinder to my eye, instinctively framed the shot and pressed the shutter to record the ‘decisive moment’ before the scene changed and life moved on.
This picture was accepted for exhibition at the London Salon in 2009.
Although I title this photo Waterjet Handstand, at its heart it’s about the joy of a child experiencing things for the first time, and therefore has a timeless quality. I’m pleased I was able to record it.