‘More Little Dramas, More Little Nuances’

With attention turned to London for the Olympics, photographer Ronya Galka talks about one of her favorite images from the city.

By / August 2012

If one sentiment held against my city is the weather — too gloomy, too damp, or, as Jane Austin said, “too sickly” — then this summer’s excessive dousing, which has left London swimming in nearly double the average rainfall for June and July, is perfect fodder.

But it’s not disconcerting to hear these complaints accumulate like puddles on a waterlogged street; every city has its character flaws that dampen people’s opinions. For me, this imperfection makes London more memorable, more distinct, and that’s why, contrary to most reasonable people, when the sky unfurled a surprise rainstorm one evening in mid-April you could find me, instead of looking for cover, walking the sidewalks in the city centre with my camera.

Ronya Galka, 38, is working on a photography exhibit about workers in London’s financial centre.

This particular night, the weather had been really nice, until Mother Nature played her cruel joke. Pedestrians were caught unsuspecting. I remember people coming out of a theatre shielding themselves with their new, glossy programs and others desperately crowding under awnings. Luckily, I keep a fold-out umbrella in my camera bag. I took it out and continued on my way.

I had no interest in waiting for the weather to pass. A little water wasn’t going to deter me. I love the rain. Plus, I was eager to test out my new Canon 5D Mark III camera and see how it held up in the low-light circumstances.

As I waited on the Strand, at the corner of Duncannon Street in the West End, water rushed down the street, and I tried to avoid getting splashed by passing busses and taxis. Then I noticed how the raindrops fell fat and heavy before hitting the pavement and bouncing like little rubber balls.

My finger bounced with like-minded energy on my camera’s shutter button when the traffic light turned red and a woman walked into the intersection, barely staying dry under a little umbrella, because I knew I had been blessed with the opportunity to capture the city in a way that often goes unnoticed as people are much too concerned with how to get from A to B in the quickest, driest way.

You know don’t really get any second chances. You don’t get a rehearsal. A minute later that picture wouldn’t come about. I had to be sharp and alert. It’s one of those moments when preparation meets luck.

When I arrived at home in North London a little more than an hour later, my jeans were absolutely soaked and I had to toss my Nike trainers in the trash. When my flatmate saw me, she said, “What happened to you? Why do you look like that?” I laughed and told her the story, and how it was worth it, not only because I had a chance to go and play in the rain, but because I had been able to make a friend of my new camera. I laughed even more when she told me it hadn’t rained a drop in our neighborhood.

To do what I do, it takes a certain degree of confidence. I need to be quite bold, take a shot, and then walk on. And over the years, I’ve learned to be at ease on the streets alone with my camera, especially as I have become keen to the city’s changing faces. London starts as a calm serene lady in the morning, turns into a rushed career woman in the day, before donning an elegant stateliness at night.

I hope I don’t become immune to the character and individuality you can find here. I hope to see more little dramas, more little nuances. And I hope as I pay attention to the environment, to my fellow Londoners from behind my viewfinder, that I am able to get closer to showing the essence of what makes this such a wonderful and vibrant city.


— as told to Brandon Hoops