So High in Soho

by Rachel Donati


Wearing 140mm heels in always a vertiginous challenge.  Finding your feet, your balance and your poise for a portrait is an even higher ask. So there we were, Tom and I, in London’s drizzling Soho watching the orange glow of raven black taxi lights bleed onto the patent wet cobbles; hunting out the acid neon light I am so addicted to for my portrait.

Naturally a little peacock-like I found it quite amusing trying to find space to hold still for Tom’s camera in the indigo night inside the gay rainbow streets of London.  It’s not an easy task for Tom to find the right places for light levels or just a spot for us to squeeze into, whilst London sometimes saunters and sometimes rolls itself past. 

Clattering girls, wrapped couples, strutting gayboys, drunken huddles; London’s streets has it all. And now it has us leaning into stripper’s signs in doorways the tart pink glowing in my eyes; slipping down alleyways under the guttering street lamps; tearing a muscle or two twisting in Madams’ forbidden doorways: all like Alice running down different roads with Tom the Mad Hatter taking the twists and turns. 

The lights flick on and off as Tom shuts the camera lense; capturing the journey shutter by shutter.  The challenge from the sitter’s perspective is that you have no safety net of an image to see. You’re committed to film in a moment and don’t know how you look or how the frame will sit.  The moment is captured and you move on; you catch another and another and another. You have to trust Tom to tell you how to move yourself and where to look. 

A quick heel change from YSL suede boots into beetle black Jimmy Choos and I sit on the stained steps in Charing Cross station.  Strip lights that make you a little glue faced; the dirty floor littered with London’s trash; I think Tom likes to mix a little grime and grit into his images.  Relieved to be sitting after two hours of walking and standing I look up and I think about some of the more troubling clouds in my mind.  That’s the shot.  It took a whole evening of persistence and tenacity but now there it is and remains. That moment captured.

Rachel Donati is a professional copywriter specialising in creative content and brand communication.  I Shot Rachel with Kodak Portra 400 & Fuji Neopan 400 using a Hasselblad 500c/m