London Art Spot: Carole Evans

Taking advantage of Lambeth Council’s SpaceMakers project, Carole Evans set up a photo booth in Brixton Market. Her recent project and collection, Brixton People, was a hit. Her photography has been featured all over London and abroad over the past few tears and she has, among other projects, participated in a portraiture workshop with attRAct, the youth arts programme for the Royal Academy of Arts.

Carole’s interest in photography spreads to vintage cameras as well. In 2008, along with a friend, she co-founded Photomovette, an organization dedicated to bringing back the old fashioned chemical photobooth, with four flashes and four poses. Soon the first one will be in the public domain for all to use…

For this week’s London Art Spot, Carole shares her experience working on Brixton People, talks about a disastrous photoshoot that turned out some brilliant results in the end and shows us some photos of people who live, work, or hang out in SW9.

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
I suppose it’s the variety of people who live here, the opportunities there are to see different types of art forms, and the fact that there are many creative people here who have similar ideas to me. I thrive off talking to other photographers and artists; and hearing what other people are doing can be very inspiring.

Another aspect is the smaller underground scenes that exist in London… for a couple of years now I have been dancing the jive and rock ‘n’ roll, which has opened up a part of London which stuck in the 1950’s. People are not scared to be different in London; and that in itself is inspiring.

LLO: Your latest project is “Brixton People”, also featured as a solo show in Brixton Village. Tell us a bit about the project.
Brixton People was a response to a call out for submissions for use of empty units in Brixton market. An agency called SpaceMakers had struck up a deal with Lambeth Council; in an attempt to regenerate an empty and derelict part of Brixton Market, the Granville Arcade, they wanted to get creative businesses into empty units rent-free, for a maximum of 3 months. They were encouraging small term art projects, so I applied with my idea of a pop-up studio, and was granted a unit at the end of January.

The idea was simple; I set up a photography studio in the space, and invited passers-by to be photographed. I wanted to create an archive of the people of Brixton, a record of this vibrant and diverse community. Each evening I would print some of the images I had taken that day, and pin them up around the studio. So an exhibition of the work evolved during the week.

LLO: How did people react to being approached for photographs?
The response was overwhelming. Overall I took 200 portraits. I had said to myself at the beginning of the week if I got 50 I’d be happy! Rarely did people refuse to be photographed. Printing the work as I was going meant people could see exactly what style it was, and what was going to happen with the image.

At the end of the project, I emailed all the participants with a link to web gallery where they could see their picture. I got some lovely replies back; people were really pleased to be part of the project.

LLO: Tell us the story about one of the most interesting people you’ve met and share a photo of that person.
I met so many interesting people throughout the project that I couldn’t possibly single one out. What was amazing for me was being part of the market community for a week; the traders look out for one another and help one another; it’s a great atmosphere and they made me feel very welcome.

LLO: What’s the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome to capture a great photograph?
Nerves. Taking photographs of people, especially strangers, was nerve-racking for me at first. But the more you do it the easier it gets. I began to realize that it doesn’t matter if people say no, they are entitled to their privacy and their rebuke is nothing personal.

LLO: Which photo are you most proud of to date and why?
Actually I think it’s one that I did for a hair stylist. I had convinced him that, in order to keep costs down, we could do the shoot on location instead of a studio. Typically, the day we chose happened to be the wettest day of the year; not ideal for any photo shoot but especially not a hair shoot!

After a whole day of somewhat failed attempts, I managed to get permission to shoot in a very cool retro fish and chip shop, which really suited the model’s look. I am especially proud of the shot of the model by the window, as it appears that he is bathed in a warm evening light… but my poor assistant was standing in the rain outside holding a speedlight. I am proud of it because I think technically it’s good, and to have overcome all those obstacles and finally come up with something great at the end of the day was very satisfying!

LLO: Tell us about your ongoing Valentines Day project.
I was inspired to start this 4 years ago, when I was single. I just remember noticing how many people were carrying bunches of flowers on Valentine’s Day. I was kind of amazed at the power of advertising and consumerism that dictated to us all that that was what we gave our loved one on this particular day. So the next year I began photographing it. My idea has changed since, though. Instead of the project being a kind of critique of the consumerism of Valentine’s Day, it is a recognition of flowers as a token of love. I like the expressions of the people; anxiety, anticipation, excitement…

LLO: Which other London-based photographers do you admire
Nick Turpin is a street photographer who also shoots advertising and is a great influence to me, both in his manner of shooting and his energy! Portrait photographers such as Nadav Kander and Jim Naughten, and many of my friends who are working really hard in this difficult industry! Sophie Mitchell, Manuel Capurso, Adrian Wood, David Axelbank to name but a few…

LLO: Favourite place in London to take your camera?
I don’t really have a favourite place… I work on series so I rarely go out with my camera to shoot. And if I do, it’s the people who interest me rather than the place.

LLO: What are you working on now?
I am working on a series of portraits, focusing on one of the underground scenes in London. I kind of want to keep it under my hat for now, as it’s still only the beginning and I’m just a little superstitious about talking about something which hasn’t been completed yet!

Thanks Carole!

For more of Carole’s work, check out her website:

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

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