Listen to a Londoner: Steve Cotton

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email

Steve Cotton

Steve likes street art, graffiti, punk music and taking walks with his camera. His website Art Of The State shows off some stunning images of London’s most impressive street art and all sorts of other London-y stuff (it’s a perfect place to procrastinate, but don’t say I encouraged you).

LLO: How long have you lived in London?
SC: Since I was three years old – any more of an answer would be telling you my age!

LLO: Tell us about your website, Art Of The State.
SC: Art Of The State is just a reflection on the parts of London that catch my eye. Typically that’s architecture, street art and punk rock, but over recent years it has pretty much expanded to anything worth taking a picture of. So recent updates have included the stair case of the Monument and Southgate Tube station.

LLO: Where are your favourite places in London to discover random graffiti or other street art?
SC: Well the best place to discover street art is around Shoreditch, but that’s not my favourite place. It’s kind of a jaded scene around Shoreditch. You could drive a full size paper mache buffalo spinning plates of jelly on the front of a neon triple decker bus around there and nobody would bat an eyelid because they’re so used to ‘urban art interventions’. So the answer I would give to this question is where you would least expect it – seeing a tag by serial rail trackside graffiti vandal 10Foot in the toilets of ‘mums with their chums’ eatery Giraffe on the South Bank ranks pretty highly on this scale.

LLO: Best part about living in your postcode?
SC: Hmmm, good question. I’m not sure there is a best part so I looked up my post code on That didn’t really help – it just went on about single parents, betting, bingo and satellite TV being popular pastimes and then oddly said that the Scottish Record was the most popular paper. So really I think the best things are the A30 and Tube into Central London. I realise that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of where I live.

LLO: Who are the most impressive punk bands around London these days and where’s the best place to catch a gig?
SC: I like Refuse/All for straight down the line / no nonsense punk. I go to see them at the Fighting Cocks in Kingston, but I understand other venues are available. I also like Gallows, but I’m not terribly sure if they’re cool or not. Whatever, I often play their song ‘Misery’ on the iPod when walking around London. It just works really well, it’s a slow burner but by the time it’s finished I’m normally up for whatever is next.

LLO: Any cool new up-and-coming London-based street artists to look out for?
SC: Really London is pretty quiet at the moment regarding street art. That said ROA’s animals are pretty neat. Most of the work is by out of towners and often on walls where they have been granted permission. Graffiti on the other hand is kicking on in my humble opinion. Old hands like Shok-1 and Lovepusher are in a league of their own with their respective styles but are only working legally as far as I know. Illegally, the nine members of Burning Candy are some of the most prolific often working up at rooftop level to avoid their work getting removed. They’re really getting about – a trip down the new London Overground line through Shoreditch will get you first class views of lots of BC member Mighty Mo’s work.

LLO: Favourite established London-based artists who started their work on the streets?
SC: Got to be Banksy and Dface as established artists. Banksy is still on the streets, Dface less so – which is a shame as he had scale and ambition.

LLO: Do you think the way street art is viewed in London has changed since you started photographing it back in 2001?
SC: Yeah. Back in 2001, I was photographing a stencil near Vinopolis and I got a mouthful of abuse from a dustcart truck driver along the lines of “Oi saddo, what do you want to photograph that for.” I could have pointed out to him that he was wearing a Spurs shirt, but that’s another story. Anyway fast forward to 2008 and I’m in the same location and another dustcart pulls up. This time a different driver sees me taking a photo, gets out of his cab and proceeds to reel off the location and names of all the street art he has spotted on his round. All the talk used to be of vandalism but now it’s all “Banksy…blah…blah…£100,000”. All the stories in the paper seem to be centred around the money street art is supposedly worth.

LLO: Where is your favourite place in London to take your camera if you’re not photographing street art?
SC: Probably along the South Bank – there is always something going on there no matter what time of year it is. I like the highs and lows of London too. I love to go high up on the roofs of the tallest buildings and down in the depths on it’s dark, dank tunnels – but getting access is always hard.

LLO: Share one of your favourite shots with us?
SC: This is taken on the South Bank. Rain and the light at dusk really add something to a scene. I watched this man waiting forlornly in the drizzle with an umbrella and a bunch of flowers in his hand. Seconds after I took this picture he kind of shrugged his shoulders and threw the flowers into the Thames. It’s a picture for me but for him I guess it could have been a total turning point in his life.

Thanks Steve!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

2 comments on “Listen to a Londoner: Steve Cotton

  1. Fantastic interview! Always so interesting to hear about London from a different perspective… I took a look at Art of the State too – some really great images – definitely worth checking out!

    A good start to my Saturday. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s