London Art Spot: Nigel Tufnell

A note: Just a quick word before I introduce Nigel. You may have noticed that I haven’t posted here in about a month besides that entry last week and the past few posts have been interviews. If you read Little Observationist, you’ll know I’ve had a bit of a busy and rough month! I had been travelling for a few weeks and then came back to London only to have emergency eye surgery two days later which has left me housebound for about three weeks. Needless to say, I have not been out and about in London for quite a while so I haven’t been able to create content for LLO. However, hopefully I am on the mend and will be back soon. In the meantime, I bring you an interview with one of my favourite London photographers, Nigel Tufnell!


I’ve featured the wonderful portraits of London strangers by Nigel Tufnell on Little London Observationist many times in the past so I was thrilled when he agreed to an interview. A born and bred Londoner, participating in the 100 strangers photography project has given Nigel new insight into his city. He’s learned that good things can come from talking to strangers! Below, he tells us the story of how he started photographing strangers, one of his most memorable encounters and the camera and lens he uses to capture such stunning and natural images.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 12.46.31Photo: Yasmin on Castlebar Road, London

LLO: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
I’m from London, born and bought up in West London. For as long as I can remember, I have loved London before I really knew why and without knowing it. Even as kid I knew there was something special about it. Driving along the A40 to the Marylebone Road there just seemed so many possibilities or getting off the tube at Oxford Circus or Ladbroke Grove.

I’ve always been passionate about photography, the idea of capturing a moment; that means something to me. My formal training is in furniture restoration, but I have earnt money in various guises over the years and in the last four or so years my photography work has extended and effectively taken over.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 12.48.20Photo: Ric on Kingley Street, London

LLO: You took on the 100 Strangers photography challenge and now you’re about halfway through your second set! Tell us a bit about why you got involved and how it’s changed the way you approach the city and your work?
NT: Before I was aware of the project, I saw a girl sitting outside a rundown shop near Regent Street drinking coffee and thought she would make an excellent photo, so I approached her and just asked if she would let me photograph her. She said yes! I put the photos on my first flickr account and she loved them, so I got in contact again and we went out and did a longer shoot. It was fascinating talking to her about her ambitions to become a doctor and her education from a state comprehensive to Imperial College, her background and her Iraqi heritage. All that from a simple photograph.

Because of this meeting I found the 100 strangers project, it was quite a natural process.

Street portraits are instant and they are real and I love that they are really immediate. The people I want to photograph could be anywhere; it’s just a case of keeping your eyes open. I want to take photographs where I have an involvement and this project has made me realise that even more because you can really talk to people. It becomes quite powerful. Listening is massively important and really taking in what people are saying because the communication between two strangers is quite unique.

It has just reinforced my view that there is fascination everywhere in London. Sometimes you go out and don’t see anyone to photograph or you get a few knock backs and other times when you aren’t expecting it, you get some great people. It’s full of surprises; as Arthur C Clarke once said, ‘who knows’. It’s vast and there will be times when it’s suffocating and unfortunately there are quite a few wankers, but you just have to deal with that.

During the first 100 strangers set I was obsessed with it. I’m less so now, but it has definitely influenced me to be a bit more positive towards people. You learn by doing this project, about how to get things right and quickly with your camera and by talking to people and hearing their stories. That process influences other things you do.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 12.51.09Photo: Pamela, Margaret Street, Fitzrovia, London

LLO: Do you remember the first time you approached a stranger for this project? What were you thinking? What did you say? What was their reaction?
I approached two people and just told them about the project. I was going to make a new account for my 100 strangers and hadn’t even done that yet; I just wanted the pictures. Their reaction was positive. One said yes, one said no.  It was good having the 100 strangers project to talk about. It kind of gave me a sense of validity, but because I had approached someone before and the response was very positive, it felt normal.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 13.02.17Photo: Marwa on Peter Street Soho, London

LLO: Describe a typical encounter with a London stranger – what do you look for before you approach a person? What do you say to make them feel comfortable with you? How much time do you spend with them?
Difficult to say really. I see different things in different people. Sometimes I see someone and I’m off. There is no thought. I just feel I want to photograph them. You have to weigh the situation and you don’t have too long to do that because people and situations are easily missed. People say never walk up behind someone, but if you are on a busy street it’s not a problem and needs must, there isn’t a science to it.

The shortest shoot was probably about two minutes and the longest was over an hour. It  varies massively.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 13.03.53Photo: Ruby on Brick Lane, East London

LLO: Tell us about one stranger that really stands out for you and why you remember them so vividly.
There are many people that really stand out, but if pushed I would say a girl I met in Kingsland Road called Makada. She had had a very tough life and she and her twin sister had moved out of home at 15 due to a very difficult situation. They moved into a hostel in Camden, but there was no bitterness or even anger. She was at college and trying to do well for herself. It was just a very positive experience. We talked for over an hour and even though I have had similar length conversations and heard some amazing stories, both good and bad, hers was the first. Her openness and positivity touched me. It can be amazing how open people are talking to a stranger on the street. It was just a great experience to really have a decent conversation with someone who was a complete stranger; interestingly a lot of barriers are broken down.

Also all the people I have met up with again and photographed a second time have all been great!

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 13.04.51Photo: Abdul, Red Lion Street, Holborn London

LLO: What has this project taught you about yourself and the city around you? 
NT: In many ways, it has just reinforced my feelings. I love the place, but there are a lot of misperceptions about it and media cliques both good and bad. People do have time to talk and that communication is so important. It is not as cold as we are always being told. London can be but sometimes if you try, things can be very positive.

The city is always moving. The buildings are changing and there is a constant flow of people coming in and going out, experiencing London and hopefully adding to the city. To make it work, it has to keep changing and evolving. The people just can’t be pigeon-holed. You really don’t know what you are going to get when you start talking to strangers. While you have to be wary, very aware of the situation, the positivity makes that less of an issue and on the flip side of that, it’s great to get positive responses from people.

The disappointment has been that while I walk the streets taking photos the disparity between rich and poor (areas) is getting more and more evident. I also think the project has reinforced my dislike for things that are too staged, things like adverts and magazine shoots where everybody looks the same. People on the street look great. They have real style and elegance, but everyday there are visions of the ‘perfect looking person’ looking down or at us to prey on our insecurities.  The people I photographed weren’t prepared, but they had a certain belief that it was okay. I like the instant nature of that. These photographs aren’t manufactured; they are real and honest.

Social media is very big but I like the interaction, actually looking at people and talking to them in the real world.

It has taught me that you can be touched by people armed with a camera and a smile as long as you are willing to listen. It’s massively important to know your subject and if you have only just met somebody, you better start listening and then interacting to what is being said to you. I like to feel involved. I feel that every time I photograph somebody. It’s my way of breaking the prejudices forced upon us by social conditioning that says London is not for talking to strangers.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 13.05.58Photo: Tonisha, Hills Place just off Oxford Street, London

LLO: Let’s talk equipment – what camera do you use? Which is your favourite lenses for photographing people? How about a flash? Any post-processing?
I’m currently using a Nikon d700 with either a Nikon 50mm 1.8 or a Tamron 24-85mm. I do a bit post processing but not much. I might enhance the colour or sharpness  a bit, but I basically keep it as it is in the original. I want to see reality in the portraits.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 13.07.32Photo: Mark, Frith Street, Soho London

LLO: Along with each photo, you tell the story of the person you’ve taken a picture of along with their favourite song or record. Why the music question? What has been the most interesting answer?
 I love music. I think it can be a great source of inspiration among other things. Everyone must have a favourite song or piece of music. It just helps to make people have a think while I try and get a few shots and then it leads onto other conversations. It is strange how some people who seem quite cool can like some really terrible music (my opinion obviously), but that’s just part of it. The most interesting answer was a man called GT whose favourite song was a song he’d written. He then proceeded to give me a copy of it.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 13.08.40Photo: Mina on Southampton Row, The Kingsway, Holborn

LLO: Have you ever had a negative reaction when approaching a stranger to photograph?
A few iffy moments, but nothing too bad. It can be a negative when you have a few knock backs in a row, but fortunately that doesn’t happen much and I feel if that happens I must get someone before I head home. It doesn’t always happen though.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 13.10.12Photo: Cristina, Regents Canal, Hackney London

LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery? What’s special about it?
The Sir John Soane museum in Lincoln Inn Fields is great. In 1806, he became Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy. He wanted his house and collection of paintings sculptures and artefacts to be preserved for the nation after his death. It’s not like a museum; it’s just a fascinating old house full of interest and it’s free!

Also, the Black Lion in Plaistow, an old coaching Inn about 600 years old and a real old fashioned East End pub. There is a boxing gymnasium upstairs that is home to West Ham Boys Club – a boxing club that produced Olympic medallist Terry Spinks. It serves great beer and Bobby Moore even used to drink there! A real top place.

Thanks Nigel!

Follow Nigel’s work on his Flickr stream: 

London Art Spot: Jon Campenni


In case he ever approaches you in the street, don’t be alarmed. Jon’s been documenting his interactions with strangers for the popular 100 strangers photography project in London and beyond. Though it’s an ongoing project, a few of his favourite images will be on display at the Brick Lane Gallery next month. 

Read on to find out why taking part in this project is important to Jon, his advice for anyone else who’d like to get involved and the tale of a very memorable meeting with a recovering drug addict who was open to sharing his story. Details of Jon’s upcoming exhibition are at the end.

WayneWayne is a native Londoner and a photographer. He was on Brick Lane checking out a gallery with a friend before stopping at a vintage shop where he was spotted by Jon. 

LLO: Tell us a bit about your background first. Where are you from, what do you do for a living and any hobbies apart from photography?
JC: I was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I spent a few years in New York City working for an bank before relocating to London to work for the same company. Outside of photography, I am a big music fan; I have a passion for live music of all genres. Additionally, I love traveling. I’ve been to about 20 cities worldwide, and after New York City, my favorite city is Paris.

Tommy3Tommy has a thick Cockney accent, a past as a drug addict and a golden heart. He was sharing a 10:30am six pack with his best friend of 20 years when Jon photographed him on Brick Lane.

LLO: As an avid street photographer, you’ve been participating in the popular 100 strangers project since Autumn 2012. Tell us a bit about this project and how you got involved.
JC: Firstly, the project is something anyone can do. If you have a camera, and a desire to get out of your comfort zone, you can do this. On the surface, all it really involves is approaching strangers, getting to know them, obtaining their permission to take their picture, and posting it on Flickr and other social media sites. However, once someone actually starts the project, I think they see its a lot more than just that, and really it means different things for different people.

Personally, I was looking for something to get involved with in terms of a hobby, and it quickly turned into a passion. It really just kind of took on a life of its own for me once I started posting on my Facebook and Flickr pages, and now I am getting ready to exhibit part of the project here in London.

ShiShi Shi a designer from China, living in London. Her mum worked in a garment factory in China that Shi Shi would visit frequently as a young girl and where she learned many skills.

LLO: You said that your only goal in starting this project was to engage with the world around you. What have you learned about yourself and others by photographing strangers?
JC: That’s a great question and one that I can’t answer in full right now. The project is a journey. The thing I love about photography, and this genre of street photography, is that its so unpredictable. There are times when I’ve been on the street for 5-6 hours and haven’t taken one picture. Street photography is about patience, and being in the right moment at the right time. Whereas I have the utmost respect for landscape and other form of photography, I know I can adjust my settings, wait for the sunrise, take a picture and then adjust it in photoshop to the point where its not even a real picture anymore. Street photography is much different, you never know what’s around the corner, and on some days you spend a lot of time waiting for it. As much as I enjoy interacting with strangers, there is a lot of down time, and it affords me the opportunity to think and reflect on things as I’m walking around. I enjoy being in a state of observation. Things slow down and you truly start to appreciate what’s happening around you.

As far as what I’ve learned about others, is that you just never know about people. Everyone has their own amazing story, and its usually sitting right next to you.

TJJon caught LJ with his retro 90s look on the streets of the East End. He regularly DJ’s on London’s club scene.

LLO: Because of this project, you were recently featured in the New York Times Online and now you have a show at the Brick Lane Gallery coming up in March. What can we expect from the show? Mention a few of the highlights that you’re looking forward to sharing with the public.
JC: The exhibition will feature 8-10 of my most favorite portraits that I’ve taken. Each one will have an abbreviated write up associated with it, to give the viewer context of who the person is, and my interaction with them. The challenge with the exhibition is connecting the viewer not only with the portrait, but with me, and the reason I am doing the project. Personally, I think the viewer misses out on the true impact if they only see the exhibition as a street portrait project. I am using different mediums to try and make that connection. It’s actually a really exciting challenge for me.

FindlandJon stopped Petteri dead in his tracks to photograph him for the project. He is an artist from Finland with a thick accent that was hard to understand. He gave Jon a business card with his website:

LLO: Tell us about one memorable encounter you had with a stranger who you photographed and why it stands out for you.
JC: Overall, I am surprised how many people have agreed to be photographed. I’ve only been told “no” a few times. Specifically, I had a very interesting interaction with a gentlemen named Marq. He is in the throes of drug addiction, and I was most surprised about how honest he was with me about it, about his life, and about what kind of toll the drugs have taken on him. This was after chatting with him for only a few minutes. He ended up following me around for quite a while that night. At one point, my camera was in my bag, shut off, and we were just walking and talking about things that were very personal. It was no longer a photography project at that point. You never know what kind of stories people have, and further, you never know what kind of stories people are willing to share with a complete stranger.

Marq2Marq 46, was born in Hackney, living in Islington, hustling in Shoreditch. He spent 3 hours walking around with Jon telling him his story: decent upbringing, job, house, relationship with multiple women, children with all of them, a trigger point, drug addiction, out of work, sleeping rough.

LLO: How do you approach someone to be photographed? What do you say to them? 
JC: This is really the essence of the project and is different for everyone. Most of my photos have come as part of a larger interaction with someone. I try to not base the interaction around the photo, that’s more so the end result. So every approach is different. There have been plenty of cases where I was chatting with someone about what they were wearing, or doing, and it morphed into a conversation about the project, with the end result being the photo. Other people though, I do approach for no other reason than they caught my eye. In those cases, I let them know that “I am working on photo documentary that documents my interaction with strangers” and I adapt from there. The biggest thing is comfort. The photographer needs to always remember that no matter how awkward they feel, the person on the street you are talking to feels way more awkward. The photographer needs to project a feeling of confidence and comfort, otherwise, people will get nervous and won’t open up for a good photo.

Monk was handing our brochures for spa treatments on the streets of New York City when Jon approached and photographed him. 

LLO: You’ve taken your project through London’s streets and abroad to four countries on three different continents. Do you find yourself encountering cultural differences that play a role in a stranger’s reaction to the project? Give us an example and how you coped. What was the outcome?
JC: The boundaries are universal no matter where you are. There are people that are a part of the project that I’ve met in London that didn’t speak any English and I had to have the entire conversation translated. It’s part of the challenge and the reward. That’s where the personal growth comes in. I really don’t get shaken anymore if I approach someone and they understand little or no English at all. If you are confident in the project and why you are doing it, you will start to seek these challenges. I think that’s part of the appeal for me going abroad. To challenge myself, and get out of my comfort zone. There is an element of respecting the culture you are in, which is basic common sense. Such was the case in Morocco. They were not keen on having their photographs taken, so I had to really be delicate with who I approached. The shot I got in Morocco was one of the most rewarding though, because of this dynamic.

Jon photographed Mustafa in Morocco. He has owned a shop in Marrakech for 13 years which feeds his family. He was educated in Spain, spoke Spanish and was very articulate.

LLO: Since you plan to continue the project beyond 100 strangers, what is your goal for the project in 2013  and beyond and where will the year ahead take you?
JC: Overall, my goal will continue to be to challenge myself, whether it be abroad or right here in London. I am going to get a bit more selective in who I approach and why. I have some underlying themes that I am trying to capture on the faces of my strangers, and that will give the project a bit more focus then trying to simply photography anyone who will say ‘yes.’ Broadly speaking, I plan on establishing a more global footprint; I’ll be taking the project to Athens, Tel Aviv and Copenhagen during the first part of 2013, and beyond that I had some ideas of some other countries. And then most exciting, as mentioned, I’ll be exhibiting a portion of the project in London in March.

Beans“Beans”, 49, is originally from Yorkshire. Jon met and photographed him outside a pub in Nottingham while sharing a love of one of Jon’s favourite punk legends, Rancid, before their gig. 

LLO: What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about engaging with the 100 strangers project, but is too shy to start, or not sure what to say or where to go, etc?
JC: Firstly, and more importantly, define your motivation for starting the project. You don’t have to necessarily share it with anyone, but it is important for you, as the photographer to understand it. For me, I always talk about my motivation for the project with strangers, and it builds a great dynamic between us. Once you are in touch with your motivation, everything else falls into place.

For me, I was really looking for a way to better engage with the world around me. Further, I wanted to change my perceptions of worth, wealth, happiness, and fulfillment, and felt this project was a perfect way to do that. So the project from my perspective is more than photography, and that’s projected onto the strangers, which is why I think I’ve had such a success rate capturing people on the street. I try to find common ground, because I am actually trying to get to know them before I photograph them. If I photograph  them, but really have no connection, I generally don’t post the photo.

I always use this as a rule of thumb that I think will be beneficial for new starters: If you take the above commentary into consideration, I only consider it a “no” if they don’t want their picture taken AND don’t want to talk to me. If they don’t want their photo taken, respect that, but try and still make a connection with someone. To me, that’s the whole point of this.

ArtDaleySunday_edited-2Art is a hip hop artist part of a crew called the “Crook Street Gang” and was distributing CDs of his music when he was photographed by Jon in Brixton.

LLO: Tell us about another London-based artist you admire and why.
JC: Wayne Thomas, one of the first ‘strangers’ I shot for the project. He’s involved in writing and photography, we’ve kept in touch and often email each other and discuss ideas. I really admire Wayne’s work and I think he’ll do big things.

Thanks Jon!

For more from Jon, visit his Flickr page.

Visit an exhibition of Jon’s work in March 2013:

Venue: Brick Lane Gallery
Opening / Private View: Wednesday 13 March, 6-8:30pm
Opening Times: 14-24 March, 1pm-6pm daily
Jon’s Website:


35 Fabulous Photographs of Londoners

Never in my life have I lived in such close proximity to so many people of so many different backgrounds, ages, religions, nationalities, etc. If there’s one thing that continues to amaze me about London after living here for five years, it’s definitely the people. They are both the best and worse thing about this city.

There are times, like last night, when I was crammed into a tube in rush hour with about nine people touching me all at once when I wished there were less of us, but then I looked at the bar I was holding onto and saw about five other hands holding the same bar and the diversity just in our hands was incredible.

Some hairy, some smooth, some male, some female, some young, some old, some with fingernails painted, some with cuts and scratches, some with large veins, some with none, one white, one black, one brown, and two others somewhere in between. And I bet each one of us came from a different country, could speak a different language than the rest. You look around a tube carriage and it’s a fantastic sample of the world that inhabits this one city.

Looking at photos of Londoners is always incredible to me. Everyone has a different story, a different history, different beliefs and values and yet we can all be in the same place at the same time. These posts of people have become some of my favourites to set up on LLO. No one ever seems to be photographed twice. These people all have such a strong character. Some of them are the result of the popular 100 Strangers street photography project that encourages photographers to interact with their subjects, finding out a bit about them and then the faces really start to come to life.

But enough rambling. Here are 35 more Londoners plucked out from a city of 8 million. Hope you enjoy the work of these photographers and their fabulous subjects are much as I do!

Jimmy Cochran (Jimmy C) on finishing his latest piece, Shoreditch, London, England. 4th Dec 2012.Photo: Street artist Jimmy C finishing up one of his latest pieces by Joseph O’Malley

London Street Portrait
Photo: London street portrait by 67Jewels

17/100, Mark/London
Photo: Mark, a native of Zimbawbe, but currently based and known throughout London as ‘Baliva’, a hip hop artist spreading the word of Christ by Jonathan Campenni

Hilda - stranger #1
Photo: Hilda, a blogger and designer from Sweden by Ray MeFarSo

Alex - Stranger 44/100
Photo: Alex at work in the Leake Street graffiti tunnel by World of Tim

26/100, Marq/London (Shoreditch)
Photo: Marq, born in Hackney, living in Islington, hustling in Shoreditch (click through for his story) by Jonathan Campenni

Mr A Boulamatsis - Stranger 45/100
Photo: Mr A Boulamatsis is from the small Greek island of Spetses. He’s been in the UK for 25 years now and works as a painter/decorator by Roj Whitelock

Green Sounds
Photo: Green sounds by John Kortland

325/365 A true Londoner
Photo: University student Bethany by David Travis

Jack - Stranger 34/100
Photo: Jack, practicing parkour moves with his friends on the north bank of the Thames by World of Tim

Milk shake
Photo: Milk shake by takphoto

Fishermans Friends
Photo: Fisherman’s Friends by John Kortland

London nights
Photo: London Nights by Paki Nuttah

It Never Grows Where You Need It !
Photo: It never grows where you need it by John Kortland

stranger # 133
Photo: Purmala from Nepal on Carlton Road in Ealing by Stretch1000

10/100, Petteri/London
Photo: Petteri is a photographer from Finland by Jonathan Campenni

Business Never Stops
Photo: Business never stops by John Kortland

Lisa - Stranger 24/100
Photo: Lisa Carrodus is a celebrity – a TV presenter, wrestler with the British Pro Wrestling Foundation FWA UK, a model and has even appeared on Holby City by Roj Whitelock

11/100, Jude/London
Photo: Jude sells paintings, vinyl records and vintage clothes from a garage in Shoreditch on weekends by Jonathan Campenni

Lauren - Stranger 46/100
Photo: Lauren lives in Walthamstow and works as a Membership Office Assistant at Lords Cricket Ground by Roj Whitelock

Jonathan (65/100)
Photo: Jonathan was photographed in Camden Market by Mark McConnochie

15/100, Abigail/London
Photo: Abigail, originally from South London is 25 and works for a non-profit helping disadvantaged youth by Jonathan Campenni

Well Red Man
Photo: Well red man by John Kortland

Photo: Allesandra by Dave McGowan

Jay - Stranger 42/100
Photo: Jay lives in Woolwich and studies business management at university by Roj Whitelock

Alan - Stranger 17/100
Photo: Alan and his harmonica on Old Kent Road by World of Tim

20/100, Esther/London
Photo: Esther was photographed on Camden High Street by Jonathan Campenni

stranger # 100 !!!
Photo: Annabelle is a politics student and was photographed in Pitshangar Park, Ealing by Stretch1000

The Redhead.
Photo: The redhead by Dennis Owen

Shona - Stranger 44/100
Photo: Shona, an art and design student was photographed by Roj Whitelock 

G-Shocked   [Explored #494]
Photo: G-Shocked in Covent Garden by John Kortland

Rukaiya - Stranger 19/100
Photo: Rukaiya, originally from Canada, has lived in the UK for six years. She works in marketing near Liverpool Street and has a cupcake business called Cuppidy Cakes by Roj Whitelock

stranger # 90
Photo: Mark was photographed on Belvedere Road, Waterloo London by Stretch1000

Nicoli - Stranger 31/100
Photo: Nicoli from Romania in Canada Water by World of Tim

Photo: Gazing in Stamford Hill, N16 by Dennis Owen

Londoners: Toyah

Shando.’s been participating in the 100 Strangers Project, something I’ve been meaning to start doing as well. Since I’m fascinated by the diversity of stories that Londoners have to tell, it’s nice to read these alongside their portraits. I love this photo he recently contributed to the Flickr pool of a woman called Toyah. Shando’s own words are posted below. They tell her story well.

23/100 Toyah

This is Toyah, an ex Royal Sigs soldier who is now homeless. I stopped for a chat after seeing her sign. Toyah has been homeless now for just over 3 weeks due to an issue with her former landlord, she told me that although she finds herself in catch 22 situation (employers are not keen to take on someone who is homless) she remains upbeat and positive that a job offer will appear, and when it does she can prove she has a lot to offer. Toyah had already been stood here for 5 hours before I arrived. Good luck Toyah, I’m have a feeling you will succeed 😉 Shando