London Art Spot: Marcus Riccoboni


In the spirit of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Marcus Riccoboni, 34, walks the streets of London with a not-quite-identifiable Lomo camera, capturing ordinary people in extraordinarily beautiful moments. He’s been at it since he was a child, making his first print at the age of 10 with an enlarger his father bought from a jumble sale.

His work these days is all about street photography, about capturing people in a precise moment, an instant that then becomes unforgettable, frozen in time.

For this week’s London Art Spot, Marcus reminds us why London is one of the most amazing cities in the world (in case you forgot), talks a bit about how being colourblind effects his photography and shares his admiration for some brilliant photographers who have influenced his work. 

LLO: Give us the basics first – Where are you from originally, how long have you been in London and what brought you to this lively city?
I’m originally from Cliftonville: a small, quiet place on the Kent coast – it’s a little run down these days and there’s not a lot going on. The nearest town is called Margate, which is known for amusement arcades, candy floss, and kiss-me-quick hats. I couldn’t wait to escape the area when I was young, so when I had the opportunity to go to university in London I jumped at the chance. That was in 1995 and I’ve been living here since.

LLO: How does living in London influence your approach to photography?
London’s fantastic – the most diverse capital city in the world.  There’s so much going; it’s an all you can eat buffet for photographers.  London gives me the opportunity to make random images of truly interesting people and events: one minute I can be strolling along Oxford Street, taking in the rush of shoppers and the next I’ll turn a corner and find myself in the middle of thousands of Sikhs marching in a demonstration down Park Lane. It’s easy to take London for granted; every now and then I like to stop and remind myself how fortunate I am to be living here.

LLO: Why do you prefer black and white images over colour?
I’m colourblind: I’m unable to differentiate between red, green and brown. Apparently the world looks muddy to me when compared to a normal sighted person. It doesn’t stop me from enjoying photography as I appreciate other visual qualities like shapes and shades. By removing the colour and shooting in black and white, it helps focus the viewer’s attention on what caught my eye in the first place. Either that or maybe I’m just pretentious!

LLO: When shooting street photographs, what elements do you look for while composing a shot?
Normally I just work on gut and wait until I see something that feels right. I do, however, look for a number of elements: an interesting scene (a quirky individual or an unusual combination of subjects), composing the frame so that they form a harmonious structure and finally the all-important ‘blink and you miss it moment’ when the subject’s expression or posture changes to make the shot.

LLO: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome to get a great photo?
Self-confidence: I’m naturally a shy person, so the thought of walking up to a random stranger in the street and taking their photograph was terrifying. Sometimes it still is, although I’ve learnt that if you act as if you should be taking the photograph, it improves the dynamic between you and the subject. Very rarely do people get upset and a brief nod and a smile go a long way to diffuse any difficult situations.

LLO: With images of Brian Haw and Notting Hill Carnival on your new blog, it looks like you’re into a documentary type of photography, images that tell a story or capture a bit of history. Can you elaborate on your love of photographing people and the type of images you’re aiming to capture? 
I like people but staged portraits rarely do it for me, so ‘street’ style of photography really suits. It all started when I saw an image by Henri Cartier-Bresson: it was of a young boy in Paris, walking along Rue Mouffetard, holding two bottles of wine – I loved the expression on his face. I soon found myself at the library viewing books of images made by Cartier-Bresson and others like Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand and Willy Ronis. Running through them all was a common thread; the amazing ability to capture ordinary people, in ordinary situations at a moment in time that made the image far from ordinary. It’s all about that decisive moment: the split second when a raised eyebrow or sideways glance transforms an image into something special. I was hooked and have been trying to do the same since.

LLO: Which type of Lomo camera do you have? What are the advantages over a DSLR? And where in London would you most love to take it to experiment?
I believe it’s a Lomo LC-A, although I can’t be sure as it’s Russian and I can’t read the Cyrillic lettering on the camera. Anyway, it’s small, easy to carry and very inconspicuous – perfect.  People hardly notice when I’m using it; I simply load it with old film and shoot.  The Lomo has an almost magical ability to help me take photographs when the technical complexities of using a supposedly more accomplished camera would otherwise get in the way.  I’m planning to use if for my next project: photographing the meat traders at Smithfield market.

LLO: Elaborate on your upcoming Smithfield meat traders project. 
MR: Smithfield has been operating since 1868 and it’s the only remaining great London market that hasn’t been moved out of central town.  Although the place oozes history, it’s still a fully functioning market which means there should be plenty of contrast between old and new for the project. There have been numerous attempts to redevelop the area so I’m keen to document the place and the people who work there before it disappears. It will mean a few early mornings as the market opens at 4am, but I’m sure the pictures will more than make up for that.   I expect it to be great fun: full of quirky characters bustling around in an interesting setting. I’m even thinking of doing it in colour, which would be a first for me.  I can’t wait to get started.

LLO: What are your thoughts on post-processing in Photoshop or other editing software?
A lot of people get in a twist about this one – there are some real militants when it comes to the subject of image manipulation. People seem to forget that the photographer is manipulating the image from the moment they take the decision about which lens, filter or film to use.  Personally, I think it all depends: if the image is to be used for journalism, it should be left untouched as an accurate record of events. Otherwise, I’m more than happy to dodge, burn, crop and change the contrast or exposure of an image – any process that could be done in a darkroom. As soon as anything that wasn’t there is added or an artifact is removed, then it’s a different ball game – it becomes art – which is fine, just don’t call it photography.

LLO: Favourite London-based artists? 
Matt Stuart ( – perfect timing and an ability to just ‘see’.
Nick Turpin ( – I love the way he frames his work.
Sean McDonnell ( – breaks all the rules and still makes great pictures.

Thanks Marcus!

For more about Marcus and his work, see his website:

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

Parliament Square Protests for Peace

Peace Camp in Parliament Square

A rainbow-striped peace flag flaps in the sudden warm breeze as Big Ben sounds twice, early afternoon. Sprawled across the green patch of Parliament Square are canvas tents, bent cardboard signs and placards, a few stray sandals and water jugs and a refreshing atmosphere of activism.

Guitars for Peace

There’s a battered old guitar stripped of paint laying on the ground, a bare-footed girl sitting cross-legged in the sun and a middle-aged man in a baseball cap patting a new plant into the circular peace garden they’ve created in the centre.

Peace Garden

They want to stop the war. They want to make borders redundant. They want freedom.

Flip Flops and Freedom

They call it the Democracy Village, this group that has set up camp around Brian Haw’s famous protest.  (However, Brian’s website states in bright red letters that his ongoing protest has “no connection or affiliation whatsoever with ‘Democracy Village’ which came here on May 1st 2010.”)

Democracy Village

Brian, Parliament Square’s world-famous protester, has been camping out in the square for3,294 days now. That’s just over nine years that he’s been living under a tent, eating whatever food his supporters offer, washing in a bucket and sitting in the sun or snow smoking enough cigarettes to give him a nasty cough. Apparently an anonymous washroom attendant in Westminster tube station’s public toilets charges his phone so he can keep in touch with the world outside the square.

Brian Haw 3

I walked up to Brian who was sitting in a fold-up chair, the crutches he uses to walk leaning against the sides. He was staring out at the Houses of Parliament with striking blue eyes, his signature badge-covered helmet casting a shadow over his face. He glanced at me and I asked if I could take his photo. With a solemn silent nod he acknowledged my request. When I thanked him, he did the same again.

Promote Peace with Peace

Living his life as an outdoor exhibition has taken its toll. You can see it in his weathered skin, the tiredness of his body, the slow and contemplative way he turned a lighter around in his hands. There was a distinct weariness about him alongside the sort of strong mental determination of the sort of person who can stand for his beliefs so powerful that his wife and seven children fall out of the picture, who can step up against one of the most powerful governments in the world, to be considered a permanent representation of freedom of speech for an entire nation.

Don't Trade in Your Beliefs

His protest began the summer before 9/11 when he was campaigning against economic sanctions imposed on Iraq and the bombing by the UK and US. That September, his focus widened to include the War on Terror.

Bollox 2 Bombs

Now, “He protests on behalf of those innocent people who suffer and die in other countries, as our governments seek to further their own economic, military, political and strategic interests around the world.” In 2005, he was short listed for a Human Rights Award and in 2007 was Channel 4’s Most Inspiring Political Figure.

Change The World

There have been many attempts to evict Brian from the square, many court cases and arrests, including the most recent last month. But he’s still there and, despite revived attempts to remove him, it doesn’t look like he’s got any other plans.

Fascists Bite Here

While this lifestyle has left 61-year-old Brian drained of physical energy, the camp that has built up around him was lively, engaging the crowds with anti-war chants and sing-a-longs.

Peace Camp Drummer

As I walked away, Bob Dylan’s lyrics floated across Bridge Street, “How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?”

Brian Haw 2

Here’s a great Indy article on Brian if you want to read more.

Time for Peace