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 ūüėČ Shando

London Art Spot: Linda Wisdom

Linda is a street photographer in every sense of the word, creating moments and images from lines and light and shadows. A stickler for great composition, she lets her art follow the words of Ted Grant, capturing Londoners’ souls rather than the colours of their clothes. Linda is a Londoner through and through and knows this city inside out. She was also a recent¬†Sense The City competition finalist so you can find her ‘St. Pancras International’ photograph currently on display at the London Transport Museum until March. Then she’s preparing to participate in the London Photography Festival, mid-May.

Read on for a few words from Linda on what’s important to her in composing a shot and the delight when she realised she captured one of her favourite shots at the perfect moment.

LLO: How do you think being a born and bred Londoner influences the way you approach photography in this city? 
LW: I think I have a good sense of the city and the people of London being a Londoner myself. I know where I want to go when I want to take a particular style of street photography. I generally know where to find certain types of characters or to find some new shapes and lines for working geometry into a shot for example. You discover a lot of shortcuts and backstreets when you have been in a city a while, which are usually have more interesting things to photograph then the main busy streets.

LLO: You have one hour and a camera. Where do you spend it and why?
LW:¬†All depends on my mood, the weather, the style I want to capture! I’m usually walking around from place to place so it’s difficult to choose a specific location, but I do love areas like Brick Lane, Soho and the City. A photographic scene can present itself no matter where you are or where you go; that’s the beauty of street photography.

LLO: Your street photography is nearly exclusively shot in black and white. Explain this decision. 
LW:¬†There’s a famous quotation by Ted Grant¬†‚ÄúWhen you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!‚ÄĚ. I believe this is true in my case. My main objectives are usually on composition, shapes and lines, light play, decisive moments or character study. Unless a scene has strong colour elements in it that can only work in colour, I tend to convert it to black and white so you focus on the intended composition.

LLO:¬†Tell us about one of your favourite photographs that has a specific “London” element in it, one that could only have been shot here.¬†
LW:¬†This shot (below) I guess could only have been taken in London. I love this location in Trafalgar Square as this wall is like a clean ‘canvas’ background for a strong subject to walk past. It just happened to be raining and the pavement reflections were really clear. When I saw this woman coming along with the ‘I Love London’ umbrella I made sure I was in position to get the shot.

LLO: Do you think London is street photography friendly? Why or why not? Have you ever had a negative experience?
LW:¬†I’ve had mixed reactions from people if they have spotted me taking their photo, but it’s all been mostly positive. As a street photographer you have a responsibility to respect other people’s opinions if they don’t want their photo taken. But if I’m ever approached I usually tell them the reason I took their photo, which is usually a compliment anyway, to which they walk away with no issue and in some cases are flattered.

LLO: Which elements are most important to you when composing a shot?
LW: Definitely composition. I also love using light elements and geometry in my photos. I dislike messy or too busy compositions!

LLO: It takes some guts to be a great street photographer. How did you overcome any initial fears or anxieties about photographing strangers?
LW:¬†A combination of things‚Ķ mostly building up your confidence over time – I’ve been taking street shots for about three years now. Sometimes, if you see a shot you really really want to get, you just have to put any anxiety aside and just shoot! Having the right kit you feel comfortable with and knowing your settings to get the shot as swiftly as you can candidly. Another thing is understanding the psychology of other people; I usually see there is a paranoia in their eyes or their body language change, when a camera is pointed at them and the questions they usually ask me suggest this. So, I now know what to say and what do if I am ever approached to resolve a situation and this seems to work.

LLO: Which photograph are you most proud of to date? Tell us the story behind it.
LW:¬†This one (below) was taken on 1st December 2011. I was out alone one rainy, cold evening in Central London with my camera as I wanted to get some night street photography shots. ¬†I already had a few shots, but nothing special. My camera was getting wet but I persisted (as I do!) hoping to get something I was really happy with. I got to Leicester Square and loved how when people where crossing this particular road the car lights between their legs looked really cool. Everyone was wearing dark clothing, but this guy stood out in his beige Mac so I took a few shots but wasn’t sure if I had got a good one. It was only when I got home and checked my photos on my computer that I saw that he happened to be looking up just at the perfect time and knew I got the shot.

LLO: Is there anywhere in London where you have not yet taken your camera but would love to do so? 
LW:¬†Not that I can think of. I’ve taken my camera to most corners of London, but there are places I have yet to go of course. Street photography isn’t location specific, it’s better to be at the right place, at the right time. I want to go to New York City though to take some street shots!

Thanks Linda!

See more of Linda’s work, visit her website, Flickr page or Facebook page.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

London Art Spot: Sophia Fox

Welcome to the magical world of Sophia Fox where happiness comes at the flick of a switch and the turning on and off of seasons may not be far behind. Sophia’s the artist who created the happiness switch that you loved in this entry and a whole series of others like it for her happiness project. She is also an illustrator which you can see from her website, but I decided to focus on the happiness project with her for this interview. If you wander around Holborn, Bethnal Green, Hackney or Aldgate East, you may just stumble upon a magical happiness switch to brighten your mood.

Sophia talks to us about what she thinks is the equivalent of magic in everyday life, tells us about the time she was stopped by police when putting up a happiness switch and her ideas on how to Londoners can make this a happier place to live.

LLO: Where are you from originally, how long have you been in London and what brought you here?
SF:¬†Originally I’m from Eastern Europe.¬†I lived in Ukraine for little bit, Poland and Czech Republic. I feel each of these places created an important chapter in my life.¬†This is my second year in this magical city. I can‚Äôt stop being amazed; every day I learn something new and meet more people with inspiring stories.¬†I came here on my way to Barcelona searching for an exciting life-changing experience and I’ve fallen in love with the spirit of this big anthropologic city.

LLO: Tell us a little bit about your creative background.
SF: I graduated from fashion design, but with time found it limiting and moved on to graphic design. Currently I’m deeply in love with digital art and programming. Interactive art has a special place in my heart, and living in the city with so many opportunities to explore the that topic makes me feel very fortunate.

LLO: How and when did you decide to start your happiness project in London? Tell us a bit about it.
SF: The idea of the happiness switch comes from my love for wizards and fantasy lands. I like to think that stories of kindness are the equivalent of magic in everyday life. My project started last spring. I felt that everyone was exhausted after the heavy winter and needed an energy kick for good beginning of the spring. The switch is turning on the magic in your head which starts the chain of positive thinking.

LLO: How many happiness switches are currently up around the city and where can we find them?
SF:¬†I installed around 40 switches so far, however most of them got adopted.¬†I hope they are comfortable in their new homes.¬†Seventeen of them are still out there working hard every day to make this city a ‚Äúwarmer‚ÄĚ place.¬†Most of them are based in east London, however I decided not to reveal the locations as they seem to disappear more often these days…

LLO: The street art aspect of this project is obviously very important. Have you ever been caught putting up a happiness switch?
SF: I meet many people while installing my switches; you would be surprised how many people are on the street at 2 am. This city never sleeps. Once I met a men walking three dogs of the same breed. He was very supportive of my idea and offered a personal guidance of his dogs for the evening. I was caught by police once and they questioned my actions. However I think the switch got out their good side because they started to laugh once they understood what was I doing and let me go.

LLO: What about London makes you happy?
SF: I love the swimming pool in Tottenham Court Road and the under-bridge cafe in Shoreditch. I think that I might be addicted to swimming. I think if it were possible to learn how to fly the training session would take place in water.

LLO: Is there anything about London that makes you sad or angry, something that would make a real happiness switch useful for you?
SF:¬†Don‚Äôt like CCTV and the weather. I’m currently working on the switch which would turn off the winter.

LLO: What do you think Londoners could do to make it a happier place?
SF: I feel Londoners are a bit too busy to stop and admire little things. It seems sometimes that many people pursue careers which are considered good in the eyes of society but never look into themselves and ask what they really want to do.

LLO: Other London-based artists you admire?
SF:¬†I love Christiaan Nagel‚Äôs mushrooms; always wished for the bus stops to be situated under big umbrella-like mushrooms. They could change within the area so you could distinguish from borough to borough based on the kinds of ‚Äúmushroom‚ÄĚ bus stops.

LLO: Where does your artistic focus lie for 2012?
SF: I want to take the switch to the next level. I’m working on an art installation which would let the spectator take control over the events in the video using one of the switches.

Thanks Sophia!

See more of Sophia’s work on her website (or the other one!).

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

The Little London Entrepreneur

Happy Friday everyone. What are you up to this weekend? Anything productive? This girl probably is. She’ll likely be standing near Columbia Road with her trays of homemade mini cupcakes like she is in this photo that Where The Art Is captured last weekend.

Youthful enterprise in Columbia Road

Believe it or not, this little entrepreneur has possibly been at it for years now. We saw a girl back in 2010 doing the same thing– could be her unless it’s just a big coincidence!

London Art Spot: Faron Kee

Faron Kee is a talented 30-something photo-artist, born and bred in London. Faron has a deep appreciation for those green patches interspersed throughout the city, a spiritual connection to nature, as he refers to it, that has been with him his whole life and sparked his initial interest in photography. He’s influenced by the likes of¬†Balthasar Burkhard, Morley Baer,¬†Herb Ritts, and Edward Weston.

Inviting us into his black and white dreamworld, Faron shared a few pieces of photo art for London Art Spot. He talks about what he hopes for his art to communicate, how his dyslexia influences his work and the change his photography has undergone over the years.

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
 London is an incredible place to live. The diversity, history and mix of influences makes a stimulating environment in which I am constantly inspired.

LLO:¬†Have you stumbled on any fascinating little corners of London while out with your camera that you didn’t know about before?
I am constantly surprised by what I can find when out-and-about with my camera. Take Highgate for example. I am walking through a quaint, leafy village, but then just a few moments away, one is struck by the contrast of urban Archway. Both places inspire me in different ways.

LLO: One of the main ideas behind Little London Observationist is finding the beauty in the little things, which your photos seem to gear toward as well. What else do you wish to communicate through your photography?
¬†For me, my work has always been about communicating feelings and thoughts. I’m dyslexic so my photography is a voice.There is something ‘magical’ existing parallel to what we see. I am receptive to that energy and I simply cannot produce my work without it. I have been told that my work is haunting and minimalistic. A tortured beauty.

LLO:¬†Tell us about your series “London Parks Study”.
London parks have always been a sanctuary to me. Whenever I need to ‘re-charge my batteries’, or to ‘step away’ from the madness, I visit them.

LLO: Do you always shoot black and white?
Exclusively! Colour is often distracting to me. I want to get to the essence of my subject and I feel black and white best suits the way I want to work. The world of black and white is filled with such wonder.

LLO:¬†What has lead you to create so-called “moody” photography? What attracts you to it?¬†
My photography has never felt moody to me, I can appreciate how others may interpret it. This is just how I see the world and I love it.

LLO: How old were you what you first became interested in photography and in which ways has your style changed and developed over the years?
I believe I have always had a photographer’s eye, making up little films in my head, but it wasn’t until my early 30s did I become so interested in photography. Over the years, my work has undergone a journey of simplification. This way, I have a much clearer vision of what I want to say.

LLO: What elements are most important to you when composing a shot?
Believe it or not, I prefer to shoot when it isn’t so bright outside. I prefer low contrast because this makes my post-production more fruitful. I am able to create a much larger dynamic-range working this way. Also, on a personal level, I’m not one for bright light!

LLO: For those photography enthusiasts out there, tell us about your equipment.
 I use a Nikon D3X and if I want to shoot film I use a Yashica T4. It has a cool Zeiss lens. My other lenses are a 16mm, 35mm and a 100mm. For post I use a combination of Lightroom and Photoshop.

LLO: Which other London-based artists do you admire?
 There are only two from London that I can think of immediately: The notorious Tracey Emin and Ben Stockley who shoots remarkable moods. Most of my influences are master photographers who are no longer with us.

Thanks Faron!

See more of Faron’s work on Flickr.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.