A Lovely Bunch of Londoners

As someone who spent the first 23 years of her life in a small suburb upstate New York where people make small talk with strangers, chat with their neighbours and smile at everyone in the streets (and possibly utter a “good morning” in passing), one of the biggest challenges I had when I moved to London back in 2007 was adapting to the people.

They’re really a warm bunch when you get to know them, but being a big city of some 8 million faces from hundreds of countries, the need to carve out a personal bubble is understandable. You get used to it after a while, though, this lack of eye contact, the awkward closeness on the tube, the reluctance to speak to strangers.

Despite this, for me, the people are the greatest part of London – the languages and accents, the diversity in every sense of the word, the fashion, the expressions of creativity, etc. When someone lets you into their bubble, as people do when I interview them for LLO, you get a real sense of what this city is made of and what you find is something truly inspiring.

Other times, it’s fun to sit back and observe life in action. It’s been a while since I’ve posted a series images of Londoners from the Flickr pool. I’ve missed picking out my favourite shots as well as sharing the talent of London’s fabulous street photographers. So that’s what I’m going to do now:

Matching Nicely [Explored #301]Photo: Matching nicely by John Kortland

Rows And Rows
Photo: Rows and rows by John Kortland

Sensible Shoes
Photo: Sensible shoes by John Kortland

Black And White In ColourPhoto: Black and white in colour by John Kortland

Yami Gautam, Bollywood Actress
Photo: Yami Gautam, Bollywood Actress by John Kortland

For Richer, For Poorer [Explored #302]
Photo: For richer, for poorer by John Kortland

Happy Face
Photo: Happy face by John Kortland

The People of Soho: The Fashion Retailer
Photo: People of Soho: The fashion retailer, Lorna, in Bridle Lane by Pete Zelewski

Exhaust Fumes [Explored #322]
Photo: Exhaust fumes by John Kortland

Tahnee - Barbican
Photo: Tahnee-Barbican by Becky Frances

The People of Soho: The Celebrity Hairdresser
Photo: People of Soho, the celebrity hairdresser – with a client list that includes Sienna Miller, Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kiera Knightley and Johnny Depp it’s hairdresser Johnnie Sapong in Marylebone Passage by Pete Zelewski

Don't Try It At Home George !
Photo: Don’t Try It At Home, George by John Kortland

The Creative Artist
Photo: People of Soho: The creative artist, Spanish Graphic Designer and Illustrator Adriana in Nottingham Court, Covent Garden by Pete Zelewski

Up Against It  [Explored #322]
Photo: Up against it by John Kortland

Having A NibblePhoto: Having a nibble by John Kortland

Senior Rasta
Photo: Senior rasta by John Kortland

3D View
Photo: 3D View by John Kortland

Diane Abbott MP
Photo: Diane Abbott MP by John Kortland

Face In The Crowd
Photo: Face in the crowd by John Kortland

Victoria Park Portrait
Photo: Victoria Park Portrait by Becky Frances

Father and Son
Photo: Father and Son by Darren Johnson

Taking a break
Photo: Taking a Break by Graham F Kerr

The People of Soho: The Makeup Artist
Photo: People of Soho: Makeup artist Rose from cult British beauty brand Illamasqua in Bridle Lane by Pete Zelewski

Figurehead [Explored #333]
Photo: Figurehead by John Kortland

Photo: Glamorous by Steve Reed

Wrapped Up Against The Cold
Photo: Wrapped up against the cold by John Kortland

Pink And Plugged In
Photo: Pink and plugged in by by John Kortland

Blue Mood
Photo: Blue mood by John Kortland

Well Studded
Photo: Well studded by John Kortland

Photo: London underground by Jiro

Photo: Curls by John Kortland

Ring Tones
Photo: Ring tones by John Kortland

Aya (Stranger #7/100), London Brick Lane
Photo: Aya by H Matthew Howarth

30 Photographs of Londoners

The Flickr pool keeps filling up with wonderful street photos of Londoners and I can’t help but share them with you as they’re one of my favourite subjects. Here’s 30 of the latest!

Pixie Lott [Explored #113]Photo: Pixie Lott by John Kortland

Alesha DixonPhoto: Alesha Dixon by John Kortland

Fish&Chic_October 2012
Photo by Fish & Chic

I Will If You Will
Photo: I will if you will by John Kortland

Fish&Chic_October 2012
Photo by Fish & Chic

Careful The Wind Doesn't Change !
Photo: Careful the wind doesn’t change by John Kortland

Mikey and Si
Photo: Mikey and Si by Dave McGowan

Fish&Chic_October 2012
Photo by Fish & Chic

Flowing Silver
Photo: Flowing silver by John Kortland

Hirsuite Individual
Photo: Hirsute individual by John Kortland

Rose Coloured View
Photo: Rose coloured view by John Kortland

London Street Portrait
Photo: London street portrait by r3cycl3r

Brixton Splash
Photo: Brixton Splash by Dave McGowan

Monty And His HandlerPhoto: Monty and his handler by John Kortland

Fish&Chic_October 2012Photo by Fish & Chic

Fish&Chic_October 2012
Photo by Fish & Chic

English food and weather
Photo: English food and English weather by Gary Kinsman

The Shirtmaker  [Explored #207]
Photo: The shirtmaker by John Kortland

Fish&Chic_October 2012
Photo by Fish & Chic

Fish&Chic_August 2012
Photo by Fish & Chic

Neil Gorman (Plus Ghost)
Photo: Neil Gorman (plus ghost) by Dave McGowan

Fish&Chic_October 2012
Photo by Fish & Chic

Well Earned Break
Photo: Well earned break by John Kortland

Struggling Banker
Photo: Struggling banker by John Kortland

Fish&Chic_October 2012
Photo by Fish & Chic

Fish&Chic_October 2012
Photo by Fish & Chic

Turquoise Top
Photo: Turquoise top by John Kortland

Fish&Chic_October 2012
Photo by Fish & Chic

Not A Happy Bunny
Photo: Not a happy bunny by John Kortland

Photo: Hero by John Kortland

John Kortland’s Londoners

I am loving John Kortland’s ongoing photographic study of Londoners going about their daily lives. It’s all retirement fun for him, but I think his work is an awesome compilation of history in the making.

He's Behind You !

London is London because of the people who come and go, who leave behind a small piece of themselves in the process.

Big Issue Seller And Owner

It is what it is because these people are sharing the streets of this city but going about their lives in whichever way the days take them.

Forbidden Treat

They are eating, laughing, crying, walking, biking, getting lost…

Spiky Will

…shopping, busking, sleeping rough, squatting, sleeping in mansions, urinating in doorways, painting the walls…

Crushed Nuts

…smiling at strangers, avoiding eye contact, contorting themselves into crazy shapes for the sake of entertainment…

Black Bowler

…reading on benches, engaging in politics, being apathetic, dressing eccentrically, smoking cigarettes…

Smokers Corner

…chatting on mobiles, drinking tea, stumbling around drunk, being prim and proper…

Bag Man

…looking for love, looking for friendship, looking for a taste of home, looking for a way to belong, looking for a way to escape…

I Think It's Occupied Doris !

…being creative, jogging, having a rant, taking the piss, practising English, trying something new, learning, being…

Black And White Check

They are the life and energy of London and John’s work captures little pieces of that patchwork at a time.

Just Walking In The Rain

If you missed the interview with John last week, check it out here.

Speaking of Londoners, don’t miss yesterday’s giveaway post – my copy of Londoners by Craig Taylor. A big thumbs up from me.

London Art Spot: John Kortland

John Kortland waits patiently in Trafalgar Square, amid tourists and pigeons and Londoners with a trained eye on life unfolding around him. Timing is everything. There’s a moment when a street photograph comes together perfectly. And suddenly, with a blink of a shutter, that moment is captured. And many of these moments come together and begin to unfold a story of millions of Londoners living the high life, scraping by or wandering through. John’s collection is a small glance at Londoners on pause, but there are a million stories buried in these images.   

John has taken some time away from his camera to have a chat with us about his regular photography “hunting grounds” around London and the biggest challenges he faces when trying to capture that perfect moment on camera. He’s shared some fantastic shots throughout the interview. Enjoy!

Another Side of London

LLO: You’re now retired and photography is a major focus for you in your spare time. Give us a bit of background on your life before retirement and how that led you to enjoy photography today.
JK: I worked for Ford Motor Company for 37 years, starting as an apprentice, then an engineer, and spending the last 13 years in IT. When I was still an apprentice, a guy I worked with belonged to a Photographic Society. I went along one evening, got the shutter bug and was addicted.

I used to shoot black and white images, street photography mostly. I used to love Speaker’s Corner on a Sunday. I developed and printed the results in my loft darkroom which was like a furnace in the summer and an icebox in the winter. I entered and won a few competitions. Eventually work took me away from home so photography took a back seat until I retired. I then took the plunge into the digital age, and I am enjoying every moment of it.

Gentleman Tea Dancer

LLO: In which ways does London influence your creativity and how?
JK: London is so influential. I love it because anyone can walk down the street dressed in the most eccentric manner, or in nothing, and nobody takes a blind bit of notice; there are so many great characters, and wonderful locations, the narrow cobbled streets in the City of London, the public squares, and the great street markets. You can’t fail to be influenced by such a diverse range of subjects.

Sinister Magician

LLO: Which area of London is your favourite to take your camera and why?
JK: I have a few regular “hunting grounds” – normally Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, Somerset House and in and around the City of London, especially around the Bank of England. Trafalgar Square is my favourite.I like the Square as you never know what is going to happen next or who is going to stroll through, anyone from Grayson Perry dressed as his alter-ego Clare to desperate people whose life is lived on the street; to me it’s London in a nutshell.

Good Hair Day

LLO: Have you ever had an adverse reaction from someone you’ve photographed in the streets? 
JK: I can honestly say I’ve never had a really adverse reaction from any of my subjects. Some of them turn away or walk away, but if that happens I just move on. All my photographs are shot in public places, on the street, so as far as I’m concerned anybody is fair game. My view is if someone wants to dress flamboyantly or act in a eccentric manner in public then they are saying “look at me”, so I do, and take their picture.

Buffalo Soldier

LLO: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome as a street photographer and specifically to get a great shot that you really wanted?
JK: The biggest challenge I have is being patient. The most frustrating thing in London are tourists and sightseers who inadvertently stand right in my line of view or walk between me and the subject just as I fire the shutter. Thanks to the wonders of digital cameras you can normally take several more, but I have missed numerous good shots this way. I do ask people to move sometimes, and I have found that the scariest looking people are often the most cooperative, loving the attention I give them.

All that Glitters........

LLO: Tell us about your camera equipment.
JK: My equipment consists of a Nikon D90 camera and a Nikon 55 -200 zoom. I used to use fixed focal length lenses in my film days, as zoom optics were not as good, but these days I can’t fault the image quality and the range of the 55 – 200 covers all I need for street work. The purist street photographers shudder at this, as they all sing the praises of prime lenses but honestly, I don’t care. It works for me.

Busking In The Shadows

LLO: What are the most important elements of an image for you when composing a shot?
JK: Subject matter is the number one element for me, closely followed by composition and lighting, also backgrounds. I try to get as clean a background as possible although it’s not always possible with street “grab” shots. I do love using backlighting, especially for black and whites this time of year, when the sun is low in the sky, I am always aware of the strong shadows the bright winter sun casts – something to watch for if shooting a portrait.

Keep Walking Norman

LLO: Share your favourite London photograph from 2011, tell us the story behind it and what it means to you. (photo below)
JK: This is my favourite photograph of all my London pictures. It reminded me of the film Brief Encounter, with the two strangers briefly passing at St Pancras Station. I love the row of old lanterns and Victorian brickwork. it all worked for me. It was pure luck I shot it, I only went to the station to avoid the rain as it was one of those days I was gullible enough to believe the weather forecast. Sitting waiting for the rain to stop, I took three shots. This was the best of them. Also, it was the start of getting back into taking more black and white images.

Passing Strangers
LLO: What do you hope to communicate through your photography? Do you feel you have accomplished this to date?
JK: I hope to convey the vibrancy and eclectic nature of the people whom I meet on the streets of London, the fascinating characters, the eccentrics, the street performers, and all the people that make up the buzz of London. I also want to show its darker side, the lost and homeless, the sheer contrast between the haves and have-nots, trying not to exploit them but illustrate their plight. I don’t know if I’ve achieved that; the viewers of my photographs will decide.

American Tourist

LLO: Which London-based artist do you most admire at the moment and why?
JK: I love the work of Stephen Wiltshire, the autistic artist who does fantastic cityscapes, all from memory in the most infinite detail; I find them truly awe-inspiring. His observational skills are phenomenal, a true genius. I do like the work of Edward Hopper, not London-based, I know, but great pictures. I particularly like The Nighthawks, the sort of picture I would love to take.

Hats Off

Thanks John!

Keep up with John’s photographic adventures around London on his Flickr page.

John is a regular contributor to the LLO Flickr pool, so stay tuned for more of his work on the blog.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

If you want to recommend someone for a London Art Spot interview, leave a comment or email me: stephanie.sadler@hotmail.co.uk!

Graham’s Vivian Maiers Tribute, London Style

You may have heard the story of Vivian Maiers, the street photographer whose brilliance was discovered only after her death. It started when John Maloof bid for a box of her negatives at a Chicago auction and started to uncover some stunning images. She left 100,000 negatives behind, like this one:

Vanity Fair wrote that Maier’s work was a “starkly moving reminder of how powerfully we all experience our lives, largely in isolation.”

She was fascinated by the people who lived on the margins of city society, the homeless and the elderly, and she captured them on film, a secret obsession of a carer with a very private life who was without family or lovers.

In 2011, the Guardian ran an article on her, writing that “The people that remember Maier – the Chicago families for whom she worked as a nanny in the 1950s and 1960s – recall a reclusive, eccentric individual, one who spoke in a thick French accent and wore a heavy overcoat and hat even in the height of summer.”

Graham F Kerr, my favourite Camden photographer, started a tribute group on Flickr dedicated to photographs in the style of Vivian Maiers. He’s given me permission to share the following shots of his own that were inspired by her work, life and vision.

If you liked these, check out some of Graham’s other work I’ve featured on LLO. Add your own London photos to the Flickr pool for a chance to be featured.