May 25, 2020

London street photography. A London street photographer. Phrases I feel proud to associate myself with. Yet - like a lot of life at the moment - I took for granted what they meant. Let's look at London. I roamed the West End, celebrating the choreography we each practice to navigate our individual paths through the city, filling the veins of its streets with energy. My London is now as far as I can run to and from my home. Places that some would dispute even are in London!

The life on those streets is now represented not by faces. Those I meet are often masked, on their way to work, a memory for me. The frontline feels an apt description as the journey and workplace will mean exposure to the risk of infection and possibly worse. Street photography for me now is, with grim irony, just that. There are no people in my pictures. The streets themselves take centre stage. The only constant in a future still not fully comprehensible. Along the way there are signs, some explicit, others less so.

Chalking's making a comeback, another echo of an era of austerity, fear and of making do but now I see another meaning. A moment of uninhibited expression in the fresh(er) air away from the confines of the house and family. Front gardens double up as mini circular economy models or impromptu safe distance conversation stations. High streets and malls are also redefined, shop windows frozen in time, succumbing to a nuclear wind at the moment of the lockdown announcement. Messages of hope to customers, some corporate, some heartfelt. Shop displays decay, winter coats a dissonant reflection of our summer selves. Book pages curl, scrolling themselves into messages for bottles. Plants die and thrive recalling a prophecy from David Byrne. Doorways and windows have been repurposed as pick up points for the outriders of the gig precariat. Combined with reversing supermarket delivery vans and emergency services vehicles traffic has a disturbing characteristic. The sound of sirens.

It's a world that's familiar but, as referenced a month into the UK lockdown, strange. I feel the current direction of my work is a prelude, documenting a phoney war to adopt the language of our time, before the consequences of these days take hold. As is my style I photograph the everyday, arguably the surface. The New Europe project considered how that's not necessarily opaque.

It reflects and refracts.

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Sean McDonnell

I've been pursuing a style of photography now called street for a number of years. A south Londoner by birth I am pre-occupied with the West End and spend too much time there taking black and white pictures on film. I nurture a hope that one day London will be recognised like Paris, New York and Tokyo as a great city of street photography but secretly like the fact that it is still the underdog. For someone who enjoys the solitary practice of his work I am surprisingly talkative about it - although not at the same time. Here's a collection of idle musings and distracting links.

These posts are a sample of my current blog PORTRAIT OF A STREET PHOTOGRAPHER. There are 10 years of posts so please visit!

Portrait of a Street Photographer archive

link to Portrait of a Street Photographer blog
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