Catching Up With Photographer The London Vagabond


Written by Fin Murphy
08 Friday 08th April 2016

Last June we interviewed The London Vagabond, a photographer who captures the oft wild day-to-day events on the capital's streets. We caught up with him to talk his personal projects, working in a changing London and his upcoming plans...

Hey man. We last interviewed you in June last year, has life changed much since then?

Yeah, it was a little while back now. I wouldn't say that there have been drastic changes in my circumstances or necessarily my work. I think my technical ability has improved since we last spoke and I have a lot more knowledge of my camera's capabilities, plus what I can and can't shoot.

I believe you’ve been working on a few projects, like portraits of taggers. Could you expand on this and anything else you’ve been up to?

The project is close-up portraits of people that have painted illegal graffiti and served custodial sentences for their art. It's a very personal project to me as it is something I have been heavily involved in for an extended period of my adolescent life. I also ended up serving my time for conspiracy to commit criminal damage.

Do you have different approaches to everyday shooting and more project-based work?

When it comes to everyday shooting there is very little stress and little-to-no preparation. I pack my bag with an SLR, some rolls of film and a point and shoot and go for a walk. As of recently this has slowed down, I'm getting that urge to disappear from London again for a little while.

When it comes to projects, it’s a little harder for me as there are more expectations, especially when it comes to shooting with women. I feel a slight pressure to make sure that the shots come out in a way that makes both parties happy. I can always assume that the frames have come out right but you can never be too sure with film, especially if you aren't working with a light meter.

What are your thoughts on working in the capital, particularly at a time when it is going through massive changes like gentrification?

I'm pretty opinionated when it comes to the likes of gentrification, particularly in the case of social housing. The city is being torn apart. The beauty of this city is being destroyed and it's only a matter of time until everything is grey. It upsets me to see estate after estate being flattened and luxury apartments being put in their place.

Is there a particular part of the city you like to shoot, or where you think you’ll get good shots?

To be honest, it's always unpredictable. I obviously prefer to be in areas that have more culture and less gentrification but that’s becoming harder and harder. Places like Brixton and Peckham are slowly losing what made them truly London.

From what I’ve seen, your work seems quite consistent over time. How do you think your style - if at all - has changed?

When you first interviewed me I think most of my work was shot at night time and now a lot of my work is starting to be more in the day. I would say that’s one of the main changes but it's not been a conscious decision.

Do you ever feel constrained by your style, format? How do you challenge yourself?

I like the fact that there are certain limits that to film and that you need to think carefully about how you are going to shoot a particular subject. Each model shoot is a challenge to me, every time I shoot something a little different from my usual it keeps me on my toes.

The hostile environment of London is a challenge in itself.

Do you have any thoughts on 35mm being such a popular format currently? Are you keen to stick with it for the foreseeable?

I think it's important for everyone to document what they see: their friends, parties and all the things they get up to, but I also think there are so many people out there with a little point and shoot classing themselves as photographers. I even hesitate to call myself one...

There is no doubt that I will continue to shoot 35mm. For me nothing compares to using film; it's honest.

What would you most like to shoot that, for whatever reason, you haven’t managed to and why?

There's a whole bunch of random things I want to shoot, including a few projects I won't mention as I don't want people to get there first. I want to shoot in more squats, although that’s becoming a bit more difficult these days as paranoia is high and people are more hesitant to trust. I completely understand that though as I would be too. I'd also love to shoot backstage at strip clubs, but have no idea how I should go about approaching it yet.

I know you sell prints online, have you got plans to publish your work in any other way?

I am toying with the idea of releasing a few zines this year... I have put together a group zine with a few of my friends that are also photographers under the name "Broken Window Theory". It's all printed and ready to go, we are just sorting out a release date and a few extra goodies, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Anyone you’d like to shout out?

Harry Conway, Robert Peace, Niall McManus, Niall O'Reilly, Grey Jam, Toromai, all the models I have worked with so far, the people that supported my go fund me and everyone else that has helped along the way. Thanks.

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