The London Vagabond, his pseudonym name says it all. This self-taught London street photographer is taking the city by storm capturing the nitty gritty underground. Raw, honest back to basics are just a few words that come to mind looking at his photos. While in conversation with the photographer himself we found out some more about his self development and the pros and cons of analogue street photography!
To start off with, who are you, how old are you where are you from and when did you start taking photos?
I go by the pseudonym of The London Vagabond and London is the place I currently reside, although I tend to travel around as much as possible. I started taking photos at around 14; it all began when I started documenting the graffiti my friends and I were doing. 2013 is when I really started getting into photography and a year later I started showing my photos online.
How would you describe your own work in 3 words?
Raw, honest & nonconforming
What’s the most important thing you look at before you click?
The most important thing that I do have to think about no matter what is the available light, since I shoot film often with no flash. Film’s an expensive habit, a wasted frame is a waste of cash. In all honesty it depends on the moment, sometimes I have no time to frame up a shot. I have a split second to make the decision when I am out in the street. When it comes to portraits that I have time to take it’s the eyes I make sure to focus on, they are what I want to dominate the photo.
Your favourite photograph and why?
I always say that my favourite photos are the ones that got away…that I never had a chance to capture, the things I have seen that I will never be able to show the world. Either because I wasn’t quick enough, the film was under exposed or I was told no and have had to respect the person’s wishes. Hopefully these moments get less and less…
You only shoot analogue, why not shoot digital?
Never did I ever imagine myself solely shooting film, it wasn’t a conscious decision. I used to shoot digital and I loved it! I could shoot quickly, take hundreds of photos a night and select straight away what I liked – it was instant. However, shooting digital came to an abrupt end when the police stole my camera off of me. If my camera hadn’t been taken away from me I most likely never would have converted to shooting film, as it was previously not of interest…Limiting yourself to 24 – 36 frames made absolutely no sense to me in the beginning. Luckily a month or so before my DSLR was taken from my person, I had started collecting old 35mm SLR’s from charity shops. I was a broke kid, there was no way I could ever of afforded another DSLR, I still couldn’t now. So yeah I only had these second hand dusty cameras and I knew that I had to keep taking photos so I began to teach myself how to shoot film. In the beginning I wasted a lot of money developing some pretty bad photos because I didn’t understand the camera or the films capability. I’m still learning. I can only thank the police for stealing my camera because they forced me to learn a whole other side to photography and now if I had the chance to choose film or digital I would stick with shooting film.
Your style is incredibly raw, did you think this is because of the fact that you are a self-taught photographer?
Being self-taught has influenced my style. There are a whole range of contributing factors to why my style is so raw, for instance, my cameras are all purchased from second hand shops and charity shops, none costing more than £30.00. None of these cameras or lenses have ever been repaired or serviced, there’s dust in the lenses and some of them even have fungi growing inside them. My cameras never have batteries in them so none of the light meters work; I have always worked without one so this also makes a major difference. I work with what I have. I also believe that I am a product of my environment and my style mimics the person that I am. I don’t think my work would be as honest if my stuff was completely clean and shot on the best equipment money could buy.
Do you think as you evolve as a photographer and you gain more knowledge this rawness from inexperience will decrease?
My reputation and identity has been built on how gritty my work is. I have been lucky enough that people notice and appreciate my style and it’s been said that it is an individual style so realistically I don’t think the rawness will ever leave my photos… It’s a big part of who I am to keep it raw and uncut.
What do you think your biggest advantage is not having had any professional training? My work conforms to no set rules; nothing has been forced upon me educationally in terms of how things should be done. My approach is completely organic and I don’t think this would have happened if I had been taught. Rules were made to be bent, broken and twisted, I will not ever apologise for my work not necessarily being classically composed or things being slightly out of focus.
Who is your biggest photographical inspiration?
Bruce Davidson’s subway art, Mike Brodie’s A period of juvenile prosperity, Estevan Oriol’s La portraits, Boogie and Khalik Allah to name a few.
What fields in photography would you like to explore and why?
Fingers crossed in the next two months I will be processing all of my own film and playing in my own darkroom…that would be completely crazy but nothing is set in stone. The opportunity to do this would bring a whole new level to my work.
In terms of subject matter I really want to step up the documentary photography and work on a lot more project based pieces. There are so many ideas in this little head of mine, I need to focus on one thing at a time or I will just get completely lost in my own world.
What do you look for in a model?
I tend to seek women that I want to hang out with; for me, taking a photo is a holistic experience, I enjoy the whole experience of getting to know somebody whilst capturing them…So it’s not just the look a lot of the time, it’s about finding someone with a certain vibe, but when it comes to looks it’s a lot to do with individuality and quite often the recurring subject of nonconformity. Not always your stereotypical beauty. I know when I see it. I love strength in the women I work with, even if that strength is in the form of their vulnerability. It takes a lot to show your true character to someone else, I am forever thankful for that trust. My work is ultimately a collaboration of creativity when working with a model.
Dream photography job?
Nothing would make me happier than being sent over to South America to document the gang culture there or the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. That’s my dream…
What can we expect from the London Vagabond in the future?
Tomorrow is not promised today… I would hope that in the future you start seeing much more of my work floating around in various magazines. I’d like to start thinking about making a solo show happen. There’s plenty I would love to achieve, you will just have to keep your eyes peeled and see what happens next.
Want to know more? Check out The London Vagabond’s website HERE!
By Indiana Roma Voss