To create intimacy with London while commuting could be challenging, but at the same time gratifying; you learn, think and imagine from the city as a whole and each of its elements: people, streets, objects and aesthetics.
London from my car
People who live in megacities, usually share one issue: commuting. It takes a lot of time from their everyday lives, so usually they start to hate it. Crowded streets, people invading your own space and from nowhere you get involved in a frenetic fight, fight for your freedom and for the feeling to have a little tiny universe that separates you from others. Thousands of cars stop for hours with non-sense, only to move forward just a few meters; repeating it forever.
Everyone –at least in one moment- made the maths; if I travel two hours every day each way and I multiply it by weeks, months and a year… yes, the result is nine hundred sixty hours a year; in other words, 40 days annually, which is way longer than standard holidays. Weird and sad, but here we are, having this daily fight in our megacities. Yet we’re not resigned; we’re happy to enjoy all the opportunities that the megacity has to offer.
Over my first year of settling down in London, I spent my commuting mainly observing people, trying to remember streets –always useful to improve my orientation- and admire diverse aesthetics and moods that London provides.
After days, weeks and months, the moment finally arrived and I said “enough is enough”. I started a fantastic transition from being an observer, to fully involve myself with my new home and to create empathy with it.
Every day, while commuting I take my camera and seek to capture fleeting moments that show some of the complexity and diversity of this city. The more time into this project, the easier it is to find the London’s sparkle. The sparkle that ignites the communication between me and the city, the communication that is flavoured with wonderful and unique aesthetics. The exquisite seasoning in the images is just possible for the astonishing diversity, the multiculturalism and the mix between the old and the new.
Day by day I’m blessed to discover something new. On some occasions I’d get a chance to encounter musicians, who care their instruments with the magic of love that only another musician can understand. Musicians creating music in their heads and musicians just observing or in a deep concentration; it’s clear that this is the concentration that precede the performance.
In these trips, I’ve noticed a tremendous number of business men/women who inhabit the city. Sometimes, they discretely primp their aspect, but on other occasions they boast what they understand as a success; mobiles, nice and expensive suites and the most enjoyable, their lack of time to really relish live beyond the work.
London is the most visited city in the world, therefore the streets are riddled of tourists from all around the world. It’s interesting to observe and capture how these tourists sort all the inconveniences, by which the travel surprises them. Among them, how to read an old-fashion- printed map or how to communicate in a strange language; sometimes you can notice even bewilderment or fear when they need to cross the street. Yet one of the most beautiful things to capture are their fascinating faces contemplating the amazing… London.
One of my favourite pictures presents one girl with her hand in her chin, holding one cigarette. She is dressed fully in black with the exception of one little part of her white socks, a flirt with her dark mood. She is thoughtful and reflexive. The most probable is that we will never get to know her thoughts, but here appears the marvel of photography, providing us with a chance to imagine multiple possibilities.
The vehicle that I travel with is in movement, the people on the streets are in movement; nothing is absolutely motionless, and when I connect two different stories in one frame, I consider it as a success. How many stories are around us? We disregard the majority of them. As an example, one of the photos in this collection that I took without observing the viewfinder –I just took it by instinct- connects one lady cycling and listening to the music on her headphones with one guy passing by, listening to the music too; the wire of their headphones interconnects them marvellously. Did they listen to the same song at that very moment? I would like to imagine that yes.
As a street photographer, I always have my full attention to be ready capture that decisive moment that Cartier-Bresson taught us. I love the picture where a businessman –or probably a man who works in the office- finds himself in between two eyes of a woman using one headscarf LV on a billboard behind. How many ideas could we discuss from this image?
When people commute, they are in a rush, usually with some level of stress. Through this project I’ve learnt to enjoy commuting, to be more patient and in fact sometimes I beg to have a longer journey before I reach my final destination.
Commuting in the morning after the rush hours, I’ve had a great opportunity to coincide with moms and children; you can breathe this special atmosphere, a kind of daily life complicity between small kids and their moms.
The city is not just people in countless circumstances; there are also cars, buses, buildings that tell you a lot about the city, about the society, about so many things that are happening there, you can play in guessing their thoughts and worries. All these elements produce the aesthetics of the city, and the inhabitants see and live this aesthetics all days it creates a constant feedback between images and observers, observers and images; transforming them everlastingly.
Intentionally, just in the very end I would like to mention the homeless in the city. Our self-defence mechanism protects us from observing them and being conscious about them. They are always at the bottom of the society; but we should not forget that they have needs, fears and emotions. They reflect our society and in some way they personalise the consequences of our way of live. They’re always present in the city’s landscape, reminding us a fragile line between wealth and a bad fortune that London can create.
About the project
I called this project “London from my car”, because I started it taking pictures exclusively when commuting by a car; however nowadays I decided to extend it to other ways of commuting, such as busses and ubers.
The constant movement characterizes all elements of this project; my car, the people, their actions, their expressions, other cars, buses and even the weather –different and extremely low light conditions even during the day-. All this dynamic challenges my work and requires a 100% alertness, as well as to be as quick as possible in order to capture an accurate moment in a correct frame, especially because I shoot in a manual mode.
From the very beginning, I decided to keep the following three elements fixed:
50mm fixed lens; in this way I’m capable to reproduce and emulate my perspective in order to transmit with the most fidelity possible the sensation to be in the driver’s seat in my car.
Black-and-white photographs give to this project the possibility to be timeless. To me, colours are not able to communicate or reflect a specific time; I’m trying to allow the entrails of the city to shed light on the pass of the time and the changes.
Crop technique is not applied in this project; each encounter owns its real frame taken with 50mm lens; I’m trying to avoid any kind of censorship of the image. The main challenge is to obtain a perfect frame with all movement around and other activities that you need to attend during your commute.