Enjoying the light

  Olivier, a French man in London. I was on my way to a board meeting at writers’ organisation 26.org.uk. Feeling knackered; still emotionally drained from a dear friend’s funeral last week. Olivier was leaning against a bollard on Borough High Street. “Are you waiting for someone?” I asked. “No, I’m just enjoying the light.” […]

Always apologising

This is Sarah. She was standing outside a laundrette in Pimlico, London, waiting for her wash to finish. I was on my way to visit a youth club project. “Can I take your photo?” “Sure, what’s it for?” “Nothing, just for my own purposes. Oh sorry, that sounds kind of creepy.” “No worries,” she laughs. […]

Why John didn’t want to be in this photo

Henry and John are standing on Tooley Street, London Bridge. “Can I take your photo?” Henry says yes. John says no. “He doesn’t want to be in the photo because he used to be a professional photographer,” says Henry. “He worked at The Times for years.” I ask John: “So don’t you like photos?” “Yes, […]

Experiments in street photography

I love street photography, especially portraiture. I’ve taken candid shots of people before and caught some interesting moments. But I’ve never gone up to a stranger and asked them if I can take their photo. The main obstacle was fear, I think. What if they said no? Plus there’s that innate English awkwardness: who am I to go […]

Adding a little bit of happiness

This is Mick. He runs a South London charity called the Furzedown Project. Its mission is to prevent loneliness among the elderly. Mick organises activities like singing groups, knitting circles and exercise classes. He’s 56 and has been at Furzedown for the last seven years. “It’s a nice place to work,” he says. “I come […]

“They called me the Maharaja”

On a visit to the Imperial War Museum with another tiny charity, South London Cares, I met Oun. He arrived in London from India in 1962 with £5 in his pocket and a selection of his mum’s jewels around his neck. “They called me the Maharaja,” he said. Walking around the museum and eating a […]

When Bob gets up to sing

They were singing Christmas Carols down at the old folks’ drop-in centre in Tooting on Wednesday afternoon. Quality variable. Then Bob, 81, who’d just been mumbling along until that point, steps up and offers to sing a solo. Oh, gawd. This will be awkward. But he opens his mouth and out comes a beautiful music hall ballad, […]

“I became part of his story”

The guy in the photo above is Mohammed Mamdani. He runs a community food bank on the St Raphael’s Estate in Brent, North West London. It’s called Sufra, a Persian word. The literal definition is of a tablecloth or rug – one you spread on the ground when people eat together. But the word also […]