Back then I was walking in Camden and shot a few photos of a man I thought alone could sum up why I love London so much. Little did I know at the time that his daughter would contact me 6 months later.
The Great Londoners exhibition, featured in the Evening Standard, opened on 18th October 2014 to coincide with the launch of the Hoxton Hotel in Holborn. The show, sponsored by Olympus and due to last until 31st January 2015 is my biggest to date with 20 Londoners on show in a venue perfectly suited for it.
About a month in, in November, I received the following email:
"Hi, I would love to get a copy of The Great Londoners #12 picture, please let me know what options it comes in and pricing. The photo is actually of my dad who's recently turned 80, which is awesome to spot on your website. I look forward to hearing from you. Many thanks"
I'm not big on stats but anyone could guess the odds of one person recognising a relative on my website are slim. You tell me, with Greater London's population at around 7-8 million?
So meeting Brenda I thought I'd ask a few questions.
Q. Brenda, much to my surprise you recently got in touch with me as one of "The Great Londoners" is actually your dad! There's really a chance in a million, so how did you find out about it? I think it was through your sister?
A. Yes my sister walks past the Hoxton daily, the building had recently been refurbished so out of curiosity she Googled it .. then a picture of dad just appeared online!
Q. What were your and her reaction? I am always worried people could get upset when really I'm only trying to show...well...Great Londoners and your dad certainly ticks all the boxes.
A. We both thought wow that looks just like dad, then we recognised the jacket and thought damn it is him how mad is that but pretty cool too! Then we did wonder if he knew he’d even be photographed and what a chance in a million that was.
Q. Your dad is pretty cool, and actually I think in my top 3 of the entire collection. Does this photo reflect the real him, what's his name by the way?
A. His name's Hamilton. Yes, he’s a very unique person and quiet eccentric, most definitely younger in attitude than his years.
Q. Hi Hamilton! First of all sorry for taking your photo and not asking. I wanted to put together a collection of people who in my eyes make London the great city it is, hence "The Great Londoners". What was your reaction at first?
A. No problem, it was a nice surprise. I thought hey I’m not a bad looking guy for a pensioner!
Q. Did you go to the Hoxton Hotel to check it for yourself?
A. Yes I took my wife along and it was quite flattering to see it chosen as one of your collection
Q. I hear you just turned 80?! What's your secret for looking so pretty damn cool?
A. Don’t take things too seriously and enjoy your life!
Q. Is the photo hanging at your daughter's place? Do you actually like it?
A. Yes it’s looks great and my grandchildren love pointing it saying look papa it’s you!
Q. Have you got any interest in photography?
A. In my younger days I did like to dabble with a bit of photography but it’s been a long time
Q. Anything you'd like to add?
A. Thanks for capturing me on camera, it’s a great surprise to get noticed when you’ve just hit your 80th birthday!
Thanks a lot Hamilton!
So there you have it.
I'm often asked if I seek for permission when I photograph people in the streets, and the answer is: I don't.
If you spend your life asking for permission you get nowhere..
We live in a society where people are made to fear and question people's motives when really street photographers, document our times for future generations to better understand.
People and street photographers aren't all bad. Brenda and Hamilton's reactions reassure me that what I am doing does matter and can be well received by the very same people I photograph.