In this series I embarked on a critical exploration of how London is portrayed in contemporary photography, particularly in mass media. It is often polished, pretty or, one could say, sugar-coated, with photogenic buildings and luxury venues in the background of so many shots. Often confined to glossy and idealized depictions, it fails to capture the city's true essence. However, this is not London that I see and feel. Perhaps, looking at the city with the eyes of an immigrant opens up another point of view. London is a place of rich history, duality, complexity, and weighty events, which make it endlessly captivating and profound. In this series, my intention was to palpate and freeze metropolis’ underlining dark soul.
On the shots, actor Oliver Benett is interacting with the city’s spirit, interspersing with it, as we pass by the iconic sights of Soho, Piccadilly, Leicester square. I aimed to freeze the metamorphosis in motion, emphasizing the importance of each shot in conveying the desired impact. This is why the consequence of shots is also important. To achieve this, I let go the mimesis, not to picture the reality, but to use my camera in the way that an expressionistic painter uses his brush: distorting the reality to make it expressive of the artist's emotions in the moment of interaction with it.
The inspiration for my series was Japanese photographs: Shomei Tomatsu, Еikoh Нosoe,Yutaka Takanashi, Takuma Nakahira in particular. They captivated me with a mastery to intertwine beauty and horror within their frames. To me, a big part of that is due to their distinct composition, different from the classical canon widely accepted in European photography. I consciously departed from the latter and took ‘Japanese’ composition as the basic artistic method. This allowed me to strike a delicate balance between contrasting elements, evoking both allure and unease in the viewer. Through my lens, I looked behind the surface, even behind the “true” London that was immortalised on photographs before. I looked and searched for the soul, the demon, the psyche of it. This is how the 'City Spirit' emerged —a testament to the profound exploration of London's hidden depths.
Model: Oliver Bennett
Light assistant: Anna K Sebastian