Londonist Behind The Lens: Chris JL

A series celebrating the talent of our friends in the Londonist Flickr pool. This week, Chris JL shares some of his incredible candid images and talks about his passion for street photography.

“At the age of five, I was very disappointed to discovered that I would not be allowed to bring my inseparable camera with me on my first day of school. But I was stubborn, so the following compromise was reached: I would bring my camera up to the school gate, where I would be allowed to take a snap of myself in front of the school (that was a day worth remembering, I thought), and I would then willingly relinquish my camera for the rest of the school day. Thirty five years after, only two things haven’t changed in my life: I’m still in school (I’m an academic), and I still carry a camera everywhere.

The first time I moved to London it was on a whim, the second time was to reconcile love and career, and the third and last was because it’s the city I’ve decided to live in. I’m a foreigner, and I’ve been one always and everywhere, but London is the place that I call home. I live in the centre of town, where social strata, ethnicities, and nationalities mix. I walk a lot. I shoot people. I shoot unposed – candid – images. Simple things. For the ones that like labels, a big part of what I shoot is street photography. For me, it is just photography, and photography is just a part of my life – like eating, drinking, sleeping etcetera.

Why I like shooting in the streets in particular is a more complex issue. Do we really want our times to be remembered only through the depiction made up by television and advertisement? To a large extent, most of the representations of the world we live in are just a product, and respond to strict product requirements (e.g. if you want to sell a car to a rich man, the lady depicted in the car should rather be young and sexy), and this “normalisation” is disturbing and, actually, dangerous. Street photography is instead, by its own nature, un-normalised and anarchic – or at least, that’s how I like it to be. In a sense, it’s the world in your face.

Obviously, like any other form of representation, it is a lie by default – a four dimensional world projected into a confined 2D space cannot be otherwise. Nevertheless, a street photo is one of the most sincere lies that can be told. The capture of a street image is for me an almost automatic processes. More often than not it happens in a split second, and it is therefore the outcome of an almost involuntary physical reaction – that’s how I’ve seen the world (but not how the world was) in that split second, raw and unfiltered. And the camera repeats, mechanically, what could never be repeated existentially. A photographer that I deeply respect recently told me that my street work typically depicts some sort of “public intimacy,” in the sense that the pictures tend to capture intimate moments that happen to occur in public. I think he’s right, but on a different level: these pictures are probably my very own public intimacy.”

Browse Chris JL’s Flickrstream for more.

Flick through the Behind the Lens archives and find out about more great London photographers.

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Article by Lindsey Clarke | 3,260 Articles | View Profile

  • Conrad

    This guy is easily the best of your series so far.

  • Tom

    Wow, great article. Intriguing pictures and the text makes this more so.