Londonist Behind The Lens: Mondoagogo

By Lindsey Last edited 128 months ago
Londonist Behind The Lens: Mondoagogo

A series celebrating the talent of our friends over in the Londonist Flickr pool who make our site look pretty with their fabulous photographs. Here, they introduce themselves and share their favourite London shots.

I spotted this on a walk around parts of the Olympic regeneration area in Newham and Hackney last year, initially drawn to the colours and angles of the signs combined with all the reds and lines of the bricks, but the unusual business the sign was advertising really made the image click for me. I find the idea of a wig supply company full of bathos: it's funny and sad at the same time, and that this building has probably since been knocked down only adds to that.

I was born in London and have lived here almost all my life, but there are areas of the city that I never bothered to go and look at until I really got into taking photos. Because of London's size and history, there is always something new to learn about even the most familiar places, so I never get tired of exploring. One of my favourite things to do is to grab my camera, get on a bus or a train and just go wherever it takes me. What I see when I go out exploring is not always the same thing that everyone else sees, which is something I really enjoy about taking photos. I get quite excited when I spot something that most people passing have overlooked, like a faded sign on the side of the wall of a derelict building.

I'm fascinated by what I think of as the secret language made up of all the words and signs in London. I like to document signs and graffiti as much as possible, although sometimes it's simply because I like the design of the letters, rather than what they're actually saying.

People like Bill Brandt, Eve Arnold, Tina Modotti and Martin Parr were all household names when I was growing up, at least in our household, and I probably learned a lot about colour and composition from these people without even realising it. I've always had an eye for the small detail; things that are often overlooked or taken for granted, and that's probably the one thing that unites all my pictures, whether they're taken on a minute scale or across an entire landscape.

I particularly like to focus on the ways that shapes and colour interact, to turn something mundane into a work of art on its own merits. Last summer there were some gorgeous giant yellow sunflowers growing on a scrubby traffic island at the junction of Blackfriars Road and Stamford Street, and every time I passed them they'd put a big smile on my face. Just a few weeks ago, I found out they'd been planted in the middle of the night by some locals. I love the way that London is full of people quietly going around and making it a brighter, prettier place.

Although I've owned a succession of film cameras it wasn't until I bought a decent digital compact a few years ago that I really got into photography to the extent that I think about it on a daily basis. I still use film occasionally, and sometimes get the urge to use it more often - I really like the results you can get with a Holga, for example - but I was given a Lomo Colorsplash last year, and the film keeps getting jammed in the camera, which is incredibly annoying and tends to put me off using it so much. Also, it's quite expensive to get film developed these days, and I always hated that disappointment of getting photos printed and finding out that half of them hadn't come out anything like the way I'd seen it in my head. Digital has freed me up to stop worrying about it and gives me the freedom to take loads of photos from different angles, and I can mess around a lot more with different levels of white balance or exposure. As a result, I'm a lot more experimental, and I think the more that I experiment, the better I might understand the whole process of photography.

I use a number of small compact digicams - which one I use tends to depend on whichever one doesn't have a flat battery at the time. I like having a camera that I can carry in my pocket and take everywhere I go, without drawing too much attention to myself, and without having to lug around a bulky DSLR or worry about lenses and the like. I figure that having all the expensive equipment money could buy still wouldn't give you the eye needed to line up an interesting composition, and that's far more important to me. I think, in the end, learning not to rely too much on the equipment probably helps hone my skill. For that very reason, it seems inevitable that I will one day get a DSLR, if only to learn more about photographic processes, but it's not really a priority (although I wouldn't say no if someone was generous to donate one to me!).

This is one of those lucky shots that came out right first time, taken in the rain at the track-side of Walthamstow Stadium a couple of months ago. The stadium is a really lovely, well-preserved example of authentic 1960s and 1970s design, so I was delighted when the picture came out with that yellow light because I felt it added a timeless quality. I first visited Walthamstow Stadium a couple of years ago, and fell in love with the place because it had a brilliant atmosphere, and provided the perfect combination of people-watching and design. You really do get people from all walks of life there - old geezers who've been going every weekend for twenty years; families; groups of lads on the piss after the match; middle-class media types; every sort of person, from all over London. I think it's a genuine tragedy that such a significant part of London culture is going to disappear for good when it shuts its doors in August.

Not a day goes by when I don't see something that I'd like to shoot, and London is especially great for that because there's so much going on and it's a constantly evolving space. I'm always making mental notes of places to return to, particularly when I'm on the bus. I don't ever manage to get to all of them and actually take the photographs I've been holding in my head, but at least I'll never run out of things to think about photographing. Lately, I've been experimenting with a combination of Photoshop and iPhoto to get even closer to the results I have in my head. I don't really know what I'm doing, so most of the time the end result is just a combination of happy accidents, but I like that element of experimentation. I still like it best when I can get the shot right in-camera, though.

For more, check out Mondoagogo's Flickrstream.

If you're a Flickrist don't forget to join our group and tag your quirky London photos "Londonist".

Last Updated 28 June 2008