American writer and photojournalist, Brian Leli, has spent the past four months photographing his exploration of London, presenting a unique cross-section of the capital city.
In a year that has seen youth unemployment reach a record high, growing discontent about the rising disparity between rich and poor, an attack on the financial system in the form of the St Paul’s occupation and the worst riots since the 1980’s – Leli’s photography appears to capture the day to day mood of ordinary Londoners in 2011.
By August 2012, Leli hopes to have finished London and a Year, a book comprised of still images and writings, presenting the author’s experiences over the course of his stay.
Noticeably, recent events seem to have shaped Leli’s work – and the Chicago born photographer says thatLondonoften “feels somewhat cold and sad”. Much of Leli’s photography reflects this and echoes William Yeates description of the London people: “I sometimes imagine that the souls of the lost are compelled to walk through its streets perpetually. One feels them passing like a whiff of air.”
However, his work does not only portray a tale of doom and gloom. Shots of the Notting Hill Carnival depict a more colourful and optimistic picture. Leli says his intention is to portray reality “without artifice”. The result of this is not, therefore, an extension of an inherited view, but instead depicts the experiences of an outsider’s standpoint.
“I’ve photographed and spoken with a barber shop owner whose shop was destroyed in the riots, which happened right before I moved here. I was there at the beginning of the Occupy London protests. And I’ll be here when the Olympics kick-off. So I think those juxtapositions in themselves will be very telling.”
Leli first moved to London from Chicago in August to study a Masters in International Journalism, desperate for a change in scenery. He likens his interest in journalism to his interest in photography, he says his course has “taken the romance out of the idea of being an international journalist and made it more real”.
Despite London being one of the most popular destinations in the world, Leli says: “I honestly haven’t fallen in love with the city” adding: “I’m sure a lot of that is just me and my nature, I’m sure that as the days go by and I keep working at it, I will crack the surface and find something special.”
You can see more of Brian Leli’s work in London here
by Omar Shahid and John Houghton-Brown