“The city doesn’t inspire me. The people do” Matt Stuart's London street photography and participation in Photo London 2016

The London-based street photographer will be showcasing some of his most remarkable London pictures, depicting a dynamic and almost ironic city but most importantly, its people. Through the patient style that drives Stuart to take the perfect picture, viewers might feel inclined to think some have been staged, but as Stuart clearly states, it’s all about “discovering pictures that suggest stories”. He will be exhibiting his work at the Deadhouse venue, underneath the Somerset House for Photo London 2016. Here are some insights of his photography and scope of work.

London is a very diverse city, amassing people from all over the world and its cultures. What keeps you eager to continue searching and documenting the people who live here?

You are right – it’s a very diverse city.   I’m fascinated by people’s different behaviours. I could be doing this photography wherever I lived, it just so happens to be London, the people are my main interest, not the place.

You will be showcasing your work at the Somerset House for Photo London 2016. Please share with us what The Magic Lantern Show entails, and the role your work plays among the different exhibits.

Underneath Somerset House is a unique exhibition venue called Deadhouse, it contains the gravestones of 17th century courtiers. I will be exhibiting 9 photographs printed on to wood panels. There will be additional projections of work by Marina Sersale, Bredun Edwards and The Lurkers. A programme of live music events are taking place in the evenings where the experimental environment of the Deadhouse will explore the relationship between music, photography and alcohol [Stuart laughs].

How was the curatorial process of the selected images available at the exhibition?

The curatorial team at Photo London chose the photographs that they believed best suited this unique venue beneath Somerset House. This is the most atmospheric space I’ve ever exhibited in, and Metro Imaging (the photographic printers) managed to overcome exhibiting in a listed and damp environment by printing the images on to wood, therefore avoiding the need to damage the walls.

Truly, London is a source of inspiration for many generations of artists, musicians, and photographers. How does the city inspire you?

The city doesn’t inspire me. The people do.

Your street photography falls neatly between the concept of irony and humor, where images suggest a story almost as if they were saying something to the viewer, what’s your creative approach to street photography?

I enjoy discovering pictures that suggest stories, and also demand the viewer’s attention and involvement. If this incorporates a little wit or humour then that’s a bonus.

You usually work with film in your own projects, more specifically, the Leica MP. Has this changed? And why is film your choice for street photography?

I still work with film when I am shooting my personal work in London. I tend to use the digital Leica M240 when I am abroad or teaching as I can easily share my photos with the class. Film is my first love, because I really enjoy its deferred reward. The Leica M is the perfect tool for the job of street photography. Small, compact, discreet and razor sharp lenses. Nothing else comes close.

The image with the Harry Winston background and the trash container in the forefront is truly suggestive, even funny. How did you stumble upon this? How do you remember this photographic moment?

The picture taken on New Bond Street took a long time. I was aware of the Harry Winston poster because I had walked past it most days for six months. Then one day I was out with Joel Meyerowitz showing him around one of my favourite areas of London, and spotted that a skip container had been dumped in front of the poster. It really was a lucky day for me.

Your new book “All That Life Can Afford” is available now, a recollection of many years of your London street photos. What was the process like?

The process of making the book was great fun. I worked with a really nice guy, designer Stuart Smith, and we spent a couple of years putting everything together. The high quality printing in Verona was nerve racking but a tremendous experience. The first printing of a thousand copies sold out in under a month and I have just taken delivery of the second printing which is available to buy from my website.

After many years of taking pictures in the streets of London, can you share one or two compelling stories you might recall of people you took photographs of?

I have photographed so many people over the years that it is hard to pick out particular situations or photographs. But I can tell you about the lady who feeds the pigeons every day by Debenhams on Oxford Street. She always grabs one and takes it home in a plastic bag. Talking of which, another good day was lying in the gutter of Trafalgar Square capturing pictures of people’s legs striding to work when a brazen pigeon decided to join them and strutted across my shot with the workers.

To know more about Matt Stuart’s work, please visit his official website and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Vimeo

To know more about Photo London 2016, please visit this website. Find more details about Matt Stuart’s exhibition here.

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