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Matinee: 'John Perivolaris: Shoreditch Bridge Portraits' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

10 June 2017

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 191st in our series of Saturday matinees today: John Perivolaris: Shoreditch Bridge Portraits.

"I photograph. Between photographs I write," writes British photographer John Perivolaris. And you may have seen a few of his pieces in The Guardian over the years.

But in this short film by John Kent, who also took stills of Perivolaris at work, we see Perivolaris at work behind his camera on a project he's been working on since 2011.

He hoists his bag of gear on his back or shoulders and stands under the Shoreditch Bridge in London to make a quick portrait of people on their way to somewhere else.

"I'm usually not thinking about anything," he says. "Usually when I'm thinking, I freeze up and I don't approach people. So I just go on gut instincts."

It helps, we suspect, that he looks the part. He's not standing there with a map in his back pocket and a smartphone with a selfie stick. He's got a bag of gear and his dSLR on a shoulder strap.

'Something has to click.'

So when he approaches a subject that interests him, the subject probably sees a photographer, maybe even a photojournalist.

"Something has to click," he says of his subjects. In a split second of eye contact a connection is made, he approaches, asks if he can make a picture for "a long-term project about the changing face of London" and shortly after a portrait happens.

Because he's a regular fixture under the bridge, sometimes a subject approaches him.

There are about 300 portraits in the project so far but his "mental archive," which includes the ones he didn't get, runs to about 500.

As he talks about the project, Kent shows us the portraits one after another. You can see even more of them on the project page but the video gives you a good sense of the depth -- and attraction -- of the project.

It's a fascinating collection showing the variety of people passing briefly through one place in a large urban setting.

In an interview with Faded & Blurred which also includes a number of the portraits, Perivolaris explains why he doesn't identify the subjects, other than by a date:

In an increasingly privatized urban space ever more under surveillance, the encounters I record mark moments when public space is shared respectfully with others. Not including names or biographical information is a sign of a respectful distance bridged by the moments of our encounter. These are commemorated by the dates attached to each photograph.

He also reveals a couple of things you can do to avoid being approached. Wearing sunglasses prevents that flicker of recognition between him and the subject. As do headphones and cellphones, which isolate a subject.

But that isn't a problem for Perivolaris. "I am happy to confirm that many Londoners have a playful and creative spirit," he reports.

Even these days, we salute them.

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