Edmonton Sea Cadets -Lgee Faure
Thanks for speaking to me Lgee. Firstly, for those who may not know you, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Ok, well my name is Lgee and I photograph the transport system, people on the streets, disappearing London and many other things. The night is the best time for me to photograph the city as it sleeps 'cause I tend to find it's not so busy whilst I'm roaming the streets, it’s usually peaceful and a great chance to see things in a whole different perspective.
How long have you been taking photos?
I started off with my first camera phone back in 2003 so wasn't too big on taking photos because the quality was terrible which put me off quite a bit. In 2011 I got a second camera phone, this time with 8 megapixels, so I felt reassured to start taking photos again. When it came to the night though, again I wasn't getting the results I expected, so I finally decided to upgrade to a digital camera and then to my current SLR Canon 1100D.
What was it that made you decide to go out with your camera phone one day and start taking photos?
To be honest it's something I didn't really think much about, I just felt like taking photos at the time. Years down the line, looking back on it, I think I thought to myself it would great to document the London I know.
So what was happening at the time that you felt you wanted to capture or express?
I'm always observing whilst being on the streets, that's how I've noticed living in London there tends to be some sort of drama almost everywhere I go, and when I'm there I feel the need to capture this. To me, this is an eye-opener of what's going on around us and the images I share could be useful to others.
Harlington Bridge - Lgee Faure
You shoot mainly in London and I know you spend a lot of time on the streets at night, photographing all over the city. I know you have a real love for London and almost a sense of responsibility to try and make sure people can see the city that you care about. Can you talk a bit about that and how this inspires your work?
Well, growing up in the city I’ve seen a lot of changes, a lot of good and bad. As I'm always on the streets I've felt a change in people's attitudes, which sometimes makes me feel that they don't care about each other and the area that they live in. For example, who wants to walk down the road to see rubbish and household appliances thrown away in the street? I certainly wouldn't and I'm sure many other people would agree.
Taking these photos gives people an insight into what's happening around us. Hopefully this gets acknowledged so people can have a platform to express their opinions. From spending most of my time on the transport system I've noticed the changes to different areas, I see how the population has increased dramatically since I was young and how the ethnic makeup of different areas has almost completely changed.
So you’re documenting the history of London almost… you said you've seen things change, I know you do a lot of work shooting areas that are being regenerated or rebuilt. What are your feelings about that and how your photographs document that side of things?
Well, this is a subject I'm very passionate about. Around the year 2012, just gazing out the window of the buses as I do, I started to take notice of council estates being demolished in deprived areas. So I started researching the areas undergoing regeneration and took the time to pay them a visit to take photos and talk to the tenants.
There is a real sense of character to those buildings as most of them were pre-war housing. By demolishing them you're not only destroying the history of London but at the same time a community that's been around for generations. I honestly think that the new buildings that they build don't really fit in well with the surrounding area, they're way too tall which means they block out a lot of sunlight from street level, as well as just being bland with no real character.
So I suppose in time to come people can look back at the photos and see what the area used to look like.
North Circular Footbridge - Lgee Faure
So it’s not that the city being diverse is a bad thing, more that the community spirit is being damaged due to the changes you’re describing and you see that as a bad thing, that’s what you're saying?
It saddens me that those friends, families and communities that have been around for generations are being told by the council it's time to move on 'cause we're knocking down your homes and businesses to build "affordable homes". Once the tenants have to vacate their properties, some of them who bought their homes simply can't afford to move into the new apartments. Some people in social housing don't have a clue where they're being moved to and some even end up becoming homeless.
So your photographs are trying to call to attention the way things are changing rapidly and you feel like we're losing some of the character of London as things change. You spend a lot of time trying shooting parts of London that people don’t really know much about, don’t see or even care about that much… do you feel like when you were growing up in London you saw more of that character than you do now?
Yeah, I do actually. On the streets, people used to talk to each other. I feel people don’t have much respect for the streets now, the way I’ve seen a lot of mattresses, fridges, household appliances just dumped on the streets. Obviously I like to ride the transport network and people just leave their rubbish on the seats and...I just feel like people don't have respect any more about where they come from.
You’ve mentioned the transport system, you do spend a lot of time travelling around London on buses. Some would consider that quite an unusual way to get around London because it takes long and it’s not very clean a lot of the time. Can you talk a bit about what interests you about the transport system? Also you take many photographs of buses, trains etc… can you tell people about that and why you enjoy that?
Well I’ve been riding the buses since I was like 12 or 13. Being on the buses I’ve seen the streets change and somehow over the years I’ve become fond of the buses and started to learn the network, how to get around, and what I am trying to do is capture the trains, trams, buses etc and also the interiors so hopefully in years to come people will look back at it and see how we used to travel.
Boris Bus - Lgee Faure
Ok, so one question I have is why shoot at night, because you could capture all of the things you talk about during the day - the changing face of the city, the transport system etc. So why night photography?
Well, the night time is peaceful. You haven’t got people up in your face. I feel during the day it’s really tense and to get around especially on the buses, as I travel everywhere on the buses, it takes twice or three times as long.
I can’t really describe what the night time feels like…it gives me a whole different vibe within myself and I feel like things are peaceful and things look amazing at night time, surprisingly to some people.
So, like for a lot of night photographers there’s something about the night that appeals to you, a sense that things are better at night. I feel the same! So how would you describe your style of photography?
Just being me really! Depends what sort of mood I’m in. Most of the time it just varies. So anything I see that I find interesting, I'll take the photo. I do get a lot of strange looks, but you know, I suppose people can’t see what I am taking from my perspective.
Are there any photographers that inspire you or whose work you look at?
Yeah, there’s a couple of people who take photos of council estates and some night photography. I’ve got my bus photographers and transport photographers, how they capture their photos as well. There’s Will Faichney, the London bus spotter.
You’ve mentioned you use a Canon at the moment. What equipment are you normally carrying with you when you’re out and about?
Just two lenses really, an 18-55mm and a 30mm. I am using a Canon 1100D, it’s cropped so I can’t always get a wide angle so I sometimes have to stand in weird places to try and get the photo I want!
Can you tell me a bit about how you work with your images, what do you use for processing etc?
I edit through Lightroom and then upload to Flickr and then do a bit of editing on Flickr as well. My images are public. I put them on Instagram also.
Is the editing a big part of your process?
Well my editing is just basic, I'm not really too good with the editing. It’s just the basics like colour temperature, sharpness, contrasts. I haven’t really got into it more than that. I feel like my editing could do with a bit of improvement.
Springbridge Road Car Park - Lgee Faure
What’s the scariest thing that’s happened to you being out on the streets at night… any stories you can tell us about?
Well you do tend to see some random people. But I suppose the way that I carry myself is kind of calm and I don’t like to think negative when I go out because I feel if I think negative, then negative is going to happen. I’ve been on the streets so long, so have kind of learnt how to carry myself.
I do see some fights and drug users and things, but I keep myself to one side. Sometimes if I feel I can talk to them and try to help them out, if I feel it’s the right time and place to do it, by all means I will do it.
Do you use a tripod at all?
I’ve never used a tripod! I like to improvise, look around me and see if I can lean the camera on something and then just test it out, take a couple shots and if I feel it’s stable then just go with it.
If you were to offer advice to someone who was thinking about giving night photography a try, what would you say to them? And possibly some of your suggested spots?
Just be yourself and be calm, collected and don’t feel a certain way. Just go out there and if you feel something and you want to shoot it then shoot it. Take a look around you and get a vibe of the people around you, then if you feel it’s appropriate then by all means…
For me personally the best time to shoot is on a Sunday night because it’s the quietest time of the week. You’ve got the tourist attractions like Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus etc where the roads are completely empty at night. If you want to get a great perspective of something that’s the best time to shoot. The Thames down in Greenwich, there’s a lot of historic buildings down there.
The canals and A-roads where it’s a bit dark but there’s a sort of vibe to it like in north London near Edmonton, the River Lee Navigation. There are good viewpoints like at Stanmore Hill.
River Lee Navigation - Lgee Faure
I know you’re always up to date on when estates are under threat of demolition. How about an estate that is going to be gone soon?
The West Hendon estate. A lot of people have been moved out already so the estate is practically empty. That is a good place to shoot at night because some of the buildings are still remaining, they were built in the late 60s/early 70s, so capturing a bit of London’s history while you can.
South Acton, you‘ve only got a couple of buildings remaining. I am still looking for some more council estates to visit and shoot.
South Kilburn Estate - Lgee Faure
You’ve already built up this really big body of work shooting various things all around London. Where do you see yourself in the next few years with your work, what are you looking to do?
Well I’d like my work to be promoted, to be more visible to people. My work varies from transport to architecture to streets at night. I take photos of various things, so obviously I enjoy taking photos, I’m passionate about what I do. Sometimes I can’t explain very well what I do, but I have my photos there so if someone asks me something about them I can explain it to them. Basically every photo I take has a meaning behind why I take the photo.
How can people see more of your work?
So my work can be found on Flickr, Instagram and I do use Twitter from time to time. My website is www.lgeeography.uk
Cool. So you just said that your images have a story behind them. Can you think of an image that you’re really proud of, if you had to pick one?
At night time I like to ask the drivers if they can change the destinations on the buses for me. Because I know quite a lot about the buses so I tend to try and hunt down the buses that have the old destinations and see if they can change it for me. It all depends on the drivers whether they want to do it for me or not. Then I just take my photo.
The reason why I do that is because the routes they have on those buses will not be used on those particular buses due to either the changes of the companies or the height restriction and so forth, so…
So you’ve captured a few of those with old routes on the buses?
Do you think people would know that they are old routes?
Central Line - Lgee Faure
Can you talk me through a typical night shooting, when does it start, how do you travel around, how long will you be out for?
Well sometimes I start in the morning, about 11 o’clock. I will go down to a council estate to take photos of what’s going to be demolished or is being demolished. I travel everywhere on the buses, so travelling from my area in zone 5 west London, and say going to zone 3 or 4 in south London, will take me 2 to 3 hours depending on the traffic. I take photos of the estates, then I like to go to the suburbs, say zone 6, where it’s like being in the countryside.
By the time I’ve got there it’s probably 6 or 7 o’clock. I’ll chill out for a while and wait for the rush hour to die down, then when it gets darker I’ll start wandering and just jump on random buses. Obviously I know the buses so don’t tend to get lost anyway. Anything that catches my interest from looking out the window I’ll just jump off the bus and take a little walk around and take the photos. I don’t listen to any music and I don’t look at my phone, so I can get to hear and see and feel the vibration of the area. If I feel it’s comfortable, then by all means I will take more of a wander round and take more photos. Then when I’m on my way back home it will take about an hour to get into the city, then about an hour to get home.
At night time the roads are empty and there’s no one on the buses so the journeys are a lot quicker. I don’t get home till about 4 o’clock and if it’s summer time sometimes I go up to the hills and watch the sunrise and just chill out there for a little while and might take more photos depending on how I feel. So I'll then go home sometime after 6.
So it’s a long day for me, then I’m sometimes up early in the morning sorting stuff out again!
You speak a lot about how you feel and looking at your photos I definitely get the sense that there’s a lot of your emotion in what you shoot, because you make things that to me aren’t that interesting, like the inside of a bus for example, look very interesting. You can tell that there’s a love there, a real feeling for that thing, when you shoot it. How do you bring your emotion into what you do, how do you feel that that happens?
I know I love taking photos, but at the same time how I feel, sometimes I feel saddened, especially when I’m taking photos of architecture or the buildings as I feel it’s the history, a part of London’s history, and I need to capture it before it’s gone.
It’s sad for me to see it go. Not just for me, but a lot of people around the community who live in these buildings, spend time in the pubs and stuff, so for that to go it’s sad, yeah…
Would you say that’s the main emotion, a sense of regret, sadness or loss, in your work?
Yeah it’s more of a sadness, but at the same time it has so much meaning as well.
Thanks so much for your time. It’s a real pleasure to talk to you and I look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.
Thank you for the interview!
To see much more of Lgee’s work (in glorious high definition!) please check him out here:
Thanks so much for your time Lgee and for sharing your love of what you do with us here on the blog. I’m personally inspired whenever I speak to you, particularly by how much you care about your city and preserving and documenting it for others to enjoy.
Please take the time to check out Lgee's extensive and varied work. He's recently started working on documenting London night life and continues to capture condemned buildings around the city before they are demolished.
Till next time, as always, keep it interesting!