After my last post about privacy I feel I should fess up that I also have a dog in the fight that goes a bit further than photography: I made a short film, ostensibly to learn Premiere Pro, but also because I liked a song and didn’t like the way it was on shown on YouTube. I made the film using short sequences shot on a Nexus 4 mobile phone, mainly on the London Overground on my way to and from work. The shots are of people who are for the most part looking at their phones. I liked the symmetry.
I’ve been drawing, photographing and filming to various degrees on London Transport since I got here in 1987. I’ve never been challenged about it but I am aware some people don’t like it. This is not going deter me. I don’t like ketchup, seriously, the smell really does make me gag and I’ll return any food that I discern it in. I wouldn’t threaten someone with arrest or violence because of it. If someone says no, then I stop. Like ketchup, photography isn’t illegal and long may it be so.
I had a friend in Poland who spent some time in London in 1990. She found the tube a weird and silent place where people avoided eye-contact at all costs, except for one occasion when the driver announced that Prime Minister Margret Thatcher had resigned. Newspapers dropped below eye level and people made eye contact and then, the unthinkable, they started to talk to each other. She said it was the weirdest thing and it never.happened.again.
That’s the charm of the tube. I’ve taken buses and undergrounds all over the place and have ear-wigged on conversations about all manner of things. Frequently people do not say much, but they do acknowledge each other. But London seems to be the daddy of pretending nobody else exists at all, people seem to travel in a little private bubble and all manner of things can happen without anybody batting an eye. The mobile phone has made things even more insular as you can be reading the Spectator and listening to death metal while someone else stands sobbing in the carriage right next to you. I was interested in what it takes to make us intervene or attempt a conversation but my limited research came up with no answers. So I edited the clips from my phone together with a song by Paul Mosley and put it up on Vimeo.