“My love for the history and beauty of the UK led me to create a sort of fairy tale version of London.” Photographer Kathryn Holeywell shares photos from her home of London, UK.
What kind of place is London?
For photos of London the city offers incredible diversity. Within a single city there is a staggering range of neighbourhoods, so depending upon what you like to photograph there is something here for everyone. I’ve lived in London for two years, and I’m continually surprised and delighted by the quieter neighbourhoods in London that have a village-like feel to them. This happened to me the other day while exploring some of the beautiful streets off King’s Road near Sloane Square and the Saatchi Gallery. I wandered off the high street, and suddenly I was in a residential neighbourhood of brightly painted terraced row houses – and it was so quiet! Parsons Green, Primrose Hill, Dulwich Village and Westbourne Grove are similar situations. But whatever you’re interested in photographing, London has so much variation there is bound to be something for everyone.
Why did you choose these photos?
I’m interested in a version of London that is a bit more dreamy and whimsical than what exists in real life. I’m originally from Houston, and my family as well as a lot of my friends are still based there. When I started taking pictures, it was a way of telling a story to that audience about my adopted home. My love for the history and beauty of the UK led me to create a sort of fairy tale version of London (and beyond) in my photos. I recently started working with the photographer Emily Quinton who has had a huge influence on my photography. If you’re not familiar with her work her gorgeous images are very feminine, and it wasn’t until I met her that I realised this is something that interests me too.
I’ve got just one hour to take photos of London. Where should I go?
Primrose Hill: I love this charming area of London, and I’m continually surprised by how many people (including Londoners!) have never been. Primrose Hill is a residential area of painted pastel houses, including several with blue plaques – WB Yeats lived there, as did the American poet Sylvia Plath. There’s a lovely high street of independent shops with a village feel, and you’re very near to Regent’s Canal if you want to take images of the colourful houseboats. There’s also the actual Primrose Hill which you can climb for a fabulous view of London and Regent’s Park which also has the London Zoo. (But I know you only have an hour!) I love this neighbourhood because there is a lot to photograph, it’s quiet during the week, and it’s a finite space (bordered by the rail line, the canal and the park) so you can’t get lost. There are also two cupcake shops in case you get hungry!
What camera kit couldn’t you live without?
I recently bought an Olympus PEN (the little vintage-looking camera), and I carry it with me all the time using the 17 mm lens. I also have a big Canon, but for me it’s really too heavy to bring around town. So the Olympus PEN is perfect because it fits in my handbag which means I can take it out with me everyday. Does Instagram count as camera kit? If so I would also say Instagram because it’s connected me with a hugely creative group of female photographers who are incredibly supportive of one another.
For beauty: to create it and consume it. I suffer from an incurable chronic disease that I will have to manage and negotiate for the rest of my life. This situation has caused a lot of disappointment for me. So photography – and in particular Instagram – is an opportunity to create a sort of idealised version of the world I inhabit. And, of course, you have a lot of control in photography – through editing, through what you choose to reveal and conceal – that you don’t get in real life.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned taking photos of London?
If you’re in a city for a limited amount of time, take a photo tour! This is how I met The Bath Photographer: I’m an admirer of Tony’s Instagram feed, and when I was in Bath for a break last autumn I arranged a tour. There is something very helpful about seeing how other photographers work – what they take pictures of, what they notice that you don’t, where they stand. I have since contacted some of my other favourite Instagramers to arrange photo walks in their cities. If there is someone you want to learn from then you owe it to yourself to seek them out and try to make this happen.
See Kathryn Holeywell’s Instragram feed @wanderforawhile for more of her work.
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