Light and shadow in London
Diversion #4: Candid street images from a week in the UK
Hi everybody 👋
In this every-other-weekend DIVERSION edition of DESIRE PATHS…
Why I do street photography
A photo series from 10 days in London
Things to buy & read
I’d also love if you’d consider subscribing…
…because the next BIG INTERVIEW coming your way is with my man Matt Horrocks, who runs the mega popular running club Your Friendly Runners. YFR began as a hobby and has since grown into a business and a movement—taking over east London’s streets one weekend at a time.
Over coffee at Ozone in London Fields, Matt and I dug into how he’s taking the club to the next level and what exactly he’s hoping to build. Twists, turns & inspiration. A Desire Paths classic in the making.
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I’m Danny Giacopelli, an editor, photographer, traveller and small business fan. By day I’m Editor-at-Large for Courier magazine. This is my personal newsletter, Desire Paths.
Desire Paths is based on the idea that the most fulfilled, fascinating people in the world chase after risky dreams, change careers, make unconventional decisions, and cross oceans to start something new. I go deep with them—small business owners, designers, shopkeepers, farmers, billionaires, hermits, maybe even you—and share everything I learn.
1. Shadow hunter
What makes you happy? What makes you feel most alive?
For me, it’s walking around a city with a camera.
I’m a street photographer. Which, in my case, means I spend early mornings, lunch breaks, weekends and every possible free waking hour roaming the streets of cities, hunting for candid moments, serendipitous encounters, poetic chaos in crowds, and all the shadows and light I can find.
It is, admittedly, a weird one. Not everyone understands the allure. Why take photos of strangers? Don’t they get angry? What’s the point? I often find it difficult to answer. But it has something to do with…
the zen, meditative, flow state—of camera in hand, stresses left behind, permission granted to yourself to get lost, figuratively and literally.
the fun of the hunt—the addictive feeling that anything can happen and you’re there to witness it and bring it home, every bodily sense on high alert.
the joy of capturing something true—freezing a real moment in time, not staged or planned, no studios, assistants or lighting; just your eye, instincts & camera.
But ultimately: why take street photos? Why bake a cake? Go surfing? Do karaoke? Climb Everest? Because you can. Because it’s there.
A year ago I took a photography class in Paris with the great American Magnum photographer Richard Kalvar. This past February I was in Oaxaca for an extended workshop with Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb. I hope to soon share what I learned from these masters—and the images I brought home with me.
But below I’m sharing some of what I saw on a recent trip back to London, the city in which I fell in love with street photography, where I lived for 12 years, and where briefly, for 10 days, I fell back into my old ways. I hope you enjoy them.
Sometimes you hunt, sometimes you fish.
Hunting in street photography is when you hit the pavement at speed, ducking & diving between people, sniffing out situations, and shooting on the move. Your senses and intuition guide you on the journey.
Fishing is when you find a perfect spot, where the light and shadows fall just so, a spot with an interesting enough setting, environment or backdrop where a human drama could, maybe, unfold. And you wait. And wait. Until something good happens. Or, in 99% of cases, it doesn’t.
I found a spot like that in Borough Market.
Links & people doing cool things.
“Meet the New Mayor: How a Refugee Won Over a Conservative German Town” (New York Times)
‘The beer was flowing, the bratwurst were sizzling and the brass band at the village May Day festival led the crowd in ever tipsier renditions of the local drinking song. Clinking glasses all around was Ryyan Alshebl, a lanky, bearded 29-year-old from Syria. Eight years ago, Mr. Alshebl was part of the historic influx of refugees who crossed the Mediterranean Sea by dinghy and trekked the continent on foot, seeking asylum in Germany and other countries. Now he is the new mayor of Ostelsheim, a village of 2,700 people and tidily kept streets nestled in the rolling hills near the Black Forest in southwestern Germany.’
“Axis Deer Are a Threat to Hawaii’s Native Species and You Can Help Out by Eating Them” (Food & Wine)
‘In the 1860s, eight chestnut brown, white-speckled axis deer were introduced to the Hawaiian island of Moloka‘i as a gift to King Kamehameha V. One of the few species of deer that can breed year-round, they quickly multiplied, feasting on grasses and native Hawaiian plants. Hawai‘i has no native mammals and the axis deer encountered no predators. A century later, some deer were moved to Maui, where they wreaked havoc… Luckily, Jake and Ku‘ulani Muise of Maui Nui Venison are at the forefront of keeping this ecological disaster at bay. Axis deer happens to be delicious, and their business grinds the meat into hamburgers, slices it into medallions that need just a quick sear in butter and a sprinkle of Hawaiian sea salt, and shapes it into hot dogs for nationwide shipping.’
“Meet the Man With the Keys to the Vatican” (National Geographic)
‘His mornings begin at 5:30 a.m. in a secure bunker that holds 2,797 keys. Crea and his team of 10 clavigeri—five each on the morning and evening shifts—open and close 300 doors every day, mobilizing about 700 employees along with them. They traverse a 4.6-mile route through the museums which see up to 28,000 visitors per day.’
Stuff I’m loving.
ISHKAR—years ago I discovered the brand ISHKAR, which sold gorgeous craft products from Afghanistan. I bought some handblown glass tumblers from them, which I treasure. The founders Flore de Taisne and Edmund Le Brun have since grown the company, adding events and a travel arm. They're now crowdfunding to open a store on Columbia Road in London. Check it out and consider giving them your support!
Kaimana Jerky—fantastic, sustainable tuna jerky from a family-owned Hawaiian company. (You can try this if you’re not into axis deer…). I got hooked in Honolulu.
Speedboat Bar—a spicy, vibey, fun new Thai restaurant near London’s Chinatown.
Living—a film based on a screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro and adapted from the 1952 Japanese film Ikiru. Bill Nighy plays a bureaucrat in the Public Works department in 1953 London. One day he decides to change his life. Every shot was absolutely perfect. Appropriate to this edition of Desire Paths, the film also reminded me strongly of the street photographs of Saul Leiter. I watched it on the flight back from London and might have shed a tear. (It’s on Netflix, too.)
The Premonitions Bureau—I just began the latest book from Sam Knight, a prolific staff writer at The New Yorker (whenever I see his byline, I read it immediately). So far, so fascinating. Here’s the premise:
‘On the morning of October 21, 1966, Kathleen Middleton, a music teacher in suburban London, awoke choking and gasping, convinced disaster was about to strike. An hour later, a mountain of rubble containing waste from a coal mine collapsed above the village of Aberfan, swamping buildings and killing 144 people, many of them children. Among the doctors and emergency workers who arrived on the scene was John Barker, a psychiatrist from Shelton Hospital, in Shrewsbury. At Aberfan, Barker became convinced there had been supernatural warning signs of the disaster, and decided to establish a “premonitions bureau,” in conjunction with the Evening Standard newspaper, to collect dreams and forebodings from the public, in the hope of preventing future calamities.’
UNTIL NEXT TIME,
Desire Paths is about the wild, winding, lesson-filled lives of fascinating people. I’d love if you’d subscribe or share with a friend.