Street Photographer Charts the Emotions of City Dwelling

Shane Taylor is an Irish street and portrait photographer based in London. His predominant interest is public life in the city – its rhythms and dimensions.

“I picked up photography again about 3 years ago as a way of dealing with social anxiety. I work from home and I noticed that if I wasn’t around people for a while then my anxiety got a lot worse. So I used street photography as something to force myself into being around people on a daily basis.” — Shane Taylor

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In the streets, behind closed tube train doors, on buses, beneath umbrellas, Shane highlights the way the city’s inhabitants travel, wander, laugh, sleep, appear full of thought at times and devoid of it at others. Shane captures all modes of city dwelling with clarity.

Shane’s daily digital photographs are available and appreciated on Instagram, where his work has garnered him a significant following.

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We met the photographer to hear about life on his side of the lens.

THE PLUS: When did you start doing street photography?
Shane Taylor:
About 10 years ago, when I was in design school in Ireland. We had a small photography section in the library but it had books like Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’ and William Eggleston’s ‘Guide’. They really left a mark in terms of what photography could be and I’m so glad that they were some of the first books I picked up.

I decided I could try it myself, so I borrowed my girlfriend’s camera and attempted to photograph Moore Street in Dublin. I couldn’t have picked a worse place – market sellers really don’t like being photographed, so I had a few bad experiences with people telling me to fuck off and ‘delete that or I’ll kill ya’, so I left it for a while.

I picked it up again about 3 years ago as a way of dealing with social anxiety. I work from home and I noticed that if I wasn’t around people for a while then my anxiety got a lot worse. So I used street photography as something to force myself into being around people on a daily basis.

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TP: Do you have favourite spots for street photography in London or do you try to mix it up?
ST:
Either Mayfair or the underground. Mayfair is filled with certain archetypes that I like photographing. Ennui-filled men in classic suits and commuting office workers. It’s also not as touristy as other parts of the city. I think it’s important to avoid touristy areas to really get under the skin of a city.

The underground is a fascinating place, especially during rush hour. Despite it being an overwhelmingly public space, you can still find people in very private states of mind- as private as they would be in a formal portrait studio. There’s an interesting elegance to people when they’re like that in such chaotic environments.


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TP: Do you prefer portrait-orientation to landscape?
ST:
I’ve naturally always shot in portrait for reasons I’m not quite sure about. I like tight, intimate photos of people and portrait is good for that. I have been shooting a lot more landscape recently though. That’s what I like about photography – there’s always something new to try.

TP: What brought you to London initially?
ST:
I’ve wanted to live here since I was 16. My first girlfriend was from London so I came over a lot when I was a teenager. I went from being a bored teenager in rural Ireland to seeing Goldie & Metalheadz at the Blue Note and taking the underground on my own for the first time. It made a huge impression on me so when my girlfriend was offered a job here last summer we both jumped at it. Her sister has lived here for years so it seemed like it was meant to be.

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TP: What has London street photography taught you about the city?
ST:
Just how much varied character it has. London isn’t any one thing. It’s a sprawling mass of cultures and histories mingled together. NYC gets a lot of credit for being a cultural melting pot but I really think London is at least its equal.

TP: Any other passions outside photography?
ST:
Design. I’m a UX designer, which is what pays the bills currently.

TP: What are you looking forward to most at the moment?
ST:
I’m gathering a series together for a self-published zine, which will be my first. I’m also shooting and self processing a lot of black and white a film with a 6×6 TLR, which I hope will become something interesting. The thing I’m most excited about is getting into the darkroom and creating prints in the tradition of photographers that have inspired me.

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