A photography blog with travel and feature stories by John Matthews, a photographer and flâneur based in London, England.

Client Testimonials and New Portraits

I love making portraits because of my endless curiosity about people: who they are, how they live, what they think and feel. Despite being lightly acquainted with most of my clients, I strive to convey a flash of insight into another person’s existence through my images. With insight comes empathy and, I hope, understanding.

I was really humbled by this testimonial from a recent client:

As an actor, I usually find photo shoots daunting. You're not hiding behind a character, you're baring your soul. After my shoot with John, I realised it's not so bad to bare a little of your soul. When I pose for photos I like to be told exactly what to do. John knew exactly what he wanted and this made me feel very secure. From the moment we started the shoot, John made me feel very at ease and relaxed. He really brings out the 'true you' in pictures and he does this by getting to know you while he takes the photos. With his mix of great camera skills and genuine interest in his client, John produced some terrific photos. I thoroughly enjoyed the shoot and will most definitely be using John again for my headshots. - William

If you’re a performer who needs headshots or portfolio images - or indeed if you simply would love a unique portrait of yourself or a loved one - please don’t hesitate to drop me a line.

Flâneur Newsletter 03 - September 2011 - Love London

In my adult life, London has been my home longest. My flâneur wanderings through the city leave me ecstatically overstimulated by the rush of humanity and the chaos of unfamiliar shops, signage and goods for sale. Even in neighbourhoods I know well, the churn of street commerce and businesses opened and closed and opened regularly affords fresh opportunities for discovery. After each expedition, I retain a palpable visual geography of every place through which I have passed. Contours, colours and whole casts of characters summon up a physical response. When I view a map, place names evoke instantaneous images and complete scenes compile in my head. I remember Sunday music seeping from of a prodigiously tall and long brick church discoloured from a hundred or so years of smog; city girls shorn of their pumps scrunching their toes in the grass of Highbury Fields; tracing the path of the vanished Fleet River in Kentish Town and an abandoned railway line in Highgate; partial rainbows over the Serpentine; roast lunch at Kenwood after hiking through a soaking rain on Hampstead Heath.

The pictures in my shop this month piece together a taxonomy of remembered spaces and a life experienced and, one hopes, fully lived. I love London.

Read my latest newsletter for more, including the conclusion of my Italian romance, "Where Here and Now Cease To Matter". The next issue will appear in your inbox on 4 October, so subscribe now.

Read: Tales of a Flâneur Newsletter 03 - September 2011


Flâneur Newsletter 02 - August 2011 - Where do you go?

I came across an old letter to a friend last week and it reminded me of a favourite C.K. Chesterton quotation: "The traveller sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see".

My enduring fascination with perception leads me to carefully consider what is and what I perceive to be - and try and pick the two apart as best I can. The deliberation forced by the process of developing film, scanning the results and considering each frame in Photoshop pleases me greatly. Part aide-memoir, part artefact, part disconnected object laden with its own meaning, the images collect in my imagination like autumn leaves - faded from what they were, but brilliant in burnished colours.

Since August is a time for holidays and sunshine (I'll be spending this month in London, so fingers crossed for Hampstead), this month the shop is stocked with luminous images from my travels in Italy.

This is the view from a scrumptious, romantic dinner at Trattoria da Billy in Manarola, one of the villages of the Cinque Terre. It's also an image for a forthcoming photo book titled Where Here and Now Cease To Matter. Read my latest newsletter for an excerpt, to be continued next month. The next issue will appear in your inbox on 6 September, so subscribe now.

Read: Tales of a Flâneur Newsletter 02 - August 2011


Client Testimonials and the Tales of a Flaneur Newsletter 01

It's been a busy and rewarding July: creating new images around London and working with some fabulous clients. Here are two recent testimonials:

"I would like to finally take this opportunity to talk about John as I think the world should know about him. He's a man full of surprises, blessed with a magnificent talent and a magnificent sense of communication, and he knew straight away how to place my trust in him and put me at ease. With John, one never wastes time; you experience his passion perfectly before it emerges that he's already taken some 'test shots' which turn out later to be just as brilliant as those taken during the shoot itself. John is not one of those photographers who messes around and luckily snatches one of two usable photos. No, John takes his time, prepares his frame, and when he snaps, it's an unparalleled work of art that emerges from his lens. John is in the ascendant at the moment, and will only get better in the professional arena; I forecast that it won't be long until his shooting star becomes amongst the biggest in photography." - Nafil
"I really enjoyed modelling for John and loved discovering an incredible new place in London." - Clélia

It was an absolute pleasure to work with them both and really appreciate their kind words.

I also launched my first newsletter! Every month I will share a brief note from my travels, showcase some new work on sale and keep you up to date on forthcoming exhibitions. The next issue will appear in your inbox on 1 August, so subscribe now.

Read: Tales of a Flaneur Newsletter 01 - July 2011

Professional photos, personal service - unique portraits that say something about you!

Along with my fugitive images in mist and fog, I also specialise in creating distinctive, beautiful portrait photographs that capture the individuality of the sitter. Unlike most professional photographers who use digital cameras to take multiple images in pre-defined poses and settings, I use traditional medium format and 35mm film to give each image a truly unique look and feel.

Portrait Gallery: You are the People

My approach is to photograph the client in his or her everyday world: at home, in a well-loved place or outside in a place of natural beauty, not in a studio. Typically, my clients and I spend 30 mins over a cup of coffee or tea to make sure we're both clear about what we'd like to achieve before we get started. This can be done on the day or in advance, as specified by you.

As an option, I offer a printing service at an additional fee - for example, large format prints, canvases or a photo book - this is fully flexible, and your requirements can be discussed once you have seen the final images.

I also provide a high-quality service making actors' head shots as well as more stylised portraits, sometimes in the style of a particular film, that show the unique personality of the performer.

The key to what I do is providing a personal service that gives the client a set of images they will love, so please don't hesitate to contact me and book a session.

I have waited in a fog for you

I have waited to escape childhood.

I have waited to explore the city.

I have waited to exchange one country for another.

I have waited to forget and to remember.

I have waited until my term of service ended.

I have waited whilst an audience waited for me to begin.

I have waited for the bus, the taxi, the train and the plane.

I have waited for a lover at the Underground station.

I have waited until words came to describe my love.

I have waited for someone to purchase a picture.

I have waited until words came to describe my despair.

I have waited to return to the countryside.

I have waited with Ferlinghetti and with the old man in a dry month.

I have waited for you, here.

Refuge, solace and rebirth

In my wandering around the world, I repeatedly seek the refuge and solace of cathedrals and churches. Quite apart from any faith in dogma or creed, these soaring structures provide sanctuary for me. As with graveyards, country meadows and abandoned buildings, in a cathedral my mind can relax and unspool dreams in a space crafted for contemplation.

Read more and see images from my journeys: St Alban’s and Norwich Cathedral in England, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and in Italy, a cupola from the birthplace of the Jesuits in Genova and an altar decorated for a marriage in Portovenere near where Byron and Shelley used to take a dip in the sea.

Shaped by Snow

What quality of snow provokes such an overwhelming desire to be out in it? The impulse to drench oneself in snow feels decadent, sensual and in defiance of one's first instinct to remain warm indoors. Perhaps the sudden appearance of a new, rare (in some climes) substance that one shapes and moulds into weapons, dwellings or impermanent sculptures induces a kind of creative euphoria?


Thank you for Photolounge 2010

A very warm thank you to everyone who stopped by the Old Truman Brewery to see some images from my Tales of a Flaneur. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to everyone who inquired about my work and to my fellow image-makers holding exhibitions of their own (the duo behind Miss Aniela being particularly cheeky in their use of abandoned spaces; I love the slippery sense of identity that fuels the "Abandoned" series).

The most rewarding aspect of these eclectic public shows is the random connections one makes. It's nice to cease my flaneurism for a weekend and root myself in time and space and exchange ideas, find work I love and loathe and generally have my perspective and assumptions about ... everything ... challenged.

And thank you as well to Tamsin and Rhiannon at The Old Truman Brewery and to the organisers of Photomonth!

Photolounge - Exhibition at The Old Truman Brewery 14 - 17 October


Mysterious and etherial photographs from foggy Hampstead and the misty Thames (and more) will be part of this year's Phototolounge at the Old Truman Brewery.

Opening Night View
Thursday 14 October 6pm - 9pm
Old Truman Brewery
15 Hanbury Street
E1 6QR

The show continues over the weekend:

14 - 17 October
Open daily 11am - 6pm

If you're interested in any piece from the show, drop me a line.

The Photomonth Photolounge is an exciting new project introducing emerging and established photographers, each with their own independent exhibition in the lounge. The project is a collaboration between the Old Truman Brewery and Alternative Arts as part of the Photomonth celebrations.

I'm also thrilled to see my image, Hampstead Dreams, on the cover of the Photomonth guide (available throughout London and from the Photomonth web site).

The State of the Union

In 2010, on a journey to the quiet mill town of Athol in the state of Massachusetts in the United States, I woke at dawn one morning and saw a deliciously thick fog outside. On this morning, the sunshine proved too intense, too quickly and I only found a single image: a small house on Silver Lake Street with the sign This is the State of the Union. The sound of cheery classical music belied the grim condition of the exterior. I made a couple of exposures and continued walking down the road. After several minutes, I heard someone calling "hey, hello, you!"

Read more: The State of the Union