56 years ago, as a schoolboy, I took my first roll of photographs on my elder sister’s Box Brownie camera. When the pictures came back from the chemists I was immediately hooked, deciding that as soon as I left school I would train to become a professional photographer. However, the vacancies for photographers’ assistants in the provinces in 1948 were rather thin on the ground, so I settled for 50 years of office drudgery instead.
But I never lost my passion for photography. By the mid-1960s I had scraped together enough money to buy a 35mm SLR. Loading it with 25 ASA Kodachrome, I would spend my Sundays roaming the empty London streets, photographing bombsites, cemeteries, pubs, derelict houses, run-down cafes and failing shops, following no programme or high-minded artistic credo. I would instinctively know my next photograph as soon as I saw it. I still work the same way today.
In the side-streets of any big city lie the bizarre, the odd and the surreal. Turn a corner and you may find yourself perhaps facing a boarded-up derelict building, a dusty antique-shop window populated by strangely staring dolls or a wall of torn, defaced posters that have long since forgotten the point they were trying to make. Thirty-five years ago London streets were rich in such “otherness” – even today it can still be found off the beaten track in some byway that has yet to yield to the blandness and uniformity that follows the developer’s bulldozer. Next year, next month, next week, it will be swept away.
My photographs are all hand-enlarged from the original colour negatives or slides. They’ve never been in any exhibitions.