London’s best graffiti photographer explains why buses are the subject for his new exhibition at Mother
As high-speed trains dominate the news this week, buses emerge as some relic, harking back to a bygone era of disgruntled commutes, steam-written graffiti and that greatest of teenage thrills: back-seat smoking. They are an institution, as integral to the London’s tapestry as the landmarks they pass and one that renowned graffiti photographers, Will Robson Scott and James Pearson-Howes, felt the need to celebrate. Braving the scratch of synthetic seating, they have documented some of the best views afforded from bus windows for their forthcoming exhibition and newspaper Top Deck. We speak to Will ahead of tonight’s opening at ad agency Mother, to learn more about the show and how it offered him a unique perspective on the city.
Dazed Digital: How did the idea for this project first come about?
Will Robson Scott: It started as a random photo that James took out of a bus window. We were supposed to be doing a collaborative exhibition that fell through and were picking our brains for an alternative idea. That first image prompted us to think of Top Deck and we liked the idea because it was accessible and didn’t require too much preparation: you could decide to go out and shoot all day or just shoot on a random journey and all we needed was our oyster cards.
DD: What is your favourite bus route and why?
Will Robson Scott: The 149 is pretty interesting. Its sums up the diversity of London to a T; running through the city to Liverpool St, then through trendy Shoreditch and onto the famously deprived areas of Tottenham and Edmonton. Travelling that route, you can really see the social and economic diversity that exists in this city.
DD: Being on the top deck of a bus affords some anonymity. Do you think this has helped your work?
Will Robson Scott: Yes its is anonymous. Shooting street photography in the traditional sense is hard work; very time consuming and you can walk about aimlessly, sometimes. Shooting from the bus, however, means you have to stick to certain constraints and you are limited by the element of luck. For example, you can’t shoot on a moving bus at night, but if you pull up at a stop and a scene happens beneath you, it can be perfect. It was refreshing to work in that finite way, as opposed to the endless possibilities of shooting on the street.
DD: What do you hope to gain from the exhibition?
Will Robson Scott: For one its at Mother, which is great as it’s a well renowned agency and should afford us some real credibility. Having this deadline has also made me and James get our act together to get the newspaper printed.
DD: Are there any photographers or films that have inspired the project?
Will Robson Scott: Tom Wood did a project called 'Bus Odyssey' taken during his travels on Liverpool buses. That was definitely inspiring to us, but he spent 15 years on it, and I don’t think me and James have the patience for that.
'Top Deck' opens tonight downstairs at Mother - Biscuit Building, 10 Redchurch Street, London ED 7DD. Get the 'Top Deck' newspaper HERE and check out Utile Clothing, who helped fund the publication, HERE.