Photographer Peter Zelewski spent five years capturing the expressions, moods and stories of Londoners on the city's streets. The award-winning artist approached people spontaneously, without planning who he would feature for the project, simply asking them about their lives. From students to buskers and retirees to lawyers, the photographer captured London's diversity.
Zelewski himself says: "London is often portrayed as a hard, cold place with little generosity. And yet, when I ask for a portrait I rarely get a refusal. After years of taking hundreds of portraits of Londoners, and as I celebrate my thirtieth year in the capital (I’m originally from the US), I still couldn’t tell you exactly what a true Londoner is. This is a portrait of the city I love, a documentation of my journey through what I feel is the greatest place in the world with all of its people. These are the people who caught my eye on the street, who shared their stories and who ultimately make me proud to say ‘I’m a Londoner’."
“I love the cultural diversity of London. My parents are from South Sudan but I’m a London girl through and through and feel right at home here. I’m studying drama and my dream is to perform on stage in New York. Nothing compares to being on the stage and performing to an audience, it is the one time I feel totally free.”
“I’ve been a painter and decorator most of my life. I was still painting until recently but my breathing is not as good as it used to be. Breathing in all those paint fumes and chemicals over the years has done a fair bit of damage to my health. But I’m 86, and I’m still here, so perhaps I’m one of the lucky ones.”
“I no longer live in London but I’ll always consider myself a Londoner at heart. London never leaves you. I was born in Leytonstone and my father was a boxer – he fought many fights in Bethnal Green and Kentish Town. I like to think there is a lot of him in me, that fighting spirit, that’s London pride talking!”
“This may sound strange but I found my creative side in prison. I spent two months in Pentonville for breaching my Anti-Social Behaviour Order. I learnt a lot about myself on the inside but mostly about the importance of freedom. I’m now rehabilitating which is hard – you really have to want it. Everyday is a test.”
LOURENÇO AND TOMAS
“We’re buskers but it’s getting harder and harder to play because Westminster Council keep trying to ban us. We’re only 16 and too young to play in clubs so how else can we get our music heard? Last week Simon Cowell walked by us in Kensington and dropped £20 in our hat.”
“I’ve had my share of knocks in life. I left my abusive husband in Glasgow in the 1960s with no money and just my two sons. We jumped on the back of a lorry bound for London. Tough as it was, we managed to survive. I’m 77 now, suffered a stroke last year but I’m still up at 6.30am everyday. I’m not wasting the precious time I have left lying in bed! Life is for living.”
“I went to the Falklands to serve my country when I was only 18. Hell, at that age what did I know? On returning home, all I had to show for my time was a 9-inch knife scar right across my shoulder. To this day I can still feel the pain.”
“My real name is Hannah, but I’m a bit of a wayward girl (and a massive fan of Friends), so I changed my name to Phoebe when I was 8 years old. I think my parents thought it was a phase, it definitely wasn’t.”
KIRA AND TAYA
Future YouTube Sensation and Actress/Film Director
“We’re both 14 years old and are actually part triplets with our brother. We’re always driving our mum mad – at times even she can’t tell us apart. And no, although we are twins we can’t read each other’s minds!”