Hordes of marauding Wallys, rain-soaked druids of north London, and a Michael Jackson flashmob. These are just a handful of around 400 images of Londoners captured by photographer Richard Slater, about to be displayed at the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington.
People in London — which previews on 8 September — took Slater five years to compile. In this time, he photographed any number of quirky happenings and characters, reflecting a city that is seldom drab. Images at the exhibition are categorised into six themes: tribes of London, faith, racial diversity, seasonal festivals and parades, street life and, finally, a few of the surprises that London is good at springing.
One such surprise was a Michael Jackson flashmob at Liverpool Street station, which Slater captured on the day of the singer’s death in 2009. Says the photographer:
“This won’t do,” [the police] said, and announced that the flashmob was cancelled… Word spread that we should move out into the street. And that’s what happened. Liverpool Street became a seething mass of people raving away to Michael’s hits… And the police stood around on the outside of this happy crowd, apparently perfectly happy to let it all happen.”
Many of Slater’s other images are of annual London events, such as Santacon. At one of these, hundreds of Clauses started the day with a screening of Bad Santa at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square. Slater picks up the story:
“When I arrived outside the cinema, there were one or two Santas waiting, like me, for the film to finish. By the time it did end, this number had grown to 20 or so. And then well over a hundred more Santas came pouring out of the cinema. As well as a smattering of elves, dressed in green. Brave people these. They’d have to face a day of Santas pointing at them and chanting, ‘Elf, elf, elf’.”
Many more of Slater’s reminisces appear alongside his photos at People in London. There are also videos of some of his subjects, and maps to show where Slater captured his images.
People in London runs at the Royal Geographical Society, Kensington, Monday to Saturday from 8 September-17 October. Entrance is free.
All images above © Richard Slater.