• and featured as a Guardian Photo Essay



    Is it possible that you would open your door to a stranger, and welcome him in to take your photograph? Without any warning or introduction, without any time to prep or tidy up, and without any guarantee for your safety?

    I’m inside, this man has dementia. He was keen to meet the new person in his living room, and we talked like old friends about the small things in life: the birds, the bees, and the small world contained in his sideboard.


    The conversation rotated on a circular track, coming back time and again, only noticed by the one of us. His wife, in the background, sitting on the edge of her chair, her elbows on her knees.

    How much of our lives is spent on repeat? The paper cuts and wounds are replayed, these daily pains being created and bolstered by our expectations and blindness, the gnawing thought that for us to go up, someone else has to go down.



    And some people did let me in!


    They did bring me inside, sharing with me their homes. It wasn’t because they were superhumans, or because they were special, or somehow different from the rest, it was because they were open!


    It takes strength to be open, to be impressionable. And sadly it only requires weakness to be closed, to be adamant and forthright.



    On the 18th floor:

    “Can I take your photograph?”

    “No, cause you can’t just take photos of people without their consent.”

    “But I would have your consent?”



    — or —


    On the 13th floor:

    “‘I don’t like taking pictures of me. Not today, but maybe come back later and maybe I’ll change my mind.”

    “You could change your mind now?”




    To the people who said “Yes”, thank you!


    And to the people out there with big hearts, thank you!


    To those who don’t just walk by, thank you!


    To those who just accept others, thank you!


    And to you, if you love – you are not alone!


    Though we may be cut off from one another in little boxes at night, or in social circles by day, or seemingly shuttered and splintered by our sunglasses, accents or outlook, those who love, are all around.


    We should not forget that we, we are all around.



    The three tower blocks stand at the base of Mornington Crescent. I actually remember them being clad in their beige plastic coats many years ago, sporting shiny security gates and intercoms. But their weathered patina and omnipresence now helps them morph, in the imagination at least, into the background, and they become any one of the similar blocks scattered over the face of London.



    You don’t get a sense of the life on the inside, from the outside. Passing by on a bus, you might see a curtain flying half askance, sucked out of a window, or a light shaded, or an old plant on a balcony.


    But nothing like the throb of the lifts, the smells in the corridors, or a faded echo falling down from a higher floor.


    You won’t see a flat’s welcome mat, or its bath time toys, or a living room wall lavished with optimistic wall paper.

    You certainly won’t see the artists, musicians, nurses, mothers, fathers, teachers, sisters and brothers.


    Not the kids, the grandparents, the four-to-the-roomers, the dancers, musicians, videographers and dreamers.


    Those about to die, and those just recently born.


    You won’t see the pain and the hope, the humanity.



    Thank you to the people who let me in. Thank you to the people who took a leap of faith, who believed in a stranger. They made a conscious decision to step out of their confines, to put doubt to one side and, instead, to trust in something else.



    Only those who think a certain way, or look a certain way? Those who live according to your own values, or your own aspirations? Only others in finance or medicine or law? Only the familiar, and the comforting?


    Having a heart three sizes too small needn’t be permanent, if you wish.