The Big Smoke by Bus: George Georgiou Photographs London

George Georgiou—Panos
George Georgiou—Panos
London Bus No. 157. Crystal Palace to Morden.

Every city has its clichés and London is no exception. But beyond the bobbies, red telephone boxes and telegenic young royals, lies a real city that is just as easily toured as St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. All you need do is hop on a city bus. It’s an approach adopted by photographer George Georgiou for his series Invisible: London, which explores the city’s outer reaches, from Clapton Pond to North Greenwich to Crystal Palace. Georgiou, a Londoner who returned to the city after living abroad for eight years, snapped passing cityscapes and people at bus stops, recording the day-to-day actions that most people simply ignore.

The idea of photographing from buses presented creative benefits. “I kind of like the idea of the reflections and the layering,” says Georgiou, noting that it was not unusual to see Victorian houses with Indian shops tucked underneath. But it also had its challenges. “There’s a lot of dirty glass in London,” he says. Georgiou set out specifically to ride all of London’s routes, exploring places that were only familiar as far-off bus line terminations like Morden and High Barnet. And while he did not intend to train his camera primarily on down-and-out neighborhoods, he found well-heeled areas and people more difficult to capture. “Wealthy people walk differently,” he says, adding that they are generally more private in public and don’t spend as much time lingering on the streets and at bus stops. Moneyed neighborhoods also tended to have more mature trees and greenery, screening pedestrians and houses from Georgiou’s lens. People living in less affluent areas, by contrast, were exposed in a desert of asphalt.

To be sure, London’s council estates and suburbs lack the obvious appeal of its famous monuments. But Georgiou says the city is defined as much by transition as tradition. While familiar characters like the working class woman (“London Bus No. 145. Ilford to Dagenham Asda”) remain, large numbers of immigrants contribute to ceaseless cultural change in the city. The outer reaches of London may be invisible, but there’s no doubting that they are real.

George Georgiou is a UK-based photographer. See more of his work here.

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