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17 personal portraits of Londoners living in the city

Kate Lloyd

It's the return of our ‘London on Instagram’ series! Over the coming weeks, we’re going to profile some of London’s best Insta-snappers and their incredible pictures.

While we're suckers for dramatic London vistas and geometric architectural snaps, there's something pretty magical about getting a simple glimpse into the lives of fellow Londoners - and Instagram account @londonfilmportraits delivers just that. A six month-old photography project run by iOS developer Rehat Kathuria, 24, the account features a series of portraits of Londoners going about their daily lives, all shot on film rather than a digital camera. We caught up with Rehat to chat about the story behind the project. 

Why did you decide to start @LondonFilmPortraits?

I’ve suffered from social anxiety ever since I can remember. Earlier this year I convinced myself that approaching strangers for portraits with a film camera would be a good way to try to combat it.

How do you shoot your portraits? 

I shoot all the portraits on a Praktica MT5 that I bought on eBay in the middle of the night. I use rolls of Kodak Colorplus 200 or FujiColor 200 film and try to keep editing to a minimum. I only really tweak exposure. I went through a phase at my old full-time job where I’d go out shooting during lunch. I’d wander and approach people for the hour and then grab a sandwich on my way back to the office and eat at my desk. Lately it’s been whenever I’ve been walking to and fro somewhere and someone’s caught my eye. 

Have you ever taken a picture that's been unexpectedly brilliant?

I remember walking through the hidden alleys near Liverpool Street and seeing a labourer dismantling a fence and loading it into a van. I approached him and told him a little about the project and how I would love to get a shot of him mid-loading but he was super-hesitant. I pushed him a little more and showed him a past shot on my phone, all the while with him laughing and saying he could never looked good in a picture. Usually when I scan a roll of film in, I do the entire thing before looking at the results. With that one, I only scanned in the section which contained his portrait before scanning the rest. I’d totally missed it when I took the picture, but he was smiling in the shot.

Have you got a favourite photo?

I was walking through London Fields one day and the sun had just begun to set; a girl crossing over the field caught my eye and I approached her for a portrait. It all happened so suddenly, I didn’t get much of a chance to think about the composition. She’s one of the few subjects that never emailed asking to see the result and probably one of my favourites.

Ever lost an amazing photo? What happened?

When the project began I was still familiarising myself with the workings of film cameras. One day I was halfway through a roll of film when the winding mechanism jammed and I realised that I’d loaded it incorrectly. I lost around 15 portraits that day. I think it felt worse than losing a fully developed roll because I ended up romanticising the shots in my head. 

Find out more about the project.

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