Get us in your inbox


Toast Taj Mahal, #Hipstercop and a terrapin on a dead fox: we speak to Londoners whose photos went viral

Alexi Duggins

You can’t second-guess the internet. Alexi Duggins talks to Londoners whose random snaps went global (and, yes, that terrapin and dead fox is in here)


Photographer Guy Smallman accidentally did some nice PR for the Met

‘I’m a professional photographer and last May I was covering a protest against the English Defence League in Walthamstow. There were hundreds of riot police there and as I looked down the line of them, I saw this magnificent achievement in the field of retro facial hair. When I got home I tweeted it with the hashtag #hipstercop. ‘When I logged on the next day, I nearly dropped my coffee in my lap. There were 3,500 notifications on there! There were publications from all over Europe writing about it. The Mail even ran a “Do you know the hipster cop?” campaign. Turned out he wasn’t a hipster at all. He was actually a heavy metal fan and biker. ‘It’s weird to me that this is the only one of my photos that’s been a viral sensation. I’ve made a dozen trips to Afghanistan. I’ve recently been covering the refugee crisis in Greece. So forever being associated with the police and beards was not one of my career goals. Could I get another photo to be that widely shared? Maybe. I haven’t got a clue how I did it in the first place really.’

Toast Taj Mahal

Peckhamite Tom McKenzie spotted this breakfast recreation of the Agra icon on his street

‘To be honest, I’m not massively into taking photos of things on my phone. But one morning, I came out of my house, walked down my road and just sitting there was a model of the Taj Mahal made entirely out of toast. You don’t see that every day. Not even in Peckham. ‘It was so random, I thought: I can’t not share that with my mates! So I put it on Twitter and it went a bit crazy. It was on ITV’s website. It was on the Time Out website. It popped up on an Indian website. American websites. It wasn’t as big as “A Panda Sneezing”, but it really did spread. When I was getting all these media enquiries about it, I was like: “It’s toast! It’s funny! I really can’t tell you much more than that!” ‘In the end, I started saying to media companies that I’d speak to them if they’d make a donation to the charity I work for. I wanted something good to come out of it. I think that if more people tried to do something worthwhile with their things that are being shared it would put a different spin on it. Turn it into something worthwhile, otherwise it’s just thousands of retweets that don’t mean anything.’

Ninja turtle?

Matt Perkins photographed a terrapin surfing on a dead fox along the Regent's Canal

‘Last September I was walking home along the Regent’s Canal from my job at London Zoo when I spotted one of the weirdest things I’d ever seen. There in the water was a terrapin riding along on the body of a dead fox. I thought: There’s no way I can’t take a photo of this! ‘The photo wasn’t very good and unfortunately the terrapin dived off before I could take another. Still, I stuck it straight on to the Shit London Facebook page. And it must have been okay, because my phone just kept going off with people liking it and commenting. I had to put my phone on silent overnight. ‘I think it’s the cheekiness of the terrapin that people like. He’s got that “fuck you” attitude about him. It’s like he’s going: “I will ride this fox for as long as I like!” Actually, I saw quite a lot of people adding comments on to it suggesting that the terrapin had killed the fox. Some people were a bit upset about it, but it’s not like I was going: “Look! A dead fox!” It’s more like: “This is a canal in London! There’s all sorts here!”’

Want to see more cool snaps of London? Take a look at the top 40 photos of London ever taken.

Or check out the winning entries of Time Out's inaugural photo competition

Popular on Time Out

    Latest news

      Read next