Pavement artist: on street photography

Working in the tradition of the great street photographers, Nicholas Sack frames City workers in their natural habitat of steel, glass and concrete

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Do you like your job?

I’m guessing that quite a few Creative Review readers will actually answer yes to that question. The rest probably work in advertising. Let’s face it, if someone instructs you to ‘ideate’ some ‘native, real-time, disruptive, omnichannel, viral, collaborative, 360 storytelling…’ as a creative person, you’re going to be rendered borderline suicidal. But alas, that’s the way the ad world has gone. Let’s hope sanity returns sometime soon.

There’s actually a very simple test to determine if you’re in the right job. It’s to do with how you view your pay. Sure, we all want a little bit more, but do you view your wage slip as reward? Or compensation for the daily grind? It’s an important distinction. And if it’s the latter, then sorry, you’re in the wrong job. Work is a huge chunk of your life. Please try and find somewhere or something that makes you happy.

We all want a little bit more, but do you view your wage slip as reward? Or compensation for the daily grind? It’s an important distinction.

I wonder which camp the subjects of this month’s offering find themselves in. ‘Compensation’ I would wager. It’s a photobook by Nicholas Sack, published by Hoxton Mini Press. The title: Lost in the City is probably a bit of a giveaway.

The book contains a series of brilliantly observed black and white photographs of people against the foreboding, geometric backdrop of London’s financial district. It certainly makes for a collection of beautiful images. But like all great photographic series, it’s much more than that.

Inspired by the great street photography of Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander and Henry Wessel, Sack shoots city workers, often on their lunch breaks, in their natural environment of concrete, glass and steel. The figures often look small and fragile in the context of their looming environment. It’s quite a juxtaposition, which of course perfectly fuels our sense of unease about the big evil financial institutions. And how their moral bankruptcy led to full-blown financial bankruptcy before we all had to bail out the bastards a few years ago.

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Maybe the somewhat ambiguous title Lost in the City also references this aspect of the subject matter. It certainly makes you think. And what about the individuals in these images, isolated against the towering confusion of architecture? The photographer invariably finds the decisive moment to perfectly freeze them against a myriad of lines and reflections. Simultaneously beautiful and unsettling.

As an aside, it’s interesting to note that Sack still shoots on film, doesn’t use a tripod and never crops his images. He also seems to employ a technique used by many great street photographers: first find the background, then simply wait for the universe to complete the picture.

There are over 50 wonderful images here. But I should also mention the great introduction by Iain Sinclair. Surely this wonderful little book is worth £12.95 of anyone’s wages?

Lost In The City by Nicholas Sack, Hoxton Mini Press, £12.95


Paul Belford is founder and creative director of agency Paul Belford Ltd. See paulbelford.com and @belford_paul

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