Contemplative and poignant images of murder sites in and around London ask us to reflect upon how we live. Photojournalist Antonio Olmos speaks to BJP
For his project, Landscape of Murder, photojournalist Antonio Olmos set out to photograph the places where killings had occurred within London’s M25 orbital motorway. The idea came to him after he heard about a young woman who had been murdered a few streets from where he lives. Upon visiting the crime scene, he was struck by the normality of what he found. “Nothing about the place or the landscape suggested a murder had occurred,” he says. “Even people on the street seemed unaware. All these things led me to start exploring other murder sites.”
Shooting the images over a period of two years, Olmos, who was born in Mexico but has been based in London since the mid-1990s, photographed all over the capital and outside its borders. “If you think of London as a circle, with the M25 as the edge, most of the murders I documented happened on the east side of that circle. I started noticing that many were the result of domestic violence. I also noticed that many murders had happened in places that were quite banal – far from what people think of as London. I felt as if I was making an alternative portrait of the city.”
Arriving at each scene days after the murders, Olmos would explain what he was doing to any mourners who were there and asked their permission to photograph. “I photographed what I encountered. I was drawn to quiet scenes, where no one was present. Something about the stillness of these places said more than overt images of grief.”
Olmos is in the process of finishing a book of the photographs with publisher Dewi Lewis, due to be published in October, and hopes the images will cause people to think about how we view crime. When I tell people about my project, they ask about knife-wielding gangs of hooded teenage boys; they never mention violence against women, alcohol abuse or mental health issues. I think we have huge misconceptions about crime based more on tabloid fodder than reality. There are no dead people in my photographs,” he adds, “but I do hope they are thought-provoking.”
The Landscape of Murder will be published in October by Dewi Lewis.
PORTRAIT OF BRITAIN: British Journal of Photography envisaged as an exhibition by the people, of the people and for the people. Now, in our new portraiture issue, we can reveal the winners of Portrait of Britain, a nationwide exhibition examining the face of modern Britain. The magazine also includes longform features on Nadav Kander’s most recent portraiture series, Charlie Kwai’s stunning London street photography, and the picture editors of some of the world’s top magazines.