It's well known that Britain has more CCTV cameras per head than any other country; for the last ten years or so passengers on London's bus network have been able to join in the fun by watching their fellow passengers on a TV screen, transmitting live images from cameras installed around the bus. Now Mimi Mollica, a photographer famous for his interest in street photography, has started taking pictures of the screen, creating a series of portraits of Londoners.
Bus Stories, as Mollica has named the series, was exhibited in the London Street Photography Festival, and is also on show at Les Rencontres D'Arles, exhibited as a book in From Here On, which was curated by Martin Parr, Erik Kessels, Joachim Schmid, Joan Fontcuberta and Clement Cheroux. The images document monitoring in 21st century London, says Mollica, but have also afforded him some unusual opportunities.
"Photographically speaking I discovered I gained a partial but absolute 'invisibility' with respect to some of the people I take pictures of," he writes. "When I stand on the lower-deck of the bus and I photograph the people sitting on the upper-deck through the monitor, they are totally unaware of my presence. They might be more or less conscious of the presence of the cameras installed on the bus, but not of me taking their pictures. On the other hand, if I am on the same deck of the people I am photographing at that particular moment, they are well aware of what I am doing. Crazily enough, in some of the pictures you could also see me taking that photo, like a weird and spooky self-portrait.
"It’s amazing to see how natural and spontaneous we sometimes are while we go from A to B using the buses. We look, stare, go for deep searches in our nostrils, sleep, kiss, think, or simply and sadly look dangerously depressed…This is what my project wants to express, how fragile and defenceless we really are in front of the continuos monitoring we experience, at the expense of our intimacy and privacy, and how we are becoming increasingly accustomed to this."
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