Stillsoho
Project info

'Stillsoho' is a series of intimate black and white portraits of artists, writers, friends and lovers, taken in Soho, London when I worked at the French House pub. Inspired by the work of John Deakin, Ida Kar and Brassai, those who captured the Soho and Paris demi-monde of their times, I was conscious of documenting a new generation of Sohoites and the landscape of a disappearing London. Some of the places in 'Stillsoho' such as The Colony Rooms, the favourite haunt of Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud, no longer exist, or in the case of Sebastian Horsley, are no longer alive.

The series is a document of a Soho that was still bohemian and elegantly hedonistic, when it was still driven by its history and its fast and louche past characters. The ghosts of these regulars and members of the pubs and clubs on Dean Street, were very much present and talked about. That the whole project was shot on film, and that the pictures look like they were taken many years previously, is important for the sense of nostalgia that pervaded the atmosphere in what I thought was a cultural utopia.

'Lexington Street' - writer and broadcaster Michael Smith with Mandana Ruane, manager of The Academy Club on Lexington Street, Soho, 2am on a hot summer night. I joined them on the pavement waiting for a passing taxi cab to light this sultry scene.

'Concetta' - Designer and RCA graduate Concetta Gallo, taken when she was a barmaid at the French House. Subsequently she went on to have her own range at Habitat, called Concetta by Concetta Gallo - it's the white porcelain with drips of gold paint, drawn peonies, and lions and horses prancing about the tea cups.

'French House' – A lazy working afternoon at the pub, staff and customers mixing together – from left to right: Concetta Gallo, Hilary Penn, Paul Rubbishman, Robert Rubbish, Phil Dirtbox, and Ed Lehan.

'Sebastian' – In his home on Meard Street, in front of the wall of skulls. I’d been walking past his flat and the window was open, I shouted up to him and he popped his head out and asked me to come up. He was there with our friend David Courts, designer of the Keith Richards skull ring, already being photographed for a painting.

'Paul Rubbishman outside the Colony Room' - The Rubbishmen of Soho were two self-proclaimed Victorian Punk revivalists who played surreal gigs with guitars made out of Castro oil cans. This is Paul Rubbishman, outside the legendary Colony Rooms, a now closed members drinking club on Dean Street which became famous from its former members: Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and then in the 90s the YBAs.

'Hilary, red lipstick' - Hilary is always dressed so femininely, 50s dresses, flowers in her hair - I have never seen her wear a pair of trousers or jeans, and she always wears red lipstick which she reapplies after every meal.

'Nervous Stephen on Beak Street' - Artist and DJ Stephen Fowler (AKA Nervous Stephen). A mysterious, romantic and gentle man that everyone fell in love with when he started working at the French pub.

'Bourchier Street' – aka Piss alley, between Wardour Street and Dean Street. I love the contrasts with the concrete and the grills on the walls, and the echo of polka dots from Hilary’s jacket and Paul’s tie.

'Sebastian and Babette at the Colony Room' - Sebastian was an intimidating figure from afar but we became friends a couple of years before he died and underneath all the bravado he was a lovely sweet man. The Colony Room was one of his favourite places. Here he's in his full regalia - the sequins, the red nails, the Swarovski encrusted tie. I miss him.

'Lovers at the Soho House' – I’d love to say I captured this scene as a passerby but this is my oldest friend and her then boyfriend taking any opportunity to kiss.