In dreams there is hope, and what is a life without hope, without a pursuit of passion? It’s no wonder that the etymological root of ‘dream’ in Old English is ‘joy’.
In June 2002, I came to London from Poland, a 19-year-old with a dream. My dream was to become a make-up artist. The plan was to earn money in the UK in order to fund a make-up artistry course in Poland. The reality was a much harsher story. I couldn’t speak a word of English, so for the first three months I couldn’t get a job. I was borrowing money from people I lived with, going through the day without eating in order to save money. At that point, my easiest option would have been to go back home, admit defeat, and fall back into the comfort and familiarity of my family. But going home wasn’t an option because what would that lead to? I’d be back at home, in debt, and I would have gotten nowhere with my dream.
So I decided to stick it out.
I’m not alone in this. London is a city full of people like me, people pursuing diverse interests and beliefs. People with hopes and challenges. That’s what I love so much about it. Dreams don’t have to be big, or extravagant, but they are unique and personal, and crucially they give people a direction and a path, a reason for getting up in the morning, and a motivation to keep them going. This project is about capturing what those dreams are, the London dreams that fuel the people who live in this city and sometimes – as they did for me – force us to keep going when we think we’ve lost.
Since January 2016 I have been taking portraits of strangers on the streets of London and asking them about their dreams. People think that Londoners are closed, but I think they would be surprised at how open people are, once given the chance to tell their story. This project is my way of making the space to do that.
One day I hope to follow up on their dreams and ask them where they got to. Did they achieve exactly what they set out to do? Did they, like me, find a different dream that suited them more in the end? What happens to all those dreams, and all those lives?
My own story is far from over. My dream now is to be a successful photographer, and I measure that success in how many people I can inspire with my work. I want people to be inspired to find their own stories. The thing is that we’re all on the road to somewhere, and it’s so important to have an idea of where you want to end up, whether you get there or not. This project serves as a testament and a record of that.