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Street Photography Interview: @w_faich

Updated: Apr 9, 2019

Street Photography Interview: @w_faich

This time round I have something a little different for you. Initially I was following @w_faich to feed my interest in graffiti. In his work you get a glimpse of London from his perspective; High-rise to the underground and everything in-between. We get a natural view of London, as from someone who has lived there, and knows it inside out. Not only that; he discusses his fascination with trains including train-hopping one of the worlds most dangerous trains and explains his ongoing project and fascination with Northern Ireland.

1. Hey. Good to talk to you. Exploration clearly plays a big part in a lot of what you're shooting whether it be high views, train lines, or other countries. Photography naturally falls hand in hand. How did you get started to doing what you do and is that where photography began for you?

Since I was a teenager, around 14 years old I've been travelling around London on the bus, trains, tubes and on my bike. That's how I got my feel for the city, and became interested in exploring lesser seen areas and places. I've carried a digital camera of some sort over the years, and slowly moved up the ladder to an SLR. I was originally really interested in trains quite a bit as a kid, so you could almost call me a trainspotter back then, but through friends and places I became more interested in graffiti, high rise buildings, views of London that not many people appreciate. It's all come together through many days and nights just criss-crossing all areas of London, seeing what I can find. This has also made me want to explore other cities around the country and even venture abroad.

2. You're showing London as most people never see it. Is there anything you are specifically trying to capture in your photos?

I've had an interest in social housing and tower blocks for years, and have kind of made it my personal mission to photograph as many estates and blocks as possible. This started by me going to the Heygate Estate in south London in 2011, which was a huge estate that eventually got demolished back in 2014. From there I've pretty much been in and up every single major tower block and estate in London, almost systematically recording the buildings, especially as more and more get demolished, as the tide of gentrification and redevelopment sweeps across the city. I see it more of a project of an important part of the country's social history, which is slowly being erased and forgotten, and at the same time an architectural snapshot of some very unloved and under appreciated buildings.

3. Do you go out with intentions in mind of what you're wanting to shoot, is it more about the experience or a combination of both that keeps you going out there?

Sometimes, there's a particular view I'll want to capture, or a certain place I'll want to go and check out, so I'll make it my mission to go and get that done. However, a lot of my work has been captured from me just wandering and meandering around the streets and estates, late at night, early in the morning. So many hours have been put into this, and I am so glad I've put this time and effort into doing it. The experience is really important, as I know I'm getting something done which in my mind, is really worth it. I'll listen to some music, zone and and really get in my state of mind for shooting. It just seems the right way to go about it.

4. You travelled to Mauritania, North West Africa to ride the desert train. I have no idea what that is but it sounds nuts. What the story behind that journey? The image you've shown from that trip looks pretty crazy. Any stories from that trip?

As well as what I do with tower blocks, I cross over into the urbex (urban exploration) world. So through that, this idea eventually came about. I've known about this train for years from watching a BBC documentary, and then when it came up in a conversation around 2 years ago a few of us made it our mission to get it done, and it finally came together on Christmas Day last year. Mauritania is a country that barely anyone has heard of, and is one of the least visited countries in the world. Our government advise against all travel to the country, and don't have an embassy to give any help when you're there. However, it is one of the most amazing places I've ever been to. The train itself runs from the mining centre of Zouerate in the middle of the desert, runs through what is pretty much bandit country on the border with the disputed territory of Western Sahara, then after 17 hours reaches its destination at the port city of Nouadhibou.

The attraction for people like me, is the opportunity to ride in a freight wagon for the entirely of the journey, through the desert, and no one giving a f***. Some other locals use it to transport their own goods and even livestock (we saw donkeys on board and even a herd of goats). On top of this, it is one of the longest trains in the world, at around 2 and a half miles. I rode the train two legs, there and back, the first one the wagons were empty, and he second they were loaded with Iron Ore. I still remember waking up at dawn, as the wagons smashed around against each other, the dust from the iron ore and sand from the Sahara swirling round into my bivvy bag, making me and all my belongings filthy. We had some tea with some local guys on one of the wagons further up, then watched the sun rise over the desert, one of the most amazing things I've ever done or witnessed.

Another thing I liked a lot was all the old cars, particularly completely battered Mercedes 190's. This is a third world country so I guess they make do with the spare parts they have, as two thirds of all cars I saw were this model, even if it meant running your car with panels missing, collapsed suspension and 7 people squeezed inside ! A truly crazy and amazing place. More travels to come!

5. More recently you've been heading over to document Northern Ireland. What sparked your interest over there? The murals shown over on your Instagram are amazing. It reminds me of a place that time forgot from many images I see in some areas.

For a long time, I've had an interest in the conflict in Northern Ireland. I studied it in GCSE history, and became so interested that I decided to continue researching, reading and watching things about it all. I always had it in my mind that I'd go over to see it all, and for some reason I never did. With Brexit looming, I decided in November last year to fly out once and for all. I think my style of photos fits in quite nicely with what there is to see, particularly in and around Belfast. In the end, I planned my trips around photographing the murals, which themselves are slowly changing to reflect a changing society. Masked gunmen with assault weapons depicted on the side of homes are being changed, although many still remain. I still think it's crazy that there exists a place in this country that has large walls separating very divided communities, that being the Protestant Unionists and the Republican Nationalists, and many people back here in London know little about it all. In the end, I have returned again twice and have already booked flights for a fourth trip very soon. A big thanks has to be given to Ryanair for the cheap tickets!

6. What's next? Are you currently working on any projects? Where can we keep up to date with your goings on?

The social housing project is ongoing and will probably never be complete, but I'd love to release a zine or even a book on the whole thing in a couple years time, as that would mark 10 years that I've been documenting them. Other cities and towns are on my hit list in the UK at the moment , so stay tuned for that.

In particular I want to do something related to Grenfell Tower, as I have photos before, during and after the tragic fire which occurred a year and a half ago. Yes, I was nearby in the middle of that night and got a phone call, so naturally went down to see what was going on. I'll release some London based graffiti work at some point, as I've become quite known for taking 'good' photos of trains painted which are running in service, through a lot of sitting around at stations!

You can find me on Flickr, which is using my screen-name, 'w_faich'. I have an awful backlog at the moment, and am saving a lot of my work for future publication, but there's plenty to look through already.

Instagram: w_faich

Flickr: w_faich

It was great to speak with W_Faich - it had been on the cards for a very long time. Appreciate you giving us a glimpse in to your world. There's an insane amount of content on his Flickr page as well as his Instagram.

Enjoy the post? Let me know via Instagram, direct messaging or email! I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Jordan Murray Street Photography

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Or hear my method to madness:

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