Views from the top deck: A photography project conducted on London buses reveals a fresh side to city life

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

Top Deck tells the story of life in a city over the course of two years, as seen entirely from inside east London's buses. A collaboration by the photographers Will Robson-Scott and James Pearson-Howes, it is a love-note to the capital, capturing the cultural variety and rugged beauty of the place in which they were both born and raised. Shooting from a bus, Robson-Scott explains, "you can show the diversity… a route like the 149 goes through the City that is full of bankers and hedgefund managers. Then, within half an hour, you're in Tottenham, known for its crime and social problems".

The project came about by chance. The photographers – both in their late twenties – had been friends for years and, after a few unsuccessful attempts at working together, were supposed to be doing a joint exhibition; but at the last minute the gallery they had lined up folded. Pearson-Howes had already started this project, taking bus-top snaps with a Contax G2 and 45mm lens. As the pair were suddenly in need of a new idea, they decided to join forces, sharing the camera.

"There was a lot of waiting and luck in this project," recalls Robson-Scott. Neither of them knew exactly what they had shot until they rounded up the rolls and got them developed. "You also didn't notice things until you got the images back, because you didn't have time to look properly." It was, he says, a case of see, snap, and then hope. It was this sense of uncertainty, the possibilities around every corner, that drove the process, Robson-Scott adds.

"The great thing about it was you could spend a day shooting, or just shoot while getting the bus to work." Because of the spontaneous nature of life in the city, choosing a particular route did not ensure a certain outcome. What you get in these pictures is the essence of a snapshot, an unconstructed moment. "They are glimpses," says Pearson-Howes, "because that is what you get on a bus. Since the bus is never stationary for long, you just get glimpses of everyday life."

The constraints of the project, they agree, also turned out to be the positives: "We didn't have the usual freedoms: with the trees blocking the view, the speed of the bus, the state of the windows… there were a lot of obstacles. You basically had to wait for something to happen on the street below and hope to be in a position to catch it," Robson-Scott explains. This project, which is currently being made into a book, is also a testimony to each of the bus routes featured: the same paths that people tread – or are driven across – everyday without ever giving it much thought.

From strangers subconsciously mimicking each other's postures at a bus stop to young protesters picketing the Square Mile, or a stranger's footprints in fresh snow, the photographs are a captivating reminder of a capital city. Did anyone ever spot the lens squinting through the windows? "No!" Pearson-Howes says. "That is the beauty of it, you are high on the top deck so you are invisible: no one ever looks up in London."

For more on the Top Deck project, visit jamespearsonhowes.com/top-deck

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
    RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

    RuPaul interview

    The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
    Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

    Secrets of comedy couples

    What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
    Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

    Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

    While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
    The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

    The best swimwear for men

    From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
    Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

    Mark Hix goes summer foraging

     A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
    Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

    With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

    Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
    Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

    Aaron Ramsey interview

    Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
    Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

    Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

    As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
    The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

    Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

    Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
    A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

    A Very British Coup, part two

    New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

    Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms