The Real London Eye
Raised on the east side of London, photographer Emmanuel Cole has always been fascinated by the fast pace of his home city. His eagerness to document the urban and architectural elements of his surroundings, as well as his fellow Londoners’ fleeting moments, has propelled his career (and Instagram account @ecolephoto with over 144K followers) off the charts. Cole works with clients like Levis, Adidas, Palladium, and Motorola. Off the clock he can be found capturing the energy and chaos of London’s rush hour. This personal project will culminate in a book and accompanying exhibition, so watch this space! Here he shares how his style developed, and more.
When did you get your first camera? Was there a specific moment when you fell in love with photography?
I was first given a camera for my 21st birthday by my uncle after we had a conversation about my new interest in photography. I barely used the camera (Canon 1000D) much in the first year as I had no idea what I was doing with it. A few months later I acquired an iPhone for my job at the time and that became my new tool—I taught myself how to compose and take a decent photo with my phone.
You are masterful at taking many different types of pictures – portraiture, architecture, travel etc. Do you approach each differently?
There is definitely a difference in my approach to portraits in comparison to architecture. Portraits connect with an individual, and that’s very important for me. As for architecture, when I began taking pictures 3 years ago, it was something easy to get into at the time. Many people on Instagram also took photographs of architecture and I was getting the most of my engagement from architectural shots so I just ran with it. My travel work tends to be a blend of street, portraiture and architecture.
Where do you live in London? What do you love about your neighborhood?
I grew up in, and have spent the majority of my life, in the east side of London. Mainly in Hackney, Chingford and Manor Park, which funny enough, means I’ve spent a good amount of my life in all corners of East London. Growing up in both of these areas was amazing because I was surrounded my culture and much diversity. Nowadays I’m based in South London. Moving South was strange at first, but being a street photographer I felt it was necessary to understand South London for work purposes. The move is working out well.
Can you share your three favorite local hang-out spots?
I’d have to say Shoreditch, Peckham and probably Elephant & Castle.
Can you share one of your favorite “London” pictures? What’s the story behind it?
This photo of a couple on a bike with the girl helping the guy have a smoke of her cigarette is up there. It was an amazing moment. I was on another photo shoot at the time and when I spotted the moment taking place I was quick to pause my shoot and run over to the couple to ask the lady if she could pass the cigarette to the guy again. She was happy to comply and it was all over in a few seconds.