The photographer who captures the daily lives of locals

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Award-winning snapper Nicholas Goodden talks us through a series of portraits he shot in Camden and Kentish Town


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Photo: Nicholas Goodden
Photo: Nicholas Goodden
‘She’s a Londoner on a serious mission and one I wouldn’t dare mess with. I love the star tattoo on her left arm and her expression. She’s looking dead ahead and walking fast, as if telling Camden tourists to stay well clear of her way, whilst keeping a firm grip on her mobile. That’s the London attitude.’
Aren’t ordinary people fascinating? That’s the reason street photographer Nicholas Goodden is drawn to immortalising us walking, working – or relaxing. “We all have a different story and our own worries, but in the end we’re the same,” he says. “And looking for the most interesting characters, Camden and Kentish Town have always stood out.”

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Photo: Nicholas Goodden
Photo: Nicholas Goodden
‘This man was standing near the Costa across from Kentish Town station. I just loved how his beard almost merges with his hat to become one. Did he get the sunglasses from the shop behind him? One reason I take photos of older people is I that I always wonder if anyone still does. So I do my part but I somehow wish I could meet them again and let them have a copy of the photo.’
Goodden was born in the UK but raised in a village in France. So you can imagine how he felt arriving in London for the first time age 16. “I ended up in Camden like most tourists,” he says. “Never had I seen such a place: punks, rastamen, people who don’t conform to the norm: it just cemented Camden as the coolest place on earth.”

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Photo: Nicholas Goodden
Photo: Nicholas Goodden
‘I was waiting for my wife one afternoon just by Kentish Town station and saw this guy at the library. He was listening to music, soaking-up the winter sunshine across the window without a worry in the world. It was a stark contrast with the madness of the street. I felt a bit jealous of his calm.’
With a dislike for authority “and what’s considered normal”, even to this day, Nicholas feels at home around our patch. How did he get his subjects to pose?  “None of the people I photographed in my series called The Great Londoners was ever aware I took their photo.”

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Photo: Nicholas Goodden
Photo: Nicholas Goodden
‘Another shot I took in the lower end of Kentish Town Road. I’m particularly drawn to capturing moments of rest, those breaks in our hectic lives: people alone, lost in their thoughts. I like to think he is enjoying his break, not really wanting that cigarette to ever end.’
But he assures us he’s not a stalker. “Obviously at first one could be forgiven for thinking I’m some sort of creep. I’m not. I just find people fascinating and am obsessed with the idea that when people aren’t aware of their photo being taken they reveal a lot more about themselves than with a fake smile for the camera. As you can probably see, all are to some degree lost in their thoughts.”

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Photo: Nicholas Goodden
Photo: Nicholas Goodden
‘I saw this woman coming a mile away and I wasn’t going to miss on that photo. She was walking up Camden High Street from Mornington Crescent on a sunny autumn morning which explains the shades. She’s a true local and looks as if she’s on a mission. I’ve had a few people scream “Kurt Cobain lookalike”, whilst others pointed at the Learn English sign above her head.’
Goodden never studied photography, but he was always surrounded by culture. “My dad worked for Air France so I travelled lots as a kid in the eighties to exotic places like Tahiti and Japan and he took lots of photos along the way. That made me curious and observant. My family is, in fact, very arty. My parents used to make stained glass windows for fun (as one does!). My mum paints in her studio, and plays the saxophone, while my dad is a hobbyist potter who creates stone sculpture in the garden. Meanwhile my sister is a brilliant illustrator. I was always surrounded by arts and crafts – but I was the least talented too.”

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Photo: Nicholas Goodden
Photo: Nicholas Goodden
‘Winter’s always a tricky time to take photos. It’s cold and all you want to do is be at home with a lovely roast chicken. That particular evening I stayed out for an hour until I couldn’t hold my camera anymore. Rush hour in the evening means people are less likely to notice me. They’re just too busy rushing home. This woman was on the phone and had great style I thought. And then I saw the fox wrapped around her neck. I had to take the shot and she was too busy with her call anyway to even notice me.’
At the age of 14 he left home to study to be a chef for five years in a French cookery school. “It developed my sense of composition. There are lots of similarities between cooking and taking photos. You find the right ingredients that work together, your “frame” can also be your plate; and then in 2000 I bought some decks and vinyl and have been DJing hard techno ever since. I also dabble with illustration. Photography is only a part of my passion for creativity.”

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Photo: Nicholas Goodden
Photo: Nicholas Goodden
‘This was shot on Kentish Town Road. I’ve seen this man many times before and wanted to photograph him. On that particular spring day his hair was very neat and his jacket probably kept him too warm. I often wonder what is going on in people’s minds. A reason I don’t tell people I’m taking their photo is it’s the only way you can capture their real self. It leaves way more unanswered questions than answers.’
The main thing, Goodden stresses, with these images is that he thinks “all of them are beautiful. I would not publish photos which could be mistaken or misinterpreted for mockery. Instead I try as much as possible to present them with as much grandeur as possible. I was attracted to photograph them because they look great. They are the Great Londoners.”

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Photo: Nicholas Goodden
Photo: Nicholas Goodden
‘ One warm summer morning I saw this lady standing in the middle of the pavement. It was a Sunday on Camden High Street between Camden Town station and Mornington Crescent. She’d just bought some fruit and seemed more interested in what was going on down the street than listening to whoever it was she was speaking to. I liked her facial expression so I took the shot.’
And people in high places agree too, as he’s picked up awards, being included in the 20 Most Influential Street Photographers of 2015 and, this year, as one of the Top 20 UK Photographers on the web.

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Photo: Nicholas Goodden
Photo: Nicholas Goodden
‘This is my favourite shot of the entire series. I relate a lot to this man for some reason. I love the beautiful morning light falling on his balding head. He isn’t your typical or obvious Camden dweller, in fact he’s very smart and feels a little out of place. He was so absorbed in his thoughts that he’d probably forgotten about that cigarette in his left hand.’

Find out more: nicholasgooddenphotography.co.uk/london-blog or follow him on Twitter @NicholasGoodden


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