Last Updated on 6. September 2020
A new edition of “Meet the Londoner” with the photographer Jan Enkelmann. You might know him already as he is currently on Kickstarter with a campaign to raise funding for a book featuring his incredibly good photos about London in lockdown. I saw his works, was impressed and wanted to know more about the person behind the camera. So I very happy that he is part of today’s interview. Enjoy reading!
Who is Jan Enkelmann?
The personal background
My name is Jan Enkelmann. I am a photographer and graphic designer. Originally from Stuttgart, I’ve been living in London for 20 years. I’m married to Maren and have two sons, Miles (12) and Huey (8). They are proper London boys, but they are bilingual and still have a connection to Germany.
What made to come to the UK?
My family had friends in North Yorkshire and so I was visiting England regularly with my parents since I was very young. Often we passed through London and I learned to love the city. In 2000 I jumped at an opportunity to work for a branding and design agency here. I came to London with the plan to stay for a year. I’m still here 20 years on.
Where exactly do you live?
I live in Tulse Hill. That’s in south London, somewhere between Brixton, Streatham and Dulwich.
When did you start taking photos?
My dad is also a photographer and I got my first camera for my sixth birthday.
When did you turn it into a profession?
In 2005, my girlfriend and I (who’s now my wife) travelled around the world and turned our experiences and encounters with people we met along the way into a travel photo book, which was then published globally. That was a turning point where I thought, hey, I’m really enjoying this. Today, I’m dividing my time between photography and graphic design work.
What’s your favourite motif?
My current project is a documentary project I made during the recent lockdown period, showing scenes of a deserted London. However, that’s not exactly typical of what I normally shoot. Usually I’m much more interested in photographing people.
I have been working on a long-term documentary project on the people gathering every Sunday at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park. Another project I’ve been working on for quite a while is called Smoking Chefs. It’s a series that captures chefs of restaurants in Chinatown having s cigarette break. I’ve also been documenting people making their way to the major English horse racing events in Ascot, Epsom, Cheltenham and so on. My work sits somewhere between documentary and street photography.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
That’s a good question. I love observing people and there’s a lot of opportunity for that in London. I used to do a lot of travel photography all around the world. But since I’ve had kids, and traveling has become slightly more difficult, I’ve started to find interesting projects that are a little bit closer to home.
About your Kickstarter Project “Pause”
What made you take the photos of the deserted London?
Even before the lockdown I had been out cycling in the evenings, just to exercise. Most of the time just in my immediate neighbourhood. But the evening Boris Johnson officially told people to stay at home, I was on my bike, cycling through Westminster. Everything was already deserted and there were only a few taxis and buses on the road. It was eerie and fascinating.
I kept up my cycling routine during lockdown, and after a few days decided it wouldn’t do any harm to take the camera for these trips. That’s how it started. I wanted to document the places that usually were full of people, but now lay completely deserted.
However, when looking at my images now, I feel my project is less about the lack of human presence, and rather about being able to notice things you’d have never seen before – because you are usually distracted by people and traffic.
When did you have the idea to turn it into a book?
I had started selling prints of these photos and it turned out to be an unexpected success. Quite a few people asked why I didn’t turn the series into a book. Also being a graphic designer, and having published photobooks before, it was almost a natural progression to make a book.
Details about the “Pause” Kickstarter campaign
You want to support Jan’s book “Pause”? Then support the Kickstarter campaign that is still running (until the end of September). All you need to know including the goodies can be found on Kickstarter’s website.
Jan Enkelmann about London
What’s a must-see sight in London?
It’s gone a bit quiet now since the start of the pandemic, but if you have never been, visit Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park on a Sunday afternoon.
3 words to describe London
Fast, inspiring, changing
Is London a photogenic city to you?
Over the last ten years, I’ve made most of my personal work in London. I suppose that speaks for itself.
The best museum in London is…?
Sir John Soan’s Museum
What have you photographed the most in London?
Speakers’ Corner and Chinatown.
Where do you go for a nice lunch?
Brixton Village Market has many small, independent restaurants. There are a few old favourites like the original Franco Manca pizza restaurant, but also plenty of new places springing up to discover. It never gets boring.
Gail’s Bakery, Dulwich Village
Fun stuff about Jan Enkelmann:
Gin and Tonic or Pimm’s?
Gin and Tonic
Milk in first or last?
Milk first, obviously
Favourite Tube line?
Favourite party song?
Outkast, Hey Ya!
Best advice you were given?
Take the lens cap off before taking a picture.
Jan Enkelmann on Social Media
Dear Jan, thanks for taking your time for this interview. I am really looking forward to owning your book with the lockdown photos. See you soon in London!
This post is also available in: Deutsch