Kieron Cummings, aka The London Vagabond (TLV), is a self-taught photographer based in London. He captures the underbelly of society: the homeless, the drug addicted, the dirt poor as well as altercations with the police. His style is raw, gritty and all too real but distinctly his own.
TLV uses 35mm film shooting on a couple of old SLR cameras that he got from charity shops. Initially he shot on a digital camera but it was confiscated by the police so he used his SLR film cameras. These cameras are old, dusty, mouldy and do not even have a working light meter in them. A lot of TLV’s work is shot at night without a flash. These conditions lend a gritty and dirty quality to his photographs which has become his trademark.
Although he says he had a happy upbringing he began running away from home from the age of 8. Anti-establishment and against rules, he surrounded himself with graffiti artists and enjoyed tagging himself. He used photography to capture the graffiti and the places he was going with these people. This evolved into portraiture of the people he would see. He was surrounded by people who would give themselves pseudonyms which is why he created one for himself.
“I have the utmost respect for non-conformity and the unorthodox. I want to show these peoples’ stories as well as them being interlinked in my story. I want to document now; the things I see that other people may not get a chance to or choose to be blind to,” says TLV.
He has spent time in jail as a result of 10 raids, while he was living in London. He was refused bail and spent nearly a year locked up. At sentencing the judge called him “a talented artist”.
He describes different approaches depending on who he is photographing. While some subjects he gets to know, hears their story and gains their trust, others he shoots and runs.
“The portrait is a way of me showing that I have heard their story, I have listened to their darkest moments. I have had the pleasure of shaking their hand and the honour of being in their company – I’m a storyteller” says TLV.
He can get himself in dangerous situations. He describes one incident where he photographs two heroin addicts sorting out their drugs when they turn on him holding a needle.
“I’ve had a few altercations due to me or my friends taking photos. I’ve had police talk down to me saying I can’t do it but I don’t listen to a single word they have to say. I always swing it back on them and say they are using CCTV to do the same thing” says TLV.
All purchases go straight back to paying for film and camera equipment. TLV is hopeful about his future as an artist and photographer.