Friday, 20 August 2010

The UNdane Interview: Stephanie Sadler

Stephanie Sadler.

Stephanie Sadler is a 26 year old New Yorker who fulfilled her dream of moving to London in 2007. She is a writer, journalist and photographer who has her photographs regularly featured on The Londonist and she keeps a blog all about life in London. She appreciates the little things, loves street art and international cuisine, and wants to travel the world.

What inspires you to take photographs and what do you love about doing it?

An endless curiosity about this fascinating, beautiful, dirty, eccentric city and the diversity of people who come from around the world to make it their home is what inspires me most. I want to capture the London I see somehow and photography is one of the most fulfilling ways I know how. I love taking photographs because they freeze a split second of a moment that will never happen again. It’s rarely a perfect truth, but it’s being able to look back at the beauty in the little things and smile later that I love about it. Also, it’s a great excuse to wander and explore.

Tell me a bit about three of your favourite photographs.

It changes quite often and I like different photos for different reasons, but here’s a few of my faves:

Eleven and a Half

This was taken on Fournier Street in the East End. It’s just a door and a window, but there’s a certain sense of a story in it and I love that the house number is Eleven and A Half. Also, it’s my favourite colour blue.

Brick Lane

I shot this on Brick Lane. It was almost an accident, but it captures a little moment of intimacy and tenderness in two people with otherwise tough outward appearances.

Artist and his Canvas Wall

This one was taken just last weekend on Leake Street. This artist was hard at work. I asked if I could take his photo. He grinned at me and said, “Sure, but I’m gonna put my hood up first!”

A running theme in both your writing and photography is finding the connection between people and different cultures. Tell us a little about that.

I’ve always believed that if we all made an effort to understand each other and have a bit of curiosity and empathy, the world would be a much more peaceful place. There are a million ways to approach this life and we only get one shot. I find it incredible to see how much people around the world differ in their traditions, beliefs, fashion, art and lifestyles in general yet how similar we are in so many basic ways as well. Seeing people from every country interact in a city environment like London is an incredible experience and I have learned so much from sharing life with such a diverse group of friends. It’s something I want to document and share.

Stephanie Sadler.

Your web site tells us that you live for the little things in life. What are some little things you’ve encountered this week that have made you smile?

An elderly couple sitting in Holland Park in the early morning sneaking a kiss, their canes leaning on the park bench; finding out that there’s a street called “Horse and Dolphin Yard” in the middle of Chinatown; my friend surprising me with a traditional felt bag from Mongolia; a little black cat playfully pawing at a dangling spider on my walk to work; I saw a man who is hunched over in his wheelchair on South Bank who plays amazing music on a keyboard – with his toes.

You wander London taking pictures of the things you come across. Do you have a favourite London place to shoot?

I’m always drawn back to the colourful East End atmosphere around Brick Lane, Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Old Street, Hackney. Finding a new piece of street art can make my day. I love Blackall Street for this reason. I love the down and dirty places in London because they always feel vibrant and alive. I also love taking my camera to the markets – Portobello, Camden, Borough – and down to South Bank and Leake Street, or just get on a bus and get off somewhere I’ve never been before. Another great place is the cemeteries, especially Kensal Green and Brompton.

Borough Market 10

Borough Market by Stephanie Sadler

Creature on Blackall Street

Blackall Street by Stephanie Sadler

Something you’re very interested in is setting up projects that bring together people from all over the globe in sharing a common creative goal. Tell me about one of these projects, and what you achieved with it.

One of the most recent was called Photo Scavengers (which I recently passed on to someone else to run). I set a list of 20 key words and people from all over the world would go out and take a photo for each word – their personal interpretation.

At the end of the month, all of the photos would be compiled into diary entries and linked to one page on the main site. It was fascinating to see how many ways there are to interpret a word in a photograph and it produced some incredible work that made the participants think about things from a slightly different angle. It also encouraged everyone to get out there and think creatively which is always rewarding. I just started a very scaled down version of the same idea on my blog – one theme a month, best photos from the Flickr pool posted.

The theme for August is “drinking tea” if you care to join in.


You run popular London themed blog Little London Observationist. What’s it all about and why should we all immediately visit it?

It’s colourful and full of photos. There are fun and vibrant bite-sized entries to devour during the weekdays. I post every day. On weekends, I run two projects: Saturdays I post a Q&A with a Londoner where you can pick up some great ideas from the locals on where to eat, drink, shop and explore; every Sunday there’s an interview with a London-based artist – from tattoo artists to photographers to graffiti artists – to show off some of the city’s brightest talent. Little London Observationist has a focus on the little things and on the people who inhabit London. You should visit it immediately because it rocks and, if you love London, you won’t regret it. (If you regret it, I owe you a cup of tea…)

Spin 3

Greenwich Millennium Village by Stephanie Sadler

You moved to London in 2007 from New York State. What are some of the little things you miss most about home?

Besides spending time with friends and family, I miss the fantastic fire of Autumn leaves, cheesy Goldfish crackers, friendly neighbours who acknowledge your existence, peace and quiet, loads of snow at Christmas, my big front porch and hammock on the back balcony, basements, Buffalo Sabres hockey games.

...And some of the little things you love about London?

A perfect hand-warming cup of tea on a rainy day; the impossibility of getting lost as long as you can find the nearest bus or tube; hearing six different languages being spoken all around you at the same time; being able to buy groceries from all over the world in local corner shops; the irony of people walking around with “I love London” brollies when it rains because usually the weather is something complained about; mainly, little things like buskers who encourage a free smile, graffiti popping up on canvas walls and that “London feeling” that I’m sure you know if you live here.

I Love London Rain 2

'I Love London 2' by Stephanie Sadler

If London was being knocked down in its entirety to make way for a giant shopping centre, which 3 parts of the city would you save?

That would be incredibly depressing. I suppose Oxford Circus can go then. I would save South Bank because walking along there slowly on a warm night was when I really fell in love with this city; the area around Brick Lane because it’s so vibrant, multicultural, full of personality and sitting on the kerb with a tin of Sri Lankan curry and people watching is one of my favourite things to do; and I think I would save Hyde Park because I have wonderful memories of kissing under willow trees in a rainstorm and feeding the ducks by the Serpentine.

‘UNdane’ is the concept that beauty, happiness and creativity can be found within the mundane, the little things in life – you embody this in your photography and the projects you put together. Using this definition, what does UNdane mean to you? What is your idea of the UNdane? Give me some examples of UNdane things that make you smile.

I think UNdane is the little things you don’t notice in everyday life unless you are consciously observing. There’s beauty all over the place – in the patterns made by bark on trees, in light seeping through a fence in the evening, in droplets of water clinging to windowpanes, in the fog settled over an empty car park soaking in the early morning sun. There’s a little baby bird that lives in my back garden. We call him Pepe. He’s so tame, he will eat off the table in front of you if you give him a piece of cake. He likes to have his photo taken. He makes me smile.

What’s your favourite song at the moment?

I’m in the mood for something completely different every day. Today, I’m enjoying one of my old faves: “The Scientist’s Canvas” by Stage.

You + Your Character

You + Your Character by Stephanie Sadler

Have a look at more of Steph's photographs at her Flickr page

Visit the Little London Observationist here

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