REVIEWS

Camden New Journal
10th July 08

camden journal

London’s fare city through a cabbie’s lens

Taxi driver Dominic Shannon has spent years documenting a unique view of the capital, and his work is now being hailed as a success, writes Simon Wroe

OTHER taxi drivers regard Dominic Shannon with suspicion. Whether they are waiting alongside him at the cab ranks of Heathrow or Harrods, or passing him at the top of Oxford Street, the chances are Mr Shannon will be leaning out the window of his vehicle and taking photos of the scenery.

His fellow cabbies look askance at this behaviour. Some of them mutter “butterboy” under their breath, a phrase used in the trade for clueless novices, its derivation being “he is but a boy”.

Shannon, however, is no “butterboy”. The 39-year-old former boxer, who has lived in Somers Town all his life, has been a licensed Hackney carriage driver for nine years; and he has been taking photos since his first month on the job.

He bought his first camera, a disposable, after a car ran into his cab. What began as a safeguard for insurance claims has developed over the years into a vast, encyclopedic documentation of London over the past decade, all from the perspective of a black cab driver, or “cabarazzi”, as he likes to call himself.

In an effort to catalogue his thousands of images, taken primarily to show his wife and three children what he sees in his working day, Shannon has ordered them into subjects: accidents, animals, customers, diversions, people on crossings, people and statues, queuing, and rear view mirror shots are just a few. Street life and nightlife studies are legion; there’s even a few hundred on Evening Standard headlines.

Tourists that hail this particular taxi, expecting the habitually dour London cabbie, are often surprised to hear their driver remark on the “lovely colourings” of Big Ben or the beauty of a sunset. He is usually taking more pictures than they are. “People don’t understand why I would want to take a picture of something I see every day,” he explains matter-of-factly, “but I’ve always got one eye open for a good picture. If I see something that looks inter­esting to me, I snap it.”

While Shannon might lack any shred of artistic pretension, his humble efforts have earned him so many admirers that he is no longer able to ignore their entreaties.

On the advice of numerous passengers (and two undercover police officers who became fans after they stopped him for taking pictures of them), his first show, London Through the Eyes of a Cabbie, will open next week at Kodak Express in Camden High Street.

All of a sudden things are moving fast. A few months ago he didn’t know who Thames and Hudson were; now he is meeting with them to discuss a book of his photos. A fare from Random House, another publishing imprint, who saw some of his photos, told him he had an alternative career if he ever wanted it.

“Rubbing shoulders with the art world feels a little strange at first,” he admits. “I normally pick these people up in the back of my cab. Now I’m not just a driver. They’re interested in what I’m doing.”

Shannon moved into cab driving at 27, unable to juggle the long hours of carpentry, his first career, with boxing training and a young family. He passed The Knowledge at 30.

He still trains every morning before work, a discipline he has upheld since his days as a schoolboy boxer for England.

After injury halted his progress at 19 he turned trainer at the St Pancras ABC club, bringing a young Martin Power, the future British bantam­weight, up through the ranks. Now the taxi ranks at St Pancras are his first port of call around midday. Most days he finishes at 8pm, though he works late on Friday and Saturday as he likes to photograph the night scene.

Although he has moved onto digital, he still uses a small point-and-shoot camera, held above or into the wing mirror of his cab. This produces mixed results, but Shannon insists that is part of the point: “A lot of people have told me I should get a better camera but that would lose the concept. I’m not a photographer setting up pretty shots with a tripod. I’m a driver. I love being a driver. I’m very proud of what I do. The difference between me and my colleagues is that I snap what I see.”

So would he ever give up driving to pursue photography?

“I can’t see that happening,” he laughs. “All I can see is starting tomorrow at St Pancras.”

London Through the Eyes of a Cabbie is at Kodak Express, 75 Camden High Street, NW1. July 17-23.

London Life

Taxi driver takes snapshots of London life

In taxi ranks and service stations across the capital he is known as the cabarazzi.

While London black cab drivers share an ability to recount tall tales, Dominic Shannon is in the rare position of being able to back his up with photographs. For the past nine years Mr Shannon has taken a series of pictures while he ferried people around London.

What began as an insurance measure, when he bought a disposable camera so that he could provide proof for accident claims, has grown into a vast documentation of life on the streets of the capital.

Mr Shannon, 39, has accumulated thousands of photographs, from tourists standing in heavy rain outside the main attractions in the city to homeless men sleeping on benches as workers rush past. “I see everything from my seat, so I just kept snapping. I love this city, there's loads going on and I'm never short of a photograph. Every cabbie has got a story, but I'm the only one who has photos to prove mine,” he told The Times.

One passenger had been at the hairdresser when it started to rain. Because she did not have an umbrella she took off her shirt and used it to protect her hair when she ran from the taxi. “I thought 'What are you like?'”, Mr Shannon said. “What's more important, getting your hair wet or showing your taxi driver and the neighbours your smalls?”

Many passengers were impressed by the quality of the pictures, which led to his first exhibition in Camden, North London, this month. Mr Shannon has talked to a publisher about creating a book of his photographs, which are to be included in another London exhibition this year.

Although he has moved into digital photography, Mr Shannon is content with a £150 camera instead of expensive equipment. “Point and shoot, that's all I need. I wouldn't know what to do with all those lenses. That's what the concept is. It's a bit rough. That's why it's different,” he said.

Some of his images show the darker side of London life: a drunk sprawled in the back seat of his taxi, a homeless man passed out in his own urine with an empty bottle of cider next to him, a man with a bloody nose after being in a fight.

Most capture the diversity that distinguishes London: autumn colours in Kensington Gardens, landmarks bathed in sunshine, a tattoed man at Camden Lock, taxis lined up outside Westminster Abbey. “I think it really shows what London is all about: from new buildings to old, posh people to street people, Soho against churches,” he said.

At first Mr Shannon, who has lived in the same street in Somers Town his entire life, was taken aback when he was approached about exhibiting his work. “I thought it was crazy. Now the other guys call me cabarazzi, or Digital Dom,” he said.

He will not be giving up his day job, however. “I love it. I meet so many interesting people and I love to have a chat. I'm not one of those cabbies that drives people mad, though. I'll give them space, but if someone wants to have a chat, I'll talk for England,” he added.

Anderson Shelter
22nd July 08

anderson shelter

Taxi driver takes snapshots of London life

In taxi ranks and service stations across the capital he is known as the cabarazzi.

While London black cab drivers share an ability to recount tall tales, Dominic Shannon is in the rare position of being able to back his up with photographs. For the past nine years Mr Shannon has taken a series of pictures while he ferried people around London.

What began as an insurance measure, when he bought a disposable camera so that he could provide proof for accident claims, has grown into a vast documentation of life on the streets of the capital.

Mr Shannon, 39, has accumulated thousands of photographs, from tourists standing in heavy rain outside the main attractions in the city to homeless men sleeping on benches as workers rush past.

“I see everything from my seat, so I just kept snapping. I love this city, there's loads going on and I'm never short of a photograph. Every cabbie has got a story, but I'm the only one who has photos to prove mine,” he told The Times.

One passenger had been at the hairdresser when it started to rain. Because she did not have an umbrella she took off her shirt and used it to protect her hair when she ran from the taxi.

“I thought 'What are you like?'”, Mr Shannon said. “What's more important, getting your hair wet or showing your taxi driver and the neighbours your smalls?”

Many passengers were impressed by the quality of the pictures, which led to his first exhibition in Camden, North London, this month. Mr Shannon has talked to a publisher about creating a book of his photographs, which are to be included in another London exhibition this year.

Although he has moved into digital photography, Mr Shannon is content with a £150 camera instead of expensive equipment. “Point and shoot, that's all I need. I wouldn't know what to do with all those lenses. That's what the concept is. It's a bit rough. That's why it's different,” he said.

Some of his images show the darker side of London life: a drunk sprawled in the back seat of his taxi, a homeless man passed out in his own urine with an empty bottle of cider next to him, a man with a bloody nose after being in a fight.

Most capture the diversity that distinguishes London: autumn colours in Kensington Gardens, landmarks bathed in sunshine, a tattoed man at Camden Lock, taxis lined up outside Westminster Abbey. “I think it really shows what London is all about: from new buildings to old, posh people to street people, Soho against churches,” he said.

At first Mr Shannon, who has lived in the same street in Somers Town his entire life, was taken aback when he was approached about exhibiting his work. “I thought it was crazy. Now the other guys call me cabarazzi, or Digital Dom,” he said.

He will not be giving up his day job, however. “I love it. I meet so many interesting people and I love to have a chat. I'm not one of those cabbies that drives people mad, though. I'll give them space, but if someone wants to have a chat, I'll talk for England,” he added.

Posted by Thomasthetaxi

Shared Creation
28th July 08

Often when I mention projects it sounds as if something has been heavily planned. Maybe a little over thought and a little too aware of itself. This really does not have to be the case.

Last week The Cabarazzi hit the news with an exhibition of photographs hosted in North London. The pictures which are really quite stunning were all taken with a simple point and shoot camera from a London Cab. It sounds like a cool idea. Yet it started when Cabbie Dominic Shannon started carrying a (disposable) camera as a precautionary measure to collect insurance evidence in case of an accident. He realised how good London looks and started to take photographs. The disposable camera became digital and the pictures are now on display.

This is a case of one idea getting caught up in enthusiasm and turning into something special.

It proves that all you need is an idea, some patience and not very expensive equipment to produce good art. To me the message is - just get on with things and see what happens

Times
22nd July 08

indigoalison

Cab driver turned social documentor. Domminic Shannon was interviewed on BBC news and his is an inspirational story.

“I see everything from my seat, so I just kept snapping. I love this city, there's loads going on and I'm never short of a photograph. Every cabbie has got a story, but I'm the only one who has photos to prove mine,” he told The Times.

And what brilliant photos they are, currently on show at Kodak Express in Camden High Street. They give a unique viewpoint of London. I particularly like the ones that include reflections of his cab interior.

This where digital photography works, because it opens up doors of creativity to people who would not normally have time to indulge. That the photos are so good is a bonus.

BBC Brazil

Shannon afirma que nunca havia se interessado por fotografia até sofrer um acidente com seu táxi. Desde então, passou a andar sempre "armado" para flagrar cenas de Londres.

Click here to play the BBC Brazil slide show

Direct View
Radio Taxis Group Limited

London through the eyes of a cabbie

Dominic Shannon, a Radio Taxis driver of 9 nine years is receiving worldwide critical acclaim for his photographic exhibition showing London through the eyes of a cabbie.

The exhibition is currently showing at Kodak Express in Camden High Street and has been extended due to its popularity.

Kodak Express Camden

Click here to see Kodak's Cabarazzi page