Celebrating 600 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’, as 2018 Ends

31.12.18

The most recent photos from Andy Worthington's photo-journalism project 'The State of London.'

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Over six and a half years ago — in fact, 2,426 days ago, on May 11, 2012 — I embarked on a project that provided me with a new creative outlet, and that would, in many ways, re-define my life. With a point-and-shoot digital camera in my pocket, given to me by my wife for Christmas at the end of 2011, I started a photo-journalism project that, in time, I gave a name that I think has a powerful resonance — ‘The State of London’, and that I soon conceived of as a personal photo-journalistic record of the fabric of the city, in which I intended to visit and take photos in all 120 of its postcodes (those beginning SE, E, N, NW, W, SW, EC and WC), as well as in some of the outlying boroughs.

Five years after I started the project, on May 11, 2017, with tens of thousands of photos sitting on my computer (and, yes, on a separate hard drive), and with a skeletal website lying dormant because of my inability to find time to populate it with images and stories, I decided instead to start posting a photo a day on Facebook — and later on Twitter. Today marks 600 days since that project began, and I’m delighted that I now have over a thousand followers on Facebook. 

See all the photos here!

On that first day, as I cycled from my home in Brockley, in south east London, down through Deptford and Greenwich, looking at everything with a photo-journalist’s eye, I had no real concept of quite how big London is, and how immense a project would be that involved visiting and taking photos in all 120 of its postcodes. It took me until September 2014 to visit all 120 postcodes — and although I’ve managed to post photos from the majority of these postcodes in the last 600 days it’s only fair of me to admit that there are some areas of London that I’ve still only visited once or twice — although, ever enthusiastic for journeys to far-flung corners of the capital where I can still get lost, as I used to do wherever I went in the early days, I hope to remedy that in 2019!

Since that first day of ‘The State of London’, back in May 2012, I have been out on my bike with my camera almost every day, and I calculate that, as I have worked my way through three cameras (with a new one needed in the new year — hopefully a Canon G7 X Mark II), I have cycled at least 20,000 miles!

Many of these bike rides have only been local — from my home in Brockley, down to Deptford to Greenwich and back again, for example — and others have involved creating my own regular routes in south east London: along the Thames from Greenwich out east to Woolwich, for example, and sometimes beyond; often to Thamesmead, and sometimes on to Erith; or along the Thames from Deptford heading west around Rotherhithe to Tower Bridge, and back inland through Bermondsey. 

Other popular routes involve me cycling to the Isle of Dogs through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, and then cycling up the western side of what locals refer to as “the island” (it isn’t actually an island), and then cycling up one or other of the canals that feed into the Limehouse Basin, once the heart of Britain’s maritime trade empire — the Regent’s Canal, which passes through Hackney, Islington and Camden, and eventually feeds into the Grand Union Canal, heading west out of London from Little Venice; or the Limehouse Cut, which meets the River Lea in Bow, and heads north through Stratford to Clapton, and on through Tottenham Hale, up to Edmonton and beyond. 

When I cycle up the east of the Isle of Dogs, I either go on through Poplar and meander around the East End, through Stepney and Whitechapel, for example, before heading home via Tower Bridge, or I head our further east, though North Woolwich and even venturing into Beckton, before, often, returning via East Ham, West Ham, Upton Park, Plaistow and Canning Town.

Although I do it less frequently, I also love cycling out west: to Barnes and Kew, via Battersea, Wandsworth and Putney on the south of the river, or out through Fulham, Hammersmith and Chiswick on the north, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I also regularly trawl the City and the West End, although the familiar tourist attractions are not what generally interest me, as I’ve always been drawn to the everyday, even the mundane, the hidden, the overlooked, the abandoned, the forgotten and the endangered, as well as nature in all its glory.

My project has coincided with major change in the city. It began with the upheaval and jingoism of the Olympic Games, which has, sadly, been followed by an orgy of new developments rising up everywhere, a speculative frenzy, based largely on foreign investment that has, disgracefully, been matched by a frenzied ‘regeneration’ industry that is intent on destroying council estates that could and should be refurbished. This, theoretically, is because of funding shortages emanating from central government, but it also quite prominently involves the greed of developers and the failures of local government (particularly, it seems, Labour councils) to challenge this toxic status quo, to stand up for the poorer inhabitants of their boroughs, to preserve genuinely affordable social housing, and to call for the implementation of a massive social homebuilding programme. 

Many of my photos feature these twin changes — the cold phallic forests rising up everywhere, and the destruction of vibrant council estate communities, and, partly as a result of this project, the housing crisis has become a major part of my journalistic work in general. 

However, while a documentary aspect has always been a major part of the project, it is also an artistic project, and has become more so as time has passed, and I have become more interested in taking memorable photos as well as simply chronicling the changing ‘state’ of the capital. I have, however, always been drawn to the changing weather and the changing seasons, always on the lookout for strong light, and also willing to get completely soaked as has happened on several memorable occasions. The vagaries of the weather no longer affect me. I go out in all weathers, and have realised two fundamental truths: firstly, that we’re waterproof, and, secondly, that we shouldn’t be indoors all the time, as so many of us are, and that being outdoors and taking regular exercise keeps most colds and similar ailments at bay. 

Every time I write about ‘The State of London’, I also fumble towards a more philosophical assessment of what my project has involved — the feeling that, at some level, I have come to embody the city I have so relentlessly chronicled. A friend, Simon Elmer of ASH (Architects for Social Housing), recently compared me, flatteringly, to Eugène Atget, a French flâneur and a pioneer of documentary photography, who, over 35 years, wandered the streets of Paris documenting its architecture and street scenes before their disappearance to modernization. As a cycling flâneur, I can only hope that my project has a similar resonance.

For 2019, I hope to have an exhibition in south east London, and also to publish a book, crowd-funded or otherwise. If you can help with an exhibition (at any location) or with the book proposal in any way, please do get in touch!

In the meantime, thanks for your interest, keep telling other people who might be interested, and, if you’d like to make a donation to support my work, please feel free to do so. Everything I do is, essentially, reader-funded, or, in this case, viewer-funded.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, the resistance continues.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

48 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    As 2018 draws to a close, it’s also 600 days since I began posting a photo a day on my Facebook page ‘The State of London’, drawn from an archive of tens of thousands of photos I’ve taken across London’s 120 postcodes on daily bike rides over the last six and a half years.

    I started posting a photo a day on May 11, 2017, the fifth anniversary of when I started my photo-journalism project, and I’m pleased to have built up over a thousand followers in the 600 days since. This article marking 600 days of the project provides some background to the project, how it has developed, and my hopes for 2019, and I hope it has some resonance for you.

    As many of you will know, London’s housing crisis particularly preoccupies me, but as I have been going through my archives every day looking for photos to post, I have tried to provide a sweep of images that cover an array of different perspectives on the city that has been my home for the last 33 years, but that needs our commitment if it is to remain a worthwhile place to live, as the chasm between the rich and the poor continues to grow at an alarming rate.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Barb Ella wrote:

    Congratulations on 600 days, Andy! This is a fabulous achievement. It’s fascinating reading about how you do this and how your approach & outlook has changed over the years. Looking forward to more in 2019.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Barb, for your support and your kind words! Happy New Year!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Jessie Ellen wrote:

    Love your work

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your support, Jessie! Wishing you a Happy New Year!

  6. Damo says...

    Yes congratulations on 600 days and 20.000 miles I love London it’s where I was born and I’ve spent 40 of my 51 years here but alas it’s becoming a place I don’t recognise my childhood London and the London of my youth no longer exists.. Christ even the London of the spicegirl era and the early melenial London no longer exists a shame

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    I know what you mean, Damo. I’ve loved cycling around London for the last six and a half years, but I often feel as though I’m in a ghost town. Even the West End is a shadow of its former self.

  8. Damo says...

    I went riding up to eel pie island what a delightful place lovely my sister lives in Kingston that part of London Ham fields eel pie I’d move to eel pie in a heartbeat

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    We used to drive back from visits to the West Country that way, Damo. It always looked rather idyllic. Eel Pie was very bohemian back in the 60s, wasn’t it?
    See: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jul/09/eel-pie-island-british-r-and-b-bowie-stones-museum

  10. Damo says...

    London is changing so much so fast constantly churning sweeping away all our social history in this frenzy of greed that visiting a place such as eel pie is idyllic yes it’s still in London but it’s so peaceful so clean… So sane… It smelt clean you could here the birds lovely you feel safe your trapped between extreme greed and extreme poverty and the violence that comes from both, it’s just sanity there calm socially healthy

  11. Damo says...

    Eel pie island still reminds me of that London of the 70s of the 90s that free spirit London the London of the original Adventure playgrounds of reclaim the streets all those things and times

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    I think you need to move there, Damo 😉
    Your comment about us being, in general, “trapped between extreme greed and extreme poverty and the violence that comes from both” is very powerful!

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Nice memories, Damo. I had no idea at the time in the 90s how the period between Thatcher’s fall and the rise of Tony Blair would be the time of maximum anarchy, with the rave scene, Reclaim the Streets, the road protest movement and so much more!
    Check out my friend Neil Goodwin’s YouTube channel for some great videos! https://www.youtube.com/user/socpa/videos

  14. Damo says...

    The London of the 90s and my 20s was fantastic a fantastic playground you could work part time do you own thing the rest of the Time go to the raves go to the club’s hang out pay your rent for about £100 a week we were all club kids doing our own thing nobody I knew had a straight 9,5 job.. What was that.. Everybody lived that nocturnal life.. we lived in the gaps in the cracks a wonderful time

  15. Damo says...

    In this new.. NAFF.. London you can’t live free anymore unless you are very rich you can’t be on the dole for a couple of years while you made it happen for yourself ie having the time and freedom to work on your own thing and make it happen So much world class talent has come out of this city so many scenes so many movements especially in art culture.. London is become sterile tourist hell.. What a bloody shame

  16. Damo says...

    I would move to eel pie island tomorrow.. If.. I had the resources

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, absolutely, Damo – in that uneasy time for the capitalist system after the crash at the end of Thatcher’s reign of terror, but before the demonic New Labour project. Since the housing bubble began 20 years ago (under Tony Blair) the opportunities for a cheap causal life have almost been eliminated, and instead a huge number of people are enslaved by rents, servicing parasitical landlords who believe they’re entitled to prey on people like they’re their own personal vampires.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s time for people to fight back against the parasites, Damo, who believe they’re entitled to do nothing but siphon off the wages of people who have to work long hours to try and get by. The sense of entitlement of these indolent, greedy landlords – the rentier class – is colossal.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    We need a time machine, Damo!

  20. Damo says...

    That casual but productive life I think has finished everywhere, I was with a friend who lives in East London we were looking in letting agents windows at rents £500 per week for ex council flats in Hackney people haven’t got a hope in hell of paying that unless your some spoiled brat.. Playing.. At life

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    You have to be a couple, Damo – £250 a week each. But if you ever get the opportunity to speak to people about what they’re earning and what they’re paying in rent, some of them paying 70%, even 80% of what they earn on rent. That’s why we need a campaign against the greed of the rental market. If landlords are taking three-quarters of someone’s earnings, these tenants are basically 75% their slaves, but they don’t see it that way. Instead, they’ll whinge about how much they’re having to pay, and how little profit they’re actually making. And while it’s true that, for the most part, these landlords are servicing a mortgage and that all manner of leeches (estate agents etc.) are also involved in taking their cut along the way, the bottom line is that anyone paying 75% of their income in rent is 75% a slave, and collectively those responsible need targeting.

  22. Damo says...

    This all pervasive era of unfettered greed must end but who will end it

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s the big question, isn’t it, Damo? There are too many distractions – Brexit, and other aspects of right-wing “populism” distracting far too many of those who are suffering, while the greedy defend themselves via their sense of entitlement. But something has to change. it just isn’t sustainable as it is. Otherwise, something, some part of the essential glue that holds civil society together, will break horribly.

  24. Damo says...

    But it already is starting to break the fact now that we’ve got such a homeless epidemic which has been caused by the righting policies of the very wealthy the fact we’ve got the horror of the senseless knifecrime on our streets.. They are the signs of a society at breaking point I’m am optimist but with a dash of reality based pessimism back in December last year climate scientists were saying we’ve got 12 years before climate change really kicks in.. We better get our acts together and fast otherwise we really will see chaos.. I don’t wanna see that

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I’m with you, Damo. It’s actually the worst it’s been in our lifetimes. At least when Thatcher got the greedy, selfish neoliberal ball rolling, millions of people were opposed to her policies, but now there’s barely a whisper of visible dissent in public, as we’ve all been so successfully atomised, with far too many people successfully encouraged to believe that resistance is futile – or even that it’s wrong. One of the things I loved so much about the Tidemill occupation in Deptford, back in September and October, is how we were no longer atomised – we were a community, an autonomous community, which is something the establishment thought it had successfully wiped out. And we also had a very strong environmental angle, reflecting the concerns you mention. Extinction Rebellion got off to a good start, but if change is going to come it will need much more targeted direct action!

  26. Damo says...

    I miss the days of the whole mayday protest in trafalgar Sq I miss reclaim the streets I’m pleased to see there’s still some forms of protest itching it’s not a case of if we start taking action but we.. Must take action

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Absolutely, Damo. We appear to be trapped in a capitalist system whose end destination is the total destruction of our environment, and yet there are no failsafe systems to stop it. And in the meantime, the profit monster is chewing up people’s jobs at an ever more alarming rate, while, at the same time, viciously punishing people for not having jobs. It’s no wonder that people’s very psyches are splintering, and they’re being drawn to allegedly charismatic leaders who provide them with simple comforting soundbite solutions, but these are mostly right-wing, or even far right charlatans – and, in any case, there are no easy solutions. We the people need to take charge if we’re to avert disaster.

  28. Damo says...

    We’ve had the conversation before and we will have it again we know as others do what must be done… Yet.. Here we are 8 years on from when we first had this conversation and nothings changed in fact theyve got much much worse it’s up to the people.. Act now and secure a future, don’t and a mad max beyond thunderdome poisoned world awaits

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s hard to believe it’s been eight years, Damo. I can only hope, as we’ve always hoped, that people are starting to wake up – not in the tsunami of outrage we need, but at least in increasing numbers.

  30. Tom says...

    This is a great niche that you’re filling. I’m assuming that you’ve never had to get any pics copyright cleared?

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the support, Tom. I don’t think copyright clearance is a problem with my own photos, is it? The only problems I occasionally run into are people telling me I can’t photograph certain places – government buildings once, in Whitehall, for example, and on one occasion in the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre!

  32. Tom says...

    Usually the problem happens if there’s a trademarked name that shows up in the shot. The same problem happens if you want to use a certain tune in a production. Sometimes the clearance can take up to a year (depending on who it is).

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    I try and avoid corporate references in my photos, Tom. I’m very uninterested in chains – supermarkets, pub chains, high street shops. Britain is plagued with identikit high streets, dominated by the same dreary corporate chains – far more so than in other European countries.

  34. Damo says...

    It’s funny you mentioning identikit shops went to the Kings Rd yesterday.. OVER.. Just a memory filled with the fading ghosts of 60s swinging London, hippies and punks.. Full of naff chain shops… This was the Kings Rd ffs used to go there in the late 70s punk spotting which was a thrill for us 10 year olds

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, like so many places the decline of the King’s Road has been gradual over decades, Damo. I never made it there in the 70s, but it still had life in the early 80s, then through the 90s and by the end of the century it had changed, and had become more boring reflecting the changes in consumer society and the – but since then, of course, it’s now dominated by the usual dreary ‘fashion’chain stores with sprinklings of Knightsbridge-style hige-ene shopping, reflecting how a significant minority of people have far too much money to spare, and how the aspirations of those with less is the same – to ‘shop until they drop’ – and all these people – the Arab wives, the trophy wives, the ‘wannabe’ shoppers of Middle England and the suburbs – are proud of what fundamentally is the compete emptiness of their lives.

  36. Damo says...

    What do you think is going to happen now with brexshit god willing it’s cancelled

  37. Andy Worthington says...

    Oh, who knows, Damo? Honestly, I’m in Trump’s America, of all places, feeling relieved that I’m not in the UK to have to put up with the sh*tty blizzard of right-wing crap emanating from the arsefaces of Farage, Rees-Mogg and others, and the persistent drivel of the mainstream media, reporting it as though the normal rules of news reporting apply. How come, in two and a half years, not a single so-called journalist has stopped reading off the autocue, and delivered a truthful tirade about how we can’t do the un-doable, how it isn’t actually possible to leave the EU without destroying one’s economy? About how much we were lied to, about how immigration is not evil, and immigrants aren’t evil, about how the leaders of thew west, obsessed with war and plunder, created the migrant crisis of 2015 that led to the specific resurgence of racism that fuelled the referendum vote, about how chronic under-investment in the UK by its leaders since Thatcher, the crash of 2008 and the subsequent, screamingly cynical “age of austerity” imposed by the Tories has been dealing more savagely with the poorer members of society than at any time in living memory, and that only someone not prepared to do their homework would blame our troubles on the EU, when 99% of our problems have been generated by the Etonian scum running and ruining Britain since 2010.
    So now what? I’ll take a 2nd referendum, but only if it requires a two-thirds, or 70% majority for leave, but because leaving is impossible I still think it would be better for MPs (who are, lest we forget, the “sovereign power” in the UK that the leavers want restored) to scrap it entirely, and then go to the country to vote in a general election, secure in the knowledge that, for once, they have put their country before their narrow, selfish concerns regarding their own jobs and their party allegiances.

  38. Damo says...

    I was watching live from parliament.. The mad hatters tea party.. Just squabbling and shrieking a bunch of aresholes fuckwits and shysters farage spouting of to any TV willing to listen making threats just a spectical the whole thing Jeremy corbyn being shouted at by may and her cronies backed by yes a right wing media make me wanna flee live a peaceful life by the lochs in Scotland.. If only

  39. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the report from Broken Brexit Britain, Damo. I’m back tomorrow. I’ve been telling people that I’d rather stay in Trump’s America than have to go home and face the 24/7 Brexit migraine for the next two months / the rest of my life (delete as applicable).

  40. Damo says...

    The news is full of distraction and bamboozle may is gonna try and go for a no Deal brexit which will be an utter disaster for the population of this country not the tories of course

  41. Andy Worthington says...

    Just back from the US and frankly unable to grapple with this nonsense immediately, Damo. On the way back from Heathrow I found myself suddenly wanting to shout out ‘Bollocks Brexit Britain’ on a packed Tube train!

  42. Damo says...

    Hi Andy how are you getting on back in tories googoo gaagaa tipsy topsy wibbley wobbly upside down inside out land lol

  43. Andy Worthington says...

    Still waiting for any sign of grown-ups in the room, Damo 😉
    The Observer’s full of mind-bindingly vague commentary – Corbyn and the shadow cabinet are “preparing to support a proposal that would force Theresa May to request an extension to Britain’s EU membership should no Brexit deal be agreed by early March”, for example, and “Opinium poll for the Observer finds only 35% of voters would back Theresa May’s deal if remain was an option.”
    I was looking for the article entitled, “MPs call off Brexit, reminding Leavers that they are doing so because sovereign power resides with them, and leaving the EU would be the most monumental folly in UK history”, but I couldn’t find it anywhere!

  44. Damo says...

    The blind leading the blind 10 days ago while you were away on the news there was an interview with the boss of jaguar land rover saying if we have a no Deal brexit they will pull out of the UK resulting in tens of thousands of job losses businesses have been lining up saying don’t do it this is a catastrophe may is carrieing on regardless

  45. Damo says...

    God help people if there’s a no Deal brexit and if people lose there jobs can’t get medicine can’t get food there will be chaos it’s crazy crazy crazy but there’s still people like the pro no Deal brexit means brexit loons and cranks outside parliament who last week attacked Owen Jones and Anna Soubry I mean god help us the lunatics have taken over the asylum

  46. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s beyond comprehension, Damo. I’m still haunted by the Guardian headline just before I went away, ‘City firms prepare to shift £800bn out of UK as Brexit looms”: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jan/07/city-firms-prepare-to-shift-800bn-out-of-uk-as-brexit-looms
    It’s incredible, isn’t it, that businesses in the UK – all businesses in the UK – have no idea what to expect. Everyone’s spending money on contingency plans in case it goes ahead, and everyone who has any significant trade with the EU is spending money making plans to leave if a grown-up can’t be found to pull the plug on this fiasco!

  47. Damo says...

    Sometimes I wonder what’s really behind this is it tax avoidance as the eu is bringing in new tax laws this year or is there something much much darker and sinister under all this I mean there must be a pretty good reason to literally risk destroying financially and socially the country one watches the pro brexit freak and weirdo Rees Mogg going on about how great brexit will be yet like the others his money’s offshore

  48. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I also struggle with the layers of the senior Tories’ Brexit enthusiasm, Damo. I know there’s idiocy at one level – the old nonsense about Rule Britannia and the Empire, when the world has very clearly moved on and is extraordinarily interconnected, whether or not all of that is a good thing – and also personal profiteering, as has been exposed in Rees Mogg’s case: https://www.thelondoneconomic.com/news/jacob-rees-mogg-line-huge-personal-windfall-britain-exits-single-market/07/02/
    But it’s difficult to see how much, in general, of the enthusiasm for Brexit from key Tories is down to stupidity, and how much is pure greed. All I know is that neither are even remotely forgivable, and if everything does come crashing down it shouldn’t be too hard to find the culprits.
    That said, I really don’t want it all to come crashing down, as I genuinely fear what a post-Brexit Britain would look like!

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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