Shane Taylor: people-watching with a camera

Shane Taylor - Ritz Piccadilly

A few years ago, I started following Shane Taylor (aka @heroesforsale) on Instagram. His street photography focusing mostly on a pocket of Mayfair caught my attention; his captured gestures and poetic moments a nod to mid-century greats like Saul Leiter and Garry Winogrand. Originally from Tipperary, he arrived in London in 2019, immersing himself in the people-watching potential of its diverse inhabitants. Building an Instagram following, he branched out into Framelines, a YouTube channel, printed magazine and Patreon community with his co-pilot Josh Edgoose. And now he has co-curated the Street Life exhibition at David Hill Gallery in West London, showcasing the work of 18 photographers, including Larry Fink, Harold Feinstein and Greg Girard, as well as his own photography. I sat down with him – in my fave corner of Mayfair of course – to discuss street photography etiquette, community-building and the poetry of London life.

I’m from Tipperary, which is right in the middle of Ireland. It’s like the Texas of Ireland; it’s very flat land, very rural. I’m from a small town of 400 people.

I was studying design as a mature student in Dublin. As part of the course, we had a module in photography. For the first six months, our tutor never showed up because he was having some kind of pay dispute with the college, so I spent most of that time in the library. It was a really great library with loads of photobooks by people like William Eggleston, Garry Winogrand and Elliot Erwitt. And then I realised there was this thing called ‘street photography’, where you didn’t need models, you didn’t need production, you didn’t need a big team behind you. It was just a way of expressing yourself through photography, on a very low budget. All you needed was a camera and a pair of shoes.

That is an interesting question because I don’t think anyone that really does photography knows what they’re looking for. Maybe a sense of human connection. Or it can be like, I’m sure you have moments from a favourite movie, or a favourite song that make you feel a certain way; that describe what it is about those movies or songs that makes you feel a connection to the person that has that perspective. So, if I can make a photograph where someone else sees that photo and imagines themselves in my shoes and can feel some empathy towards the person I’m photographing, I think that’s what I’m looking for. But it’s something I think about every day. All the time.
Shane Taylor St Martin's Lane
Shane Taylor Heroes for Sale 1Shane Taylor Heroes for Sale

I think there’s a relationship between poetry and the aspects of photography that I like. It’s almost like photographing the interior life of a person that’s out in public, amongst millions of people in one of the biggest cities in the world. Especially being able to capture that somewhere like the Underground, where you can focus on maybe two people interacting, or the way a person is reading a book or doing a crossword. Just whatever interior moments they’re having and being able to photograph it in a way where it’s relatable. I don’t think that much when I’m taking a picture. I just feel compelled to take the picture, then I think about it later. Sometimes I get lucky and look back on it and some mad coincidence has happened, like a piece of text that relates to the image itself.

Because it’s an instinctual thing, I’ve never been compelled to ask, “is it OK to take a photograph?” Because it kind of ruins the energy that’s there; the thing that initially attracted me to photograph them. And it’s usually one or two snaps. And I’m walking all the time, I don’t usually hang around a lot. Most of the time I’m just walking, walking, walking. That’s what I love most about it. It’s all candid.

Hmm, no. I don’t usually tell them because I think that’s an extra layer that people might be annoyed by. But I’ve never had a situation in the UK, where someone’s seen the photograph and didn’t either love it or didn’t comment that much on it. I’d only take pictures where the person is like… I’m not taking away your dignity. I’m not trying to make people look like idiots. I’m trying to take pictures that have a humanistic beauty to them.

If you’re standing in a public place, then you can take a picture. But then there are ethical concerns. So just because you can take a picture of something, doesn’t mean you should. You might take the picture, but then it’s another decision to post that online where thousands of people can see it. It’s really up to your own discretion. I think you should think long and hard about whether or not you you post photographs of people, especially vulnerable people.

My business partner, Josh Edgoose, and I found ourselves getting quite cynical about where street photography was going. How it was sort of homogenised – everyone’s taking the same pictures of the same window in Chinatown. It was all the same and kind of boring. Then we realised that this was our fault and we could do something about it. We realised that people aren’t looking at photographs outside of their phones. We figured if we could do a magazine where we feature 5/6/7/8 photographers in a wide range of different styles of street photography, that it would give something to the community that they could use as inspiration and do something for us. It’s refreshing to have a conversation as a photographer talking to another photographer. Because usually it’s maybe an art critic or photo editor or a podcaster talking to a photographer. But if it’s a photographer, then it’s more relatable to other photographers that are looking at the interview.
Framelines magazine - issue 5

In 2019, I made a book called Fine Airs & Fine Graces, a reference to the Oliver Twist musical, which I used to watch when I was a kid. When I was nine or ten; watching people dance around, that’s what I thought London was. I made this book just to try and get whatever feeling that came across in my photographs into one book, to have some kind of cohesive thing to look at and maybe analyse myself and to put out in the world. I’ve had enormous connections with photobooks that I’ve bought, including one by Louis Faurer. That photobook had such an impact on me that I got halfway through it and I had to stop looking at it. It was too much emotional resonance. I really felt like this person is seeing through my eyes, or like I’m seeing through their eyes.

I modelled my book on the Louis Faurer book, so it’s the same size, quite small. Because it’s a huge trend in photobooks now, to make it as big as possible, with as few images as possible and a huge foreword handholding you through the imagery, telling you you’ve done a good job of buying this book because these images are important. So, I wanted to make a very simple, small photobook with a lot of pictures in it that gave someone the impression that this is like a journey through London. That’s how it’s sequenced actually; the very first photograph is coming out of Green Park Station and then it leads you from Jermyn Street, Piccadilly, Charing Cross. It’s almost overwhelming. There’s no space in it. There’s no text in it, just pictures. I wanted it to be overwhelming because that’s what it’s like walking through London.
Fine Airs and Fine Graces by Shane Taylor

It’s a very human thing. How many people go to a café just to people watch? It’s the same thing. I’m people-watching with a camera. I try to bring home that moment of seeing something interesting happen. So, I think it’s just an aspect of human nature.

It came about because I’d been aware of the photographer Harold Feinstein. And then I saw there was this exhibition in London of his work at David Hill Gallery. I got very excited about that, so I went and met David at the gallery and we had a really good chat about that period of street photography, and about Harold’s work. We kept in touch and David then approached me with the idea of doing an exhibition together, which I thought was a great extension of what we’re trying to do with the magazine. It allows people the opportunity to see these photos in their best form, not just in a printed magazine, which, even though we put a lot of work into making sure the images look good, can’t match a print on a gallery wall that’s perfectly lit. Being able to work with the photographers that we work with throughout the magazine, taking some of the most interesting images and then having David curate it all in a brilliant way where it all connects, is almost an impossible job. I don’t know how he did it.

Marc Riboud - Gare St Lazare Paris 1982

Marc Riboud – Gare St. Lazare, Paris, 1982 / Street Life exhibition

Greg Girard - Greyhound Passenger Texas 1978

Greg Girard – Greyhound Passenger, Texas, 1978 / Street Life exhibition

Lisa Barlow - Is It Too Early To Be Looking Back

Lisa Barlow – Is it Too Early to Be Looking Back, Waterbury, Connecticut, 1980 / Street Life exhibition


There’s one photograph that means a lot to me. It’s called Love on the Bus by John Simmons (below). I first saw it on Instagram and it blew me away. I love the perspective on it. I love that if you look closely, it’s quite out of focus! It’s a young couple on the bus, in Chicago. It’s such a beautiful photograph that’s out of focus so you can almost sense the nervousness of the photographer as he’s trying to focus on this moment. And it’s so human; everything about it really describes everything I love about street photography. I saw that on Instagram and I just thought, hey, I’ll email this guy. The John Simmons feature has been one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had in editing the magazine and in corresponding with a photographer. I think it’s one of the best interviews we’ve had where he’s just a fountain of incredible advice. So that photo, getting that feature and then seeing a print of it a couple of years later in a gallery, that he made himself and he signed, that’s an amazing experience.

Love on The Bus John Simmons

John Simmons, Love on the Bus, Chicago, 1967 / Street Life exhibition


Jermyn Street in Piccadilly is probably the street that I walk down first whenever I get to Green Park. I go down Piccadilly and veer into Jermyn Street because it’s a completely different world to where I grew up. That’s the thing that fascinates me about London. As fancy as Dublin gets on it fanciest day, you’re not gonna see the same thing you do on Jermyn Street. You might see it in Paris, but it’s a different vibe completely. So, it’s hard to describe and that’s my fascination with it. It could be reduced to ‘oh, he likes photographing people in hats!’ But it’s not. It’s a lifestyle. It’s not an affectation. They’re not just dressing up for the day, that’s how they live. And that’s how they live in 2024. It’s as authentic as a photograph of a teenager standing outside a block of flats – it’s just as significant.

It’s interesting because there’s a couple of layers to it. So, it’s Jermyn Street, but it’s Jermyn Street on a workday. It’s a photograph of a woman having a cigarette and maybe she’s just come out of a tough meeting. There’s a man passing by with his shirt tightly buttoned. It’s a very fancy street. But that view of it makes it look like this is a street where people live, work and have done for hundreds of years. It’s got a sort of Dutch angle to it, which I’d like to say was intentional. But it was really just me rushing to get the photograph. But I like that it was my point of view as I walked past. It could give the impression that you were there, you were in my shoes and you just glanced over and saw that happening. It could almost be a staged photograph, the way the composition works, but that angle, that tilt gives you that impression. If I had staged it, I would have made sure that it was perpendicular.

Shane Taylor 45 Jermyn Street - David Hill Gallery

Shane Taylor, 45 Jermyn Street, London, 2019


Josh’s is a photograph of a Fiat 500 in an area of Brentford. During lockdown he had the same experience as me where he was going slowly mad and had to go out for walks. He found himself just taking lots of landscapes and lots of still lifes and that ended up being a series of work for him. I think he published a book with some of that work in it next to his street photography work. It’s a nice juxtaposition between London when it’s very active and then the suburban area in Brentford.

Josh Edgoose Fiat 500 Brentford - David Hill Gallery

Josh Edgoose, Fiat 500, Brentford, London, spring 2021


Nothing! It’s so weird. I feel like I have this pressure that I should photograph flowers. Like, that’s where I’m from and I should have my own perspective on it. But I think my perspective is on humanity. And it’s not specific to the UK, it’s not specific to any border or nationality. It’s just a human experience. It could be anywhere.

Follow Shane Taylor at @Heroesforsale, Framelines on YouTube, buy Framelines magazine and join the Framelines Patreon community. See the Street Life exhibition at David Hill Gallery, 345 Ladbroke Grove, W10 6HA until 18th May 2024.

WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Shane Taylor x 7; Marc Riboud; Greg Girard; Lisa Barlow; John Simmons; Shane Taylor; Josh Edgoose
NOTE: Most images are digitally enhanced. Some posts use affiliate links and PR samples. Please read my privacy and cookies policy here

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