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London through the lens

By Scott Kennedy

When American-born Donnie Claudino moved to London last year, after several years of living in Toronto, there was one complaint in particular that he had.

“When I first moved here, I wanted to send some photographs to family and friends,” says Claudino. “I Google searched images for London, and there was nothing that captured the city.”

That is, nothing that captured the city that Claudino saw through his own camera, or in the pictures and paintings captured by the artists he had met here.

“London is really about people, it’s about architecture, events and festivals.”

Unable to find images in the public domain that represented that side of London, Claudino, who studied graphic design and marketing, realized that London could use a makeover. Pointing to the city’s art history and ever-growing art community, Claudino believes that London has the potential to brand and market itself as an art destination.

Donnie Claudino
Photo by Scott Kennedy
Donnie Claudino, organizer of LdnViews, is working to rebrand London as an art destination.

“Every day it’s like there’s some kind of artistic event happening and anything that I can do to help that become a reality or to get it closer to becoming a reality, I want to be there.”

Claudino approached a couple of the photographers he had met in the city and shared his ideas with them. Those discussions materialized into LdnViews — a five day photographic exhibition that kicked off on April 3, with regularly occurring shows planned for the future.

LdnViews presents a look at London from the perspectives of various photographers, says Claudino. There are photographs that are recognizably London, but there are also photographs that capture the experiential view of London. That means the picture is capturing an aspect of the London life — something that happened or was experienced in London, explained Claudino.

“And we’re not just showing pretty stuff. It’s gritty, it’s the real city. We’re showing all sides. But, you know what, that’s city life.”

Eight London-based photographers, representing diverse artistic backgrounds and age groups, participated in the inaugural exhibition. Claudino, however, served only as curator for this show. Having recently curated and contributed artwork to a painting exhibition, Claudino felt his work as an artist suffered.

“I myself bowed out of being one of the photographers so that I could just focus on the organization and presentation of the event. I’ll be in the next show, but this first show I need to make sure it’s great and people are aware of it and show up and see it. Next time someone else can focus on that role and I can fall back into just being a photographer.”

Eric Cherry was one of the first photographers Claudino talked to about doing a London-themed group show.

 “It was a great idea,” says Cherry, who was born and raised in London. “I wanted to do something with other photographers, because every other art form people were collaborating and you don’t see it as much with photography.”

Free from the demands of artistic creation, Claudino has been able to focus his marketing skills on putting together an exhibition that spotlights the city’s artistic talent.

“It’s been fantastic meeting people, seeing the art community come together. It’s what drives me, encourages me to keep going.”

Claudino envisions LdnViews becoming a photographic archive, both physical and online, of London themed images. It will be an archive that not only showcases the art of London, but contributes to it as well.

But there is another way in which LdnViews is contributing to the community. Each photographer is partnered with a charitable organization that will collectively receive 50 per cent of the proceeds raised by the exhibition.

“It’s a big important part of the show,” says Claudino. “LdnViews came together, and it’s kind of by the people for the people. And this is the 'for the people' part.”

It’s a substantial commitment for the photographers, he says, but they’re happy to do it because it brings attention to the organizations.

“Every time people are looking at the photographs, they’re going to be reminded that this photographer is partnered with this organization and there’s going to be a little write up about the cause.”

Cherry is partnering with Mission Services of London — specifically, Rotholme Women’s and Family Shelter. The 41 bed facility provides emergency shelter for single and two parent families. It’s a place that holds a special meaning for Cherry.

Eric Cherry
Photo by Scott Kennedy
Eric Cherry's real-life experiences motivated him to give back to thecommunity.

“I actually stayed there years ago,” said Cherry. “My family was homeless. That’s really the reason why I chose them: I wanted to give back.”

Another local charity featured in the exhibition was the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Association, an organization close to the heart of photographer Lynn Blumas.

“I work at a women’s transitional support centre,” said Blumas in phone interview. “I work with a lot of women who are homeless, women who have lived with mental health issues, addiction issues, poverty. But I feel they all go hand-in-hand, because many of these women are suffering from post-traumatic stress.”

Blumas has worked as a professional photographer in London since 1983 and was excited about the opportunity to participate in the exhibition.

“My photography has always been a voice for me. LdnViews would be one of my ways to speak about London and use it as a voice to raise awareness for PTS.”

Lynn Blumas
Photo by Scott Kennedy
For Lynn Blumas, photography is a voice to raise awareness for causes important to her.

Blumas also works at My Sister’s Place, a women’s shelter here in London that provides refuge for abused women and their children. It was her work with women at the shelter that inspired the theme of the photographs she contributed to the exhibition. 

“I met a woman there and we agreed to each tell the story. So I followed her around a little bit and that’s my piece. It’s…a side of London that I’m trying to raise awareness about.”

Michael Mullan, another photographer being featured in LdnViews, is hoping to raise awareness for Counter Point, a needle and syringe program that provides free harm reduction materials and information.

Michael Mullan
Photo by Scott Kennedy
Michael Mullan, working to raise awareness for Counter Point needle and syringe exchange program.

“They work with a really marginal demographic in our society that needs at lot of help. I think if you can help people, you’re going to benefit in the long run.”

Mullan, 33, a native Londoner who feels ‘enthralled by [his] environment,’ was excited about participating in LdnViews.

“There’s a lot of very creative people that are coming together now,” Mullan said. “I think we’re going in the right direction for sure.”

Mullan discovered photography almost by accident while in university.

“I just started carrying a disposable camera in my school bag, along with my note pad, and I would just be taking pictures and making notes”

After operating his own fine art and commercial photography business for a number of years, Mullan has begun to move from the photographer-for-hire business and focus on making art.

“I’m a creative individual. I have to create. It’s a necessity for me and it’s something I’m going to keep doing no matter what.”

Mullan, who plans to hold a solo exhibition sometime in the future, thinks the premise for the show is a great idea and was excited to participate.

“I think we’ve done a really great group show and we’re doing positive things for the community,” said Mullan.

Claudino has spent the last couple of months working hard to ensure that it does. For him, LdnViews has the potential to play a vital role in the London art scene.

“When people come together that’s when the art is really made. That’s when it keeps going. If you keep bringing people together and they’re getting fed through that, getting nurtured, then it will attract others to it, too.”


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