Street snapper Charlie Kwai was one of our Ones To Watch back in 2016 when we were we were blindsided by his ability to “record the pace, people and culture of an area”.
Following up a trip to Ghana with photographic jaunts closer to home around the seamy labyrinths of China Town and with a cruise along the murky river Thames, Charlie has been developing his London-centric work with a new book titled Overtime.
“My obsession with men in suits revealed itself in early 2016,” Charlie tells It’s Nice That. “Without knowing it really, I noticed a pattern in who I was photographing, and when it emerged, I explored it more and more until it completely dominated everything about what I shot on the streets.” A depressing real-life look at all white world of pissed up city boys, Overtime reveals as much about the men as Charlie’s feelings about them.
“I grew up living in the shadows of the city. It was alluring with its powerful-looking buildings and expensive uniforms,” Charlie says. “The city represented success, power – it captured my imagination. As bedazzling as it was, it never quite lured me in. Overtime observes the cold, hard truths of city life, exposing the side effects of a lifetime of work. It peers into the obscure and humorous daily grind of the business man. The project straddles the amusing and sobering reality of the occupational hazards that come with the pursuit of success where no prisoners are taken in the underbelly of the City of London. The photographs bare the souls of those taken for a ride, where power dominates – at all costs.”
The latest in centuries-long lineage of writers and artists, Charlie became something of a flaneur of the city, preoccupied with the idea of cementing the cliched existence of the men he had begun to see all around him through photographs. “My walks stretched from Oxford Street to Liverpool Street – and everywhere in between,” Charlie says. “Bank was most successful – it’s the beating heart of the city and represented what Overtime is all about. But the series isn’t so much about where the photographs have been made but of what they represent. Overtime is of real people in real places, but very much an exaggerated version of reality.”
That may go some way to explain why the project is dominated so heavily by white men in varying states of despair. “It’s not so much about the individuals but of what the men represent,” Charlie says. “It’s about the devolution of the white man (in the City) and the side effects that come with a lifetime of being ‘in’ control as much as ‘out’ of control. Overtime exaggerates the truth – it asks questions of what is real. The photographs are fact but the stories are fiction. But what is fact and fiction these days? I enjoy blurring those lines to create an alternate perspective on life.”
Overtime opens at KK Outlet on the 6th April 7 — 9pm and will run until the 28th April. The series wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of Metro Imaging and Pressision.
About the Author
Bryony joined It's Nice That as Deputy Editor in August 2016, following roles at Mother, Secret Cinema, LAW, Rollacoaster and Wonderland. She later became Acting Editor at It's Nice That, before leaving in late 2018.