Double Exposure

Posted: July 14th, 2021

A work in progress


The North Circular, or A406, is a road with its own environment. It could be described as noisy, dangerous, and suffocating but also for many, bizarrely, home.

From 2009 to 2015, Louis Quail took photos of London’s North Circular. With six lanes of traffic at its narrowest, it is effectively a motorway; yards from the doorsteps of the residents. It is traversed by over sixty thousand cars a day and yet, paradoxically for most of those drivers remains unseen. Quail was driven by a curiosity to discover more about these residents and the people who walked along this road, along with a morbid urge to examine the differences between the utopian vision for the road when it was conceived in the first half of the 20th century, and the dysfunctional reality of the present.

Kim, North Circular , London.

Kim, North Circular , London, 02/05/2012

The people he photographed had a mixture of feelings about the road: some like Joy seemed to like living there: ‘I like to see the world go by. I see people walking up and down, and in a way the road keeps me company.’ Alternatively, Muhammad who has lived there since 1983 is more pessimistic: ‘The North Circ is just a way of life now, there is no pleasure in it. Its just a day to day bread and butter miserable way of life.’ Regardless of their outlook Quail was acutely aware that this road offered a multitude of challenges for the residents who ended up living there, including physical danger: Muhammed’s side garden has endured several crashes; Kim’s dog Kismo actually got out to the road and her son has been mugged three times; but more insidiously and just as dangerous perhaps Quail realised was the pollution. Many of the participants either had breathing issues like Asthma or knew of friends nearby who did.


Back in 2013, the North Circular was described as one of the most polluted roads in the city of London. In 2021 not so much has changed, with some notable exceptions like the introduction of the ULEZ zone. The health effects of air pollution are serious. According to WHO one third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution. … Microscopic pollutants in the air can slip past our body’s defences, penetrating deep into our respiratory and circulatory system, damaging our lungs, heart and brain.


The original pictures were limited in their ability to draw attention to this pressing issue of air pollution and the work was not prioritised. It was not until the space afforded by the Covid 19 crisis gave Quail the chance to re-consider an old idea that the work progressed once more. He realised by exposing the photographs directly to the road, he could try, visually and physically to capture the evidence of the air pollution. In the process of doing this, he transformed the original flat images into three-dimensional objects whereby a storm of black soot degrades the photograph, altering the emotional content and drawing attention to the normally invisible pollutants – the tiny particulate matter no bigger than 2.5 or 10 microns thick – that get trapped in our bodies with such damaging effects. The process focuses thoughts towards the problems of air quality in a simple and graphic way. And although the work was still about the North Circular, he saw it could also be useful in representing the wider issues of air quality affecting all of us.


Thermal prints exposed to Air Pollution from between 10 days to a month on average, 2020-2021



The title for the project, Double Exposure, is a play on the two types of exposure Louis has made. In the original photographs he is exposing the film in his camera to the light bouncing off the road in order to make an image. In the second exposure Quail is capturing not light but the road side pollutants directly on to the print.


He sees the road as an important, if intensified, symbol for much of human activity, emblematic of our drive for modernity and ‘progress’ at the expense of the environment of which we are still part of. Louis is still very much experimenting with this process and idea,  with time Louis wants to develop the work here seeing the road as a source of inspiration.  He plans for example, to develop relationships with other organizations studying air pollution. One idea he would like to explore is how we can use electron microscopy to improve visibility of the most damaging particles found on his photographs, which are only 2.5 microns thick. He is currently looking for new collaborators developing the idea shown here and considering other ways to visualise the dangers of Air pollution.

The Daily Tweeter Lockdown Project

Posted: July 8th, 2021

Covid restrictions are being relaxed today (edited July 19)  and  it feels like there is a tilt of the axis which could mean that we learn to live with Covid in a much more normal, open and dear I say it positive way. Much of the last 18 months since Lockdown has been sad, mundane , frustrating and not very inspiring to be honest but at least I have been blessed by not being personally affected in any major way. In May 2020 I was prompted to make a small series which focused not so much the Covid crisis but actually on the context of it with an idea that with the much larger bio diversity and global warming crisis looming , this kind of obsession with all the constantly changing detail of lockdown is a bit like looking at the trees and not seeing the wood; or to put it another way, the runaway train heading in your direction is still 15 minutes away so still time to get a cup of tea and a sarnie from the platform café! This view is not to negate the importance and tragedy of the Covid crisis but perhaps I’m saying we and the media must learn to hold more than one idea in our heads and to give as much urgency to a crisis that is looming than to one that is here already.




The Daily Tweeter Lockdown Project-Bird Snaps and Headlines in the Month of May 2020


Doesn’t it seem like yesterday when everyone, every day was talking about Brexit? Then Covid 19 came along and now no one ever mentions it. It seems to me the ‘affairs of men’ can be very fickle and yet at the time we obsess over the headlines; let them consume our every thought and conversation. As a response to the anxious chatter of the 24 hours news cycle, I decided to shift my focus and photograph a bird a day from my garden and home.  Modern birds have been on the planet for a lot longer than we have, and yet we take these remarkable creatures for granted. As lockdown compounds existing mental health problems or even gives rise to new ones, like #coronapsychosis (linked to “the dramatic increase in media coverage of the virus’) it felt like turning the camera on those birds could remind us of something important: we are part of the natural world and the more we forget this, the more we suffer as individuals and as a society. The UN environmental chief is right in seeing the virus as Mother Nature’s warning.  Conversely, the cure for many of our modern malaises are found in the natural world. Bird-watching for example, is a tonic to many mental health issues. By running a daily headline over the print of my bird shots (inspired by the metadata shown on pre-digital machine prints), I’m inviting the viewers to reframe and widen their perspective, and take solace from this. Even one month on, the daily news seems less incendiary and in a year, who knows what we will be talking about.



New Year’s Message

Posted: January 2nd, 2019

Happy New Year!

It does seem only a short while ago that I was writing asking for help to fund the book Big Brother. So much has happened with the project since then and I wanted to write to briefly recap, and more importantly to tell you about up and coming events.

Of course the first stage was to use the money to finish designing and to produce the very best book myself and Dewi Lewis could make. It was launched at Photo London in May 2018. Judging by your warm comments, (and thank you so much if you have reached out personally to me) we have come up with something special, and which most importantly does justice to my brother’s story.

So what’s been happening?

Justin examining his portrait at the book launch show case exhibition theprintspacegallery, June 2018, London


The book has captured the imagination of many and I’m pleased to say created impact on the international stage. It has had some really great reviews and I was particular pleased to be nominated for the Les Rencontres d’Arles Photo-Text Book Award. I have also just returned from Lianzhou Foto Festival in China where the work was shown as a solo show and shortlisted for the Punctum Prize.

As well as this it made British Journal of Photography, ‘Best Photobooks of the year (so far)’, 2 August 2018 (nomination by Yumi Goto) and the El Pais selection of best photo books of 2018.

Last few preparations before show opens in Lianzhou, December 2018


This year (in the first half of 2019) the work will be shown in at least four shows in four countries. The first of these will be the London Art Fair’s Photo50 Exhibition where Tim Clark has curated an exciting group show entitled ‘Who’s looking at Family Now’. The opening night is January 15th.

I’m going to post a detailed list below but in addition there will be shows in Beirut’s Sursock Musum, F3 Berlin, Format Festival, Derby and Mucem, Marseille .

Apart from being a great place to catch up, Derby’s home grown Format Festival is where the book was spotted and nurtured to publication, so it’s great to be back to show Big Brother as an exhibition; I do hope to see some of you there.

I enjoyed participating in many talks last year but I wanted to thank in particular (for the opportunity to talk to the next generation of photographers), London LCC, Edinburgh Napier, Falmouth and South Wales Universities. The energy in the room was fantastic at all these venues. Let’s hope I can do a few more similar talks in 2019.

The book is still available on my website. Thanks all once more for your time, support and interest in this work.

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