Outsiders in London


Are you an outsider, too?

Peter, from Chester, UK

Where I live and where I work seem to be two homes but a little of me feels an outsider in each.   Twenty-five years away from London, I am seen as a new incomer still and can feel alone.

Working in London, I feel part of society but also alone with my memories of a London childhood that I cannot share with colleagues.

OBSERVATIONS:  Meeting and talking with Milan Svanderlik has challenged me to reach out to ensure society has less outsiders.

Anon, from place unknown                            

I have never married or had children;  I feel unattached.

Anon (female) from London, UK

Born during World War II;  one father, two step-fathers;  one mother, two step-mothers;  no siblings;  violent childhood;  still single;  several degrees, awards, honours.   Politically out of step with most long term friends but many good colleagues and friends from the Education world and animal welfare.

OBSERVATIONS:  This is a brilliant exhibition and I will recommend it to all my friends and colleagues.   Thanks.

Sandra, from London, UK

I worked for eight and a half years in a technology company and was bullied the entire time I was there.   Comments were made about me on a daily basis, both out loud and in email.   My boss did not realise that I could access her emails so she had no idea I was reading all the comments made about me.   I was constantly told how useless I was and that I would never get a job anywhere else.   Then, one day, after eight and a half years, I took the plunge and decided to look for a new job.   It was only then that I really found out just how badly the bullying had affected me.   I found I was being offered jobs, but I was scared to accept them as I was worried about the bullying carrying on.   In the end, I accepted a role in a Harley Street GP practice and I have never been happier.   I now enjoy getting up to go to work instead of working in fear.

Finbar, from Manila, The Philippines  

Well, I was born in Dublin, Ireland (in 1961) but have lived for most of my life in places very different from the country/city in which I was born.   As a member of the Missionary Society of St Columban (I’m a Catholic priest) I lived in Lahore, Pakistan, from 1983 - 2008;  that’s quite a long time to have been immersed in the culture and way of life of the Pakistani Punjab.   I speak Urdu and, for my 20+ years in Pakistan, I’ve loved ministering to the minority ‘outsider‘ Pakistani Christian community in Lahore.   I also immersed myself in the Islamic world of Pakistan, having established DEEP and LASTING friendships among Muslim families in Pakistan - for most of my time in Pakistan, although I worked/ministered within the Christian community, I lived within Muslim neighbourhoods, as I was very involved in interfaith dialogue.   I am also an ‘out‘ gay man, which has an outsider aspect to itself.   Being an outsider can broaden our vision and create deep compassion, empathy and wide understanding.  

PS:  I now work in the Philippines, helping in the training of our global students for ordination.  

OBSERVATIONS: Wonderful exhibition (as ever at St Martin-in-the-Fields).   Profound glimpses into the lives of the 40 people whose stories and images comprise the Exhibition.  

Maia (young responder) from South London, UK

I go to a private school and I see people less fortunate than me.  

Lukos (young responder) from North London, UK

Almost every day I see a person much less fortunate than I and that just breaks my heart;  homeless and alone, these people have just been put down and rejected.  

Artist J, from Hampshire, UK

Having had a man-made label, Bi-polar, of which I’m now officially freed from for 5 years ... now.   Most of my life I felt condemned to live the label by everyone - now being free to live and just be myself is amazing.   Be careful what you say over people ... Names hurt in many ways.

Anna, from London, UK

I’m Polish, who came to London in 1977 and unfortunately didn’t master English to the highest degree - that was a barrier to jobs.

Often felt and feel an outsider even when talking about films (especially Polish ones, or films showing the WWII) as the knowledge of European history, communist oppression is not adequate ...

I’m not Catholic anymore but I’m Christian but I feel Christians/Bible are oppressed/laughed out at group Union organisers in the building/construction industry here and still are blacklisted and outsiders!

Thank you for the wonderful “thinking time”.   I greatly appreciate helpful comments and love enthusiasm.

OBSERVATIONS:  Brilliant photos and stories.   Wonderful project;  really eye-opening.   And brings us - humanity/outsiders - closer to the rest.   Education, education, education, courage and sensitivity of the photographer is a great example of the way forward.

Ralph / ‘Gruff’, from Lewisham, London, UK

From childhood (1940’s - 1950’s) I was never quite comfortable with the conventional style of living - either manual working class or sub-professional middle class.

I had nearly 40 years of generally congenial employment as a teacher/lecturer in schools/adult education/further education and even ‘Higher’ education.    I was able to escape the destruction wrought upon our education system from 1979 onwards by getting early retirement in 1987 - with a modest pension on which I, and to some extent some of my children (in their ‘40s) eke out our creative lives.   I am a tinker, collage maker and photography collector.   My children, who are all to some extent (or more) ‘Outsiders’ all seem to be RIGHT BRAINED or DYSLEXIC but find ourselves to be comfortable to be ‘Outside the tent’ of the New World Order of HUGO BOSSED ... [illegible] troopers of the 4th Reich.   I’ll say no more, for I am getting a little polemical here.

OBSERVATIONS:  I enjoyed this and appreciate the quality of the portraits.   Photography begins and ends with ‘The Likeness’.   But is there any such thing as how we really look?

Thanks for the opportunity.  

Renate, from London, UK

I feel an outsider.   I moved to London from Germany in the late ‘60s.   Had a marriage with a minister where we moved every 5 to 6 years.   That broke off, I converted to the Catholic faith but found that too restrictive over time for gays and women.

Now I consider myself “ecumenical” - I don’t belong to any church, deeply, but find my spirituality within.

Richard, from Sutton, UK

I have lived all my life - apart from 14 months of schooling in the USA - in the South of England, close to or inside London.   I am nearly 65, but for the last 15 years or so felt a growing feeling of being a stranger in my own country.   Is this a consequence of growing older and becoming more of a curmudgeon, or is this a growing ‘division of peoples’ in my own land?   Northerners don’t like Southerners;  Scottish and Welsh nationalists  can’t stand the English;  and the English are feeling squeezed out of towns, and then called ‘country gentry’ if they live in smaller towns and villages!   As an English person, whatever I say (as opposed to what I think!) is wrong and non-PC;   and therefore I have to ‘put up and shut up’.   No wonder that there is an ever-growing unease amongst the English - which can only grow into resentment.   We are on a slippery slope!!!   Maybe as a people of the UK we have to learn a lesson from the Americans:  we are British first and then wherever we hail from second - and not the other way round.

OBSERVATIONS:  Really interesting - well done!!

JP, from London, UK

I am taller than everyone else.   My accent is different.   When everyone turns right, I look around to see that I’ve turned left.

Why as a society do we feel so comfortable with conforming yet feel so challenged by non conformity?   I spend time trying to keep weight on, everyone else is trying to lose a pound or two.

What is it that gives these people strength to endure?   To forget or even forgive?   Maybe there is such a thing as the human spirit.

Matthew, from London, UK

Like Melanie (image # 26) I am also asexual - it’s great to see representation of people like me in this exhibition!   Thank you.

Sotiria/Soso, from London, UK

I feel very comfortable being an outsider.   In our constantly changing world, with population on the move worldwide, being an outsider will continue  to become a more frequent phenomenon.   I am uncomplicated [compared to] a lot of other people and I prefer to lead an exciting uncomplicated life.   I guess to some people I must be a most boring person.   That is their problem not mine.   There are too many abnormalities to deal with and I am tired of them.

Anon (young female responder) from Donegal, Ireland

I have moved school because I was bullied.   They would always call me different and strange. When I moved schools I was much happier and felt loved.   After 3 years in my new school I found out that people only bullied me because of my talents.

Suzi, from Donegal, Ireland

As a teenager I felt alone and unable to explain my feelings.   Recently I have realised that I have been oppressed most of my life.   It was dressed up as kindness and concern.   But my family and parents are control freaks and have a need to be involved in all my life.   I am an outsider among my sisters and brothers as I am trying to break the cycle of control and oppression.

I am an outsider as a single parent.   When I had my child I was expected to stay at home, give up my life and dedicate it to my child.   I am rebelling against that assumption.   I care [for] and raise my child.   But I am also carving a life out for myself.   I have gone to university and soon will have a masters degree.   I am tackling my personal demons that include depression and anxiety.   I am raising my child to see that she can do anything ‘a boy ‘ can do!!   I am an outsider as I do not wish to get married.

OBSERVATIONS:    I am at the stage  where I am tired fighting against oppression & others.   I’m tired fighting/arguing/explaining my life choices.   This exhibition has reminded me that that the aim is to enjoy the struggle.   This exhibition and the stories have revived a little part of my soul - I see that I am not alone in ‘the struggle’.

Russell, from London, UK

I am gay;  fat;  [illegible];  a poet;  poor;  often celibate;  fancy young guys who get on with older ones.

OBSERVATIONS:  I like the info posters you’ve provided re technical info.   I like faces.   I like outsiders - am one too!

Elena, from Winchester, UK

I come from Russia and last year the law was passed in Russia that every person with dual citizenship must come back to Russia and register.   That made me feel as an outsider in my own country.

Anon (female) from Hamburg, Germany [text translated from the German]

I suffer from mental illness and I live on the street (now in London)   But that is not most of the problem, which is the feeling that I am constantly ogled, treated as crazy, as an outsider in most situations.   This has some advantages too.   I experience a lot of violence, verbal and sexist.   I often think about ending it all.

Natasha N, from London, UK

I have a hearing disability but it is not obvious to the naked eye.   I have dyspraxia which means my way of processing information is different from other people, but I look normal, whatever that means.   I always used to try to deny my difference but now I try to embrace my unique way of experiencing myself and how I relate to the world. Thank you for reading this!

Sebastiaan, from London, UK

I am deaf.   I live in what is, essentially, a world of hearing people.   Using sign language is useful, but not all deafies use sign language.I work with hearing people.   I live among hearing people.   This can cause conflicts within me if I allow it.  Being deaf can be lonely and isolating.   It often feels  that way and I feel alone.   To me, that is my ‘normal’.   I know nothing different.   I am deaf.   Not disabled.

Mike, from London, UK

I feel an outsider, although less so nowadays, because of my history.   My mother was Greek living in Alexandria, Egypt and my father was English;  they met and married in 1942.   My brother was born in Cairo.   I was born in Wales.   We then travelled the world.   This meant that it was hard to have a sense of belonging and history with a particular location and that has been with me all my life.   In addition, the Greeks, as immigrants, were not accepted in Britain and the English, as colonials, were not accepted in the world that was Empire.

Of course, being an outsider, wherever I lived, gave me that positive experience of seeing the bigger picture, living within different cultures and absorbing the world at large.   On the other hand, there is always that sense of, ‘I don't have roots in a particular place nor ongoing relational connections to childhood’.

OBSERVATIONS:  Love your exhibition and the ideas presented.

Rachael, from Croydon, UK

Being a black ballerina, every dance audition I attend, I am always the only black girl there.   I’ve been denied and accepted certain roles, because of my colour, but whatever the outcome I embrace my colour.   Having to wear pink tights when my skin is brown irritates me but also makes me want to represent my race and my strengths.

OBSERVATIONS:  I observed that there were no pictures featuring young people.   I had an interesting conversation with Milan about this.

Vivian, from Pasadena, CA / USA

As a child I always had a crazy and overdramatic personality.   I was extremely sensitive and I felt as if people liked me only because I could make them laugh and not for my heart.   In addition, I had Dyslexia which made finding friends very difficult.   Today, I work hard to show people I am intelligent and try to find friends who will accept me for who I am.   Growing up was hard with my mental disability, I now must embrace my differences and move forward.

OBSERVATIONS: I love this.   Very inspiring.   Thank you!

Pépin, from Oxford, England

Everyone sees themself as an outsider - it’s part of the romanticism of the individual.   It comes from comparing your behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s onstage performances.

OBSERVATIONS:  Lovely exhibition

Pauline, from Hertfordshire, UK

I have a strong sense of individuality - I am highly creative and therefore not very conventional, and have always felt like an outsider. Now as a senior citizen much modern technology is beyond my ability, once again reinforcing the feeling of being an outsider.

OBSERVATIONS:  Loved your photography!

George, from London, UK

I feel lonely.   Nobody understands me.   Since a child I have always been attracted to males but have always hidden it.   I don’t want my mother to know this.   I lead a double life:  me-alone and me-in public.   I am tired of this.   I wanna die.   This is not the life I want.   Yesterday, I went into a church and cursed God!

(Sorry for my English.   I’m Bulgarian.)

OBSERVATIONS:  I love the exhibition!   Moving, touching, human, warm, beautiful!

Mike, from London, UK

Following a serious motorcycle accident, I received an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) = emotional problems.   I benefitted very much from ‘Rehab UK’ and ‘Attend’ charity for those also with ABI and at last I belonged!

I am a religious photographer for the Quakers, as forming a supportive community is a life-long process of ‘Being a Quaker’.   My voluntary work for the Quaker Church gives me the emotional support to accept my emotional problems as having a ‘physical cause’ of physical damage to my body (head).

My awareness is my problem.   I want to communicate what I am passionate about as I have had a near-death experience (six weeks in a coma ).

Bob, from Sheffield, UK

I feel or have felt myself an outsider too because of:  Moving into a traditional steel-making community as a vicar - a southerner & middle-class professional.

Anon, from ?, ?

Thank you:  to the photographer, the sitter and the organisers.   This exhibition meant a lot and made a difference.

Libby, from London, UK

I am not on the Internet and more and more this makes me an outsider.   And, this situation is getting worse - 20% of the population are not online:  outsiders all?

Jack, from Vero Beach, FL, USA

I am a non-Christian in a very predominantly Christian culture.   The conservative, fundamentalistic Christian community can especially be rejecting of non-believers.   Even in the public realm, Christian beliefs are assumed and flaunted which makes the non-Christian feel like an outsider (even though unintentionally).

Camille, from ?, France

Aren’t we all outsiders?   I once called a schoolmate, “weird”, but my French teacher corrected me:  “He is not weird, he is just different from you.”

Anand, from London / Nairobi / Johannesburg / San Antonio, Texas

Indian, born in Kenya.   Father killed mother and died in prison.   Studied philosophy at Oxford despite being poor;  struggled with depression;  worked on many difficult things in the world;  yet still optimistic.

OBSERVATIONS:  Valued the diversity and layout - reminds me why London is (one of) my home(s).

Sarah, from London, UK

My parents were violent and abusive paedophiles with a healthy appetite for rape, torture and bestiality.   Not knowing why, I became the favoured one amongst my brothers and sisters and was encouraged/rewarded in torturing and abusing them.   At the age of five, I colluded with my mother in the murder of one of my brothers and later, at the age of 9-ish, the torture and murder of a young woman.   Although never forced to eat body parts, I was rewarded with body parts to taste.   When things became extremely chaotic, I was put into the care system numerous times and by the age of 11 was diagnosed as a sadistic psychopath because of my disturbed behaviour which was to me normal.   All my life I have struggled with addictions to sex, drugs, violence and danger - each day is a struggle with suicidal and homicidal tendencies.   After years of chaotic life I began to work with the damage - using poetry, art and sculpture.   I am torn between my hatred of humanity who choose and continue to choose to see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil and a love and compassion for those who struggle each day, each moment, against the absurdity you call civilisation.

OBSERVATIONS: Thank you for the glimpse into the world of others who live or who are banished to the margins.

Alan, from London, UK

Fashion is the enemy of outsiders. Fashion is a a commercial tool to encourage purchase of items . Normality is defined by fashion.

Steve, from London, UK

OBSERVATIONS: We are the LGBT mental health group ( Rainbow Haven )  that came to see your photographic exhibition this afternoon. We enjoyed it immensely and it was lovely to meet you and chat. I find it rewarding when you get to meet an artist as it gives more substance to the work when you get an insight into who the artist is, in my opinion.  My personal favourite has to be Raphael/Rachel. I find what you have done with those two portraits, very powerful. Thank you for being so accommodating and welcoming. We shall keep an eye out for future exhibitions of yours.

Martin, from Beijing, China

In 2004, I moved to Beijing on a two-year teaching job.   After 8 months, I realised that I needed more time to appreciate and enjoy the country and culture I was exploring and learning.   I now have a life in China as I now have a Chinese wife, bought an apartment and opened a design studio.   As we contemplate our next move, the thought of moving back to the UK is full of mixed feelings as I discover that I may be or have become an outsider in my own country.   I have never felt like an outsider in China and I’m sure my feelings about returning to the UK are only in my head and things will be a lot clearer when we finally return.

OBSERVATIONS:  A great and thought-provoking exhibition - congratulations.

JC, from Washington DC, USA

I am gay and I am HIV Positive.   This makes me an outsider among many in the gay community, who do not embrace HIV+ members.   To me, living with HIV is the same as living - your life can end at ANY minute.   You are HIV Negative, OK.   But you depend on food and water and industrial society to deliver it to you.   How is that SO different from needing to take a pill?   We are all part of a web, very dependent on it.   So, I don’t consider myself an outsider because I am HIV+.   On the contrary, I am more aware.   Finding out my status opened up my eyes;  before it was easy to think of myself as invincible, but none of us are.   It still makes me upset that there is a stigma associated with HIV.

OBSERVATIONS:  [This Exhibition] It’s such a great idea.

N, from ?, UK

I feel really grateful for this exhibition  - it actually felt like a big relief as today I was feeling particularly out of place and uncomfortable.   I am bi [bi-sexual] and also question how I feel about my gender, or just how I should express my gender.   I’ve started to dress quite ‘gender neutral’ and have a very unfeminine haircut, but after I started presenting myself like this I realised just how scary and uncomfortable it feels to take any step outside of gender norms.   It’s strange because I hardly noticed the expectations of gender when I fitted into them neatly, but now I’m not  fitting so well, I often feel very stressed and out of place in little (and sometimes larger) ways throughout my day.   I feel uncomfortable about what my family think.   Sometimes I doubt why I’m doing this and tell myself I should just look like the feminine girls, but I know it’s not bad to be different and through being different I’ve met many beautiful friends.   I often feel stressed in religious spaces as I know that people (though I don’t judge them for it) do have doubts about people like me - it upsets me but I know culturally we’re all stuck in a complicated structure of belief and morals, so of course I forgive them - I hope they forgive me too.

OBSERVATIONS: [This Exhibition] It’s wonderful - thank you for making it!   It felt like a bit of an ‘oasis’ of acceptance for me today and I’ll remember it.   I’ve written a lot about myself here but it was really good to see [other] people’s stories.

Cara, from Indiana, USA

I am bisexual.   Not many people understand this.   I am not promiscuous;  I am not polyamorous (not that those are bad):  I am simply  attracted  to more than one gender.   I believe very much that there are so many people like me who are just too afraid to admit this because it makes you an outsider.   My hope is that all the Georges [?] of the world can learn to accept themselves and love themselves just the way they are.

OBSERVATIONS:  Thank you, thank you, thank you!   Sharing stories (especially marginalised ones) is one of the most powerful, important  things we can do for social change.   Your work is powerful and inspiring.

Roz, from ?, UK

I am I enjoyed the exhibition.  I myself have always been an outsider ever since a child.  I went to schools in Bethnal Green, East London from 1959 - the worst years of my life with bullying and violence.  I am transgenger, male to female, but cannot get NHS treatment so have to pay privately.  Employment work was also a problem, never any promotion or training.  Now I'm retired and can dress as I please but there is still prejudice.

Mike, from ?, UK

I feel an outsider, although less so nowadays, because of my history. My mother was Greek living in Alexandria, Egypt and my father was English. they met and married in 1942. My brother was born in Cairo. I was born in Wales. We then travelled the world. This meant that it was hard to have a sense of belonging and history with a particular location and that has been with me all my life. In addition, the Greeks, as immigrants, were not accepted in Britain and the English, as colonials,were not accepted in the  world that was empire.

Of course, being an outsider, where ever I lived, gave me that positive experience of seeing the bigger picture, living within different cultures and absorbing the world at large. On the other hand there is always that sense of - I don't have roots in a particular place nor ongoing relational connections to childhood.

OBSERVATIONS:  Love your exhibition and the ideas presented.