100 Faces of London



Though a photographic art form practised nowadays by only the few, formal studio portraiture was chosen quite deliberately, as Milan firmly believes that such portraits are as much the creation of the sitter as they are of the photographer. His studio-based technique, with ample time allowed for each portrait, has engendered a closeness between sitter and photographer that is almost tangible in these images of Londoners.  Echoing a remark of the famous photographer, Irving Penn, Milan says that when working this way a photographer cannot help but ‘fall in love a little’ with each of the sitters he observes through the lens:  inner beauty and spirit are liberated, allowed to surface, and instantly captured, to be held for all time.

All the portraits were deliberately photographed using a single lightsource with a white reflector, single lens and an identical bacground.

All images were captured using a Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, together with a single fixed-focus lens (a rather special Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II).  Quite deliberately, the lens was set at a wide aperture (f 4.0) creating a very shallow depth of field;  this allowed the sitters’ eyes to be kept pin sharp with the rest of the face drifting softy out of focus – the ‘Bokeh effect’.  The images were taken in maximum-resolution ‘RAW’ format and then processed using Apple Aperture and Adobe Photoshop software.

All photographs:  copyright © Milan Svanderlik - London - UK

Page Modified:   5th February 2019

Photographer printing the pages of the Heritage Book, using archival printing stock

General Information about the Project

London is truly an extraordinary place and what perhaps makes it most extraordinary is the people who have been drawn here and who have made their home in the capital:  they have brought with them the most amazing diversity of traditions, cultures, and habits, of faiths, expectations and hopes, and these are reflected in the appearance of each and every one.

100 Faces of London features portraits of one hundred of these Londoners, reflecting the huge diversity of people who make up this great city of ours.   All photographed within a twelve-month period, mostly during 2010, the youngest sitter was 20 years old and the oldest 100, with every effort made to embrace a broad range of ethnic backgrounds.

From the very outset, the aim was to invite only ‘ordinary Londoners’ to join the project (ie Londoners who were not famous, who were not familiar personalities, politicians, or stars of stage and screen, all of whose faces would already have been frequently photographed and exhibited).   However, once the photography was completed, not one of the sitters, any of whom might have been seen in the capital’s streets, parks or theatre foyers, could have been accurately described as an ordinary Londoner;  they have all proved to be quite extraordinary people and personalities and, perhaps inevitably, a few of them do have significant profiles in the life of the capital.

It must also be emphasised that this was an artistic, not a commercial project.   To secure his 100 remarkable sitters, the photographer approached around 700 Londoners altogether (people whose faces he saw as striking in some regard) and, after a brief outline of the project, handed those who lived within the M25 an envelope containing further information and an invitation to sit for a portrait.   Around one in ten responded positively and these were joined by another group of sitters identified through various networks, suggested by fellow sitters, or put forward via those organisations who were invited to identify the ‘uniformed sitters’.   Nevertheless, all the sitters were volunteers who kindly agreed to travel to a temporary studio in Chiswick, where they were photographed just as they were, or as they wished to present themselves.   Clothing, hairstyle, make-up, and jewellery were left entirely at the discretion of each sitter, with the least possible influence from the photographer.   The sittings often took several hours and the portraits were deliberately formal, designed to reveal the character and spirit of those who so richly illustrated the astonishing and delightful diversity that was the underlying inspiration for the project.

In addition to the prints displayed in this exhibition, a large-format ‘Heritage Book’ was also produced, comprising high-quality prints of all 100 portraits, printed by the photographer, using archival paper, printing inks that incorporate high-density pigments, and with a binding crafted for longevity.   In addition to the exhibition itself, Epson (UK) Ltd generously part-sponsored the production of this ‘Heritage Book’, with the kind donation of the printing materials, and the volume was was accepted by the British Library at St Pancras, where it will be lodged within the photographic collections, to be retained for posterity.   For the duration of the exhibition, the ‘Heritage Book’ was on display in the main entrance foyer to the gallery.

This Crypt Gallery exhibition was only made possible through the generosity of three principal sponsors:  St Martin-in-the-Fields donated five weeks’ usage of the beautiful Crypt Gallery space;  Epson (UK) Ltd supplied all the printing materials at no charge;  and Alvito Resource Ltd printed all the images gratis and met many of the other exhibition costs.

The Heritage Book

The ‘Heritage Book’ is an extraordinary production of archival quality.  It was conceived as a permanent record of the 100 Faces of London project, to be kept for future generations.  

Larger than A2 (450x620mm or 17x25 inches) the volume was beautifully bound for longevity by a specialist company of bespoke bookbinders in Reading – Masters Bookbinding – who employed traditional bookbinding techniques, using acid-free materials wherever practicable, so as to impair as little as possible the archival quality of the images.   In its own protective ‘library case’ and with 110 pages, including high-quality prints of all 100 portraits, the tome weighs a hefty 20 kg, or around 44 lbs.   Only two copies were produced, one of which was a gift to this great city, from the photographer and from all the Londoners who participated.

The images contained in this Heritage Book were printed by the photographer on an Epson ‘Stylus Pro 3880’ printer, using advanced Epson ink-jet technology and UltraChome K3 inks with Vivid Magenta.   These inks incorporate high-density pigments, providing exceptional stability and longevity of the final image.  The paper used was Epson ‘Cold Press Natural’, which is an acid-free, 100% cotton rag paper, ideal for archival usage. This combination of Epson ink and paper gives an exceptionally wide colour gamut, making it ideal for portraiture.

The 100 Faces of London Heritage Book wos fficially presented to the British Library’s Lead Curator for Visual Arts, Mr John Falconer, during the exhibition’s opening ceremony on 12th June 2012 and is now permanently lodged within the Library’s photographic collections.

Epson (UK) Ltd very kindly agreed to be associated with the production of the Heritage Book and generously donated both the paper and the inks for printing;  this was undertaken by Alvito Resource Ltd at no charge.   Alvito Resource Ltd also paid for the binding and finishing of both books.

Heritge Book Design:  Initial design and page layout