Photographer Joshua T Gibbons documents the bachelor lifestyle of Stan, who claims he is the last true Cockney in London.

Words by Joshua T Gibbons

I am a London based documentary and portrait photographer, and I am 28-yrs old. My close friends would say I’m a good friend, my family would say I’m a shit and those that have just met me would say I’m arrogant.

Stan is a family friend and I’ve known him my entire life. He lives in East Finchley, a part of North London where I was raised, and he is somewhat of a local legend within the area due to his larger than life character.

Initially I spent time with Stan in a photographic sense to gain a greater understanding of London’s Cockney community. Although over time, I realised I was far more drawn to using my practice to better understand this strange and eccentric individual, hoping to create an intimate character portrait of the man that would reflect our close relationship. I spend an awful lot of time with Stan in a social capacity nowadays and he plays a huge role in my life – we’ve holidayed together, he will often be found in the pub with my friends and I, and we’ve plenty more collaborations in the pipeline.

I am constantly hard on myself about what I would have liked to achieve creatively and professionally by the time I was 28. I’ve learnt that this is an extremely negative way of thinking about my practice and undermines my existing achievements but it’s a train of thought that is difficult to steer clear of permanently. Stan was recently telling me about how when he was in his 20’s and living in London, that it was easy to leave a well paid manual job in the morning and have a new one by the same afternoon. Although we’re talking about the late 60’s and an awful lot has changed since then, I do feel as if my generation does get a raw deal and our country’s government gives little, if any, thought to the fears of those like myself who are reaching an age that they are keen to start thinking about their personal and professional futures. This can lead to a feeling of hopelessness and is exactly why many of my peers and I see a far brighter future away from the shores of Blighty.

"I don’t assign to the idea that our elders are full of wisdom, I believe that to be a construct of control that is associated with traditional familial hierarchies. If I’ve learnt anything from my time spent with Stanley, and the elder people in my life, it is that they’ve a lot of regrets in life. I intend to have as few as possible."

Joshua T Gibbons.

Stan. Image by Joshua T Gibbons.

Reaching 30, I find myself taken more seriously as an artist now, than say in my early 20’s, I really wouldn’t see myself as being any more mature at 28 or have gained enough wisdom that should warrant the new found trust of clients and institutions. This treatment is clearly related to some form of ageism, which certainly limits the opportunities of younger people.

From the perspective of the Arts, younger people need to be given more credit and trust in order to give them the confidence to nurture their practice. 

The biggest stress in my life right now, much like most of my generation involved in the arts, is money and finding accommodation in London that won’t bankrupt future generations of Gibbons’.

To be born and bred in a city that, (unless I become successful very quickly or sack off my creative endeavors and become super passionate about spreadsheets and office politics), means the chances are I won’t ever be able own a property or a place I call home is extremely depressing. Something on a governmental level needs to be done about the housing crisis in this city so people like myself do not have to flee abroad and out of the cities that we enrich as artists.

I don’t believe there is a bigger challenge that humanity shares, regardless of age, more so than the current threat to the planet we inhabit and seem intent on destroying. Climate change is universal.

"If people of all generations would listen to each other’s opinions without judgments, surely that would lead to a far happier intergenerational society."

Joshua T Gibbons.

Stan. Image by Joshua T Gibbons.

Making work and meeting people is what makes me the happiest right now. Working within the documentary portraiture medium ensures that I meet new people and learn about new things constantly; this guarantees that my worldview is regularly challenged and means that I’m always learning. I can’t think of anything more rewarding than that. 

I don’t assign to the idea that our elders are full of wisdom, I believe that to be a construct of control that is associated with traditional familial hierarchies. If I’ve learnt anything from my time spent with Stanley, and the elder people in my life, it is that they’ve a lot of regrets in life. I intend to have as few as possible.

Young people are not necessarily tainted by the backward and often ill conceived societal attitudes that are engrained in elder generations, it is this open-mindedness and acceptance that can be learnt.

If people of all generations would listen to each other’s opinions without judgments, surely that would lead to a far happier intergenerational society.

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