Photographer and Instagram sensation Emmanuel Cole, known for capturing the spirit of the London streets, partnered with Airbnb on an exclusive Photography Experience, where guests toured some of his favorite spots in the city, picking up tips and techniques along the way. Here, Cole reveals his personal London haunts.
EMMANUEL COLE WENT FROM working as a charity fundraiser to becoming one of London’s leading street photographers thanks to the power of Instagram. He started taking pictures with his iPhone in 2011, uploading them for fun with no desire to pursue photography. But he soon got a buzz from the “likes” his profile @ecolephoto was getting, and his images caught the eye of creatives at Instagram, who highlighted his work early on. “My following went from 2,000 to 22,000 in about two weeks,” says Cole, who now has close to 135,000 followers. “That blew my mind and I started investing a lot more energy into it over the years.” In 2014, he quit his job to focus on photography, arming himself with an SLR camera, hitting the streets daily, and studying the work of old school image-makers to sharpen his eye and hone his craft. Completely self-taught, Cole has built a reputation for capturing iconic London landscapes, evocative stolen moments, and intimate portraits of the city’s most interesting denizens.
His subjects range from tattooed geezers to young skaters; carnival dancers to fashion designers. “My point of view comes from a lot of what I’ve seen in my life,” he says. “I’m born and raised in London. Growing up, I moved around a lot, so I’ve pretty much lived in every corner of the city.” In a short time, Cole has created a body of work that feels deeply personal. “The interaction with people is what I find most interesting,” he says. “That’s what a lot of photography is about. I’ve always enjoyed winning over someone who hasn’t met me before and then getting their picture.”
Beginning at Shoreditch High Street, Cole took guests through East London’s lively markets, secret back streets, and across the River Thames, with a pit stop at one of his favorite pubs. “I was able to show them how to be confident about approaching people in the street and having those interactions,” he says. “Also, what to look out for when taking pictures and how to go about evolving their social media profiles in their own unique way without having to do what everyone else does.”
“I live in Hackney, which is somewhere I’ve lived on three or four different occasions. Since I’ve gotten into photography I’ve developed an interest in going back to places I used to live in, just to see the areas through the way I look at things now.”
Experience in the Spotlight highlights visionary Airbnb Experience Hosts in their cities. Featuring experts including award-winning chefs, celebrated musicians, world-class architects, and professional athletes, we view each city through the eyes of local creatives as they share a wealth of insider tips, secret spots, favorite haunts, and the destinations that inspire their creativity.
Airbnb partnered with street photographer Emmanuel Cole on an exclusive Photography Experience in London, where guests toured some of Cole’s favorite spots in the city, picking up pro tips and techniques along the way.