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Recent Projects

Captive Light: Patarie Prison

Background to the prison

Patarei is a harbour fortress on the outskirts of Tallinn, Estonia. Built as a military defence in the mid-nineteenth century the fortress became a prison in the early twentieth century. During Soviet occupation (1940-41 and 1944-91) Patarei housed political prisoners. Following independence, the building remained part of the national prison service until Estonia’s membership of the E.U. in 2004 precipitated its abandonment.

The prison environment

With its empty, dank, multi-occupancy cells and execution chambers for the condemned, linked to lace-curtained officers’ quarters via a network of interlocked corridors, Patarei is the hollow corpse of a synthetic purgatory and hell.

The prison and the camera

After viewing my first images taken in the prison, the idea of equivalence between this subject and the instrument employed to record it emerged. In other words, some of these images, for example a picture of tiny aperture illuminating a deep, low-vaulted room, seemed simultaneously to depict one of Patarie’s cells, and evoke the experience of standing inside the camera lens itself. In a number of photographs, the prison’s instruments of observation and control (bared and grated windows, spy holes and feeding flaps) channel shafts and pools of light to reveal the detritus and dramatic settings of inmate cells, warders rooms, and the ‘interior design’ of institutional oppression, and these images had, in turn, been ‘captured’ through an analogous technology comprising lens, shutter, and chamber.

Captive Light

The idea of an analogous relationship between the 'camera' and the 'prison' is explored in the paper Captive Light
Captive Light: Venice


Superficially Patarie and Venice are irrevocably separate worlds. One is an elaborate theatrical setting attracting millions of tourists annually, the other Patarei is a dungeon where no one would ever wish to tread.  Yet beneath their equally distressed grandeur these subjects hold much in common. Venice is an island prison,  and now a  transit camp under permanent surveillance. Its naval dockyards shield the Arsenale, a cultural prison  in which all artists now hope to be confined. Patarei too is testimony to a  melancholic past, yet today it is empty, liberated and free. In making these interrelated series John employed the technologies of surveillance to explore these parallel worlds.


Prints can be purchased via londonprintstudio



Nottinghill Carnival

From a community event, starting in the late 1960s, Notting Hill Carnival has become the largest street festival in Europe


From designing and making costumes to documenting the annual August event, John has been involved in Carnival since 1975.

Flamboyan Carnival Band

Founded in 1987, Flamboyan Carnival Arts, based in North Paddington, and comprising around 300 members,, is one of the most established costume bands participating in Notting Hill Carnival

Flamboyan Portraits

Carnival attracts many photographers eager to capture the spectacle of elaborate costumes and mass intoxication, but photographing from within the band itself offers a different and closer perspective on the participants themselves. John has been taking portraits of band members since 2008.
World Hug: School Portrait

A difficult problem

I was initially approached by a local primary school, and asked to address the problem that 'some children and parents are proposing that Christian and Muslim children shouldn't hold hands'  


To address this problem we proposed a project, called World Hug'  involving all pupils, in all lessons, over a two week period. Each year group was allocated a region of the world, and embarked on a journey of discovery to explore it's landscape, flora, fauna, people cultures and languages. During the final two days every class visited every other class to tell them about their discoveries. We additionally set up a portrait studio in the school, and photographed small groups of pupils, waving, holding hands and hugging. These portraits were subsequently assembled into a large image of the world, in which individual pupils were located in the regions they had explored. The World Hug image was screenprinted onto enamel panels and displayed as a 3 x 4 meter mural at the school's entrance.


World Hug was devised and realised by Sian Thomas and John Phillips at londonprintstudio for  Wilberforce Primary School

worldhug 1000W

A 60 Metre Panoramic Portrait

  Portrait of the Harrow Road is a 60 metre long image of the businesses, organisations and people working in a half-mile strip of the Harrow Road, west London. The image is comprised of hundreds of photos and manipulated to make the clutter of street furniture transparent.