Open House Portrait Series

Kan & Margot Cox

Artists Ken & Margot Cox were the first sitters for the ‘Open House’ portrait series.  © DANIEL LEWIS 2014

An artist’s studio is a place of creativity, but also of emotion – serenity, pride, frustration, ambition, sadness, happiness, reflection and inspiration are in there, but, to the outsider looking in, a studio offers a glimpse of their soul.  I learned this fact a little under a year ago when walking the leafy autumnal Victorian backstreets of Putney in south-west London, with my Fiancé Vicki, exploring the homes and intimate settings of a dozen or so professional artists’ studios.

Rarely do Vicki and I have such freedom to do as we please and relax on weekends, such are our irregular working patterns (we are both freelance photographers).  This was one such rarity, when we chose on this particular Sunday to explore the Wandsworth Open House trail which consisted of fifty artists, based in the immediate area, quite literally opening up their homes to the public in proud exhibition of their art.

It occurred to me at once that the act of meandering about someone’s house would be an awkward invasion of privacy.  I certainly wouldn’t want strangers walking among my worldly possessions, forming opinions about me without even knowing me.  But then I would have thought that way wouldn’t I?  For it was me that had lived in the area nearly five years without realising one jot about the vibrantly talented and creative community I had been missing out on all this time, right under my own nose.  It turned out that these artists, across a vast array of disciplines, and each, with monumental respect within the arts world, all knew each other.  Knew each other well.  The atmosphere from house to house was wonderfully inclusive and immediately infectious.  How did I not know about this?  Working out in east London so often for clients it seemed such a world away from that particular creative scene, yet as I live and breathe, here I was rubbing shoulders with the best that London had to offer, in Putney.

The other aspect that struck a chord with me was how wonderfully photogenic these studio spaces were.  Each and every one I saw that day reflected their custodian’s personality and soul so succinctly.

One lady, who I later learned was the founding member of the Putney Artists group, worked out of a beautifully converted shed at the end of her garden – her name – Margaret Knott.  I now call her the inspiration for the series, for as soon as I met her and glimpsed her amazing studio, I knew I had a concept for a portrait project.  I would photograph these artists in their studios.  Margaret had been the catalyst.

A year on, having now completed the series, I can say the biggest achievement for me wasn’t in fact the body of work which I’ve been able to create, but it is without question the discovery of this amazing group of people that I can now call my friends.

Of course, I am rather proud of the pictures too.

Ten images from the series are on show at the ‘Tried and True’ gallery cafe at 279 Upper Richmond Rd, Putney in south-west London, from 8th October 2014. The gallery show coincides with the Putney Artists’ Open House exhibition, which runs over the weekends of 4-5 & 10-11 October 2014.

Click here to see images from the preview night



One comment

  1. What a great idea – you are quite right that the joy of Open House events is meeting the artist in their own space, although even then you don’t often get to see the working space which can be tucked away at the top of the house (in my case!) And for the artist it’s a great way to show your work; relaxed, informal and personal. I love it.


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