Inspired by the sensations of discovery, exploration and the unfamiliar, Prada’s new masculine fragrance, Black, is indelibly linked to a lifestyle such as urban exploration. So to celebrate the fragrance’s reveal, the brand worked closely with two photography talents in London and New York to bring the phenomenon of urban exploration to the forefront.
British photographer Jonathan Daniel Price (better known as @garconjon to his followers) has built a career out of capturing the style and spirit of London in his photography. Though street style and fashion are his forté, the rustic, nostalgic tone of his images is clearly inspired by the English capital’s diverse and expansive history.
“London has transformed, consistently, since the Second World War. My old flat was a Victorian manor house divided into apartments, and opposite was a 1950s prefab-style block,” Jon tells me. “Looking into the history, you can see these distinct patterns of the city where bombs fell and a juxtaposition of design was created. Now, with glass skyscrapers taking over the landscape, we’re entering another new phase of drastic change. It keeps the city fresh and reflects the people in it, constantly pushing forward with progressive ideology.”
In many ways, Jonathan’s work takes a lead from Paris’ flâneurs, historical figures who would wander the streets of Paris at a snail’s pace, with no objective other than to observe and take things in. “When I began work as a photographer, I spent days roaming the streets in search of interesting faces,” he explains. “But as time went on, I realized I was just as interested in the infrastructure as the people who inhabit it.”
“One thing I always say to visitors is, ‘Look up.’ London’s most interesting design is above eye-level. This could mean old, hand-painted advertisements in Hackney or centuries-old winches attached to a side-wall in Covent Garden. Remnants of the past are all over this city if you know how to look.”
As a city for urban explorers, a number of modern developments have demystified London compared to other cities, or even closed it off entirely. “London is one of the most surveilled cities in the world,” Jonathan points out, referring to the city’s notoriously high number of CCTV and surveillance cameras. “This means there’s an order and restriction to things like exploration, so it’s hard to find truly ‘hidden’ areas. That being said, I’ve found countless places that aren’t in guidebooks or even on the residents’ radars. Areas like the Isle of Dogs are incredible, because they’re not densely-populated, and people rarely visit unless they live there. You’ll go past warehouses and side-streets with no cars – which is so alien for a city like London.”
“The real ‘hidden’ London comes through the private gardens and courtyards which aren’t always visible – you have to know where to look. The campus at Guy’s Hospital in London Bridge has a wonderful walkthrough that’s nearly always empty. There’s a garden, statues and a piano that I stumbled across by mistake one day. These are the places you take sanctuary in, living in such a crowded space.”
One of the key architectural styles showcased in Jonathan’s work for Prada Black is a twentieth-century style that’s been reassessed in recent years, after decades of being dismissed as ugly and utilitarian; Brutalism, the sparse, concrete-heavy style found in many iconic British buildings such as the Southbank and Barbican Centres.
“I was just reading a book written by a resident of the Barbican who moved there in 1997. At this time, the building was frequently voted as some of the worst architecture in Britain. But there’s a new appreciation of minimalism and mid-century design amongst the younger generations.”
For Jonathan, it’s the raw, utilitarian practicality of the design that is its greatest asset. “There’s a tower block in Margate, Kent, with a very similar aesthetic. I was shooting there with a client, and they said how they disliked the design. For some people, it still evokes a negative feeling. But that concrete grey is such a broad, variable color depending on the light, whether it’s raining or dry. It looks different all year round, constantly evolving.”
Ultimately, working with Prada Black on this project gave Jonathan a new perspective on a city whose expansiveness had become second nature to him. “Revisiting areas I haven’t been to in a while made me look with new eyes,” he explains. As our conversation draws to a close, he cites that same ethos of rediscovery and curiosity that is innate to Prada Black’s fragrance.
“As we walked toward London Bridge at sunset, I noticed commuters heading home after work. They had their heads down, planning evening meals, or their routes home. I felt a renewed sense of gratitude for being able to take the time, stand back, and just appreciate the landscape around me.”
Learn more about the fragrance and the project by following #PradaBlack and #PradaFragrances on the ‘gram, or visit Prada’s website to find out more about the whole line of Prada fragrances.