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4.I met John, the ex- prisoner. Extract from'I Am Your Mirror' photography project

Updated: Jan 2, 2022

Extract from 'I am your Mirror' photography book by Loredana Denicola ...

John, is the forth stranger than I met in London. I call him the ex-prisoner.

He answered to my advert online and agreed to be part in my project.

He spent four years in prison.

I put an advert on, in the section ‘ communities’.

I was receiving a good response, when, after 10 days, they banned me, I was looking for people with obsession, fears and sickness.

They saw something strange in my headlines, I don't know why they banned me. I had to stop to use gumtree, it was a shame.

John, the Prisoner, 'I am your mirror' photography project, ©Loredana Denicola, 2014/2015
John, the Prisoner, 'I am your mirror' photography project, ©Loredana Denicola, 2014/2015

My idea was to photograph myself and twelve strangers that I would find through the Internet. These strangers, would be free to choose a time and place to be photographed. They could express themselves as they wished, and could be anonymous, or not.

I asked the strangers to look at the camera as if a mirror.

John sent me an email, saying that he likes the idea and wanted to meet me somewhere, close where I live. He told me to meet him in Finsbury Park.

He texted me on Friday, half an hour before 2 pm.

That day, he was coming to London.

He would have picked me up, with his van, from Finsbury Park.

He gave me address and a place, where to wait for him.

I told him that all was perfect and that I would wear black colours and that I had long dark hair.

He didn’t know me, who I am.

I went to Finsbury park and waited for him.

I saw a van approaching, it was him.

When he saw me, waiting for him, in that weird corner behind the bus station, he opened the door of his van, asking me to jump in, without stopping, and that is what I did, without any thinking.

I jumped in the van.

Sat on the seat.

Put the seat belt on.

At the beginning, I felt not very comfortable, there was no one word coming up from my mouth and there was me and him, in a van, going somewhere. It was strange meeting a stranger like this, but despite all the crazy feelings inside me, we introduced ourselves.

'Hello I am Lore!' - I said

'Hi, I am John' - he said


Nothing else for few minutes.

I don't normally act in this way. I am, often, more talkative.

I take control of the situation, but that day I was feeling less in control and I let things running naturally.

He had a serious face, bold, with no hair.

He looked tall and big, middle age, more than 50 years old.

The van was messy and dirty, probably he uses it for work, that was my impression. He looked scary but he smiled at me.

After few minutes, he asked me if I wanted to drink something, he bought some cans of beers. He had them in a plastic bag, underneath the seat.

I said 'Yes, why not? I like beers'.

I took one, opened it and drank it.

J.'You have a friendly and pretty face, a simple one. Where do you come from?' he said.

L.'I am from Italy', I answered.

J.'Also you look open minded, no many people jump in my van as you did without knowing me'...then, he laughed...

L.'I know. I am a special one'. I said, smiling.

The ice was broken.

We decided to take some pictures where the prison was.

That was his suggestion.

I was a bit puzzled, how could we access to the prison?

We reached the prison, North London. He parked the van.

I rushed, took my camera out and took a few shots of him using the prison as background but we were immediately stopped by the security men, we needed to have permission.

The security men approached me, obviously I was that one with the camera, telling me to leave. Knowing myself, I insisted.

John told me to move on the back of the prison.

We could get some shots there.

On the back, there was a long and big wall and a park ...

He said - You know? It takes courage, it takes time, it takes hard work but it is possible to build yourself as you like, again and again'. It took me all my life.

'How was your experience in prison?' I asked.

'Shit! 'He replied.