top of page

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

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

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

John is the forth stranger I met in London. I call him the #exprisoner.

He answered to my online advertisement and agreed to be part of my project. He spent four years in prison.

I posted an ad on, in the ‘communities’ section.

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

They found something strange in my headlines; I don't know why they banned me. I had to stop using 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 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 remain anonymous, or not. I asked the strangers to look at the camera as if it were a mirror.

John sent me an email, saying that he likes the idea and wanted to meet me somewhere close to where I live. He suggested we meet him in #FinsburyPark.

He texted me on Friday, half an hour before 2 pm, the day he was coming to London. He would pick me up with his van from Finsbury Park. He gave me an address and a place to wait for him.

I told him everything was perfect and that I would wear all black and have long dark hair. He didn’t know 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 odd corner behind the bus station, he opened the van door, asking me to jump in without stopping, and that's exactly what I did - jumped in the van, sat on the seat, and put on my seat belt.

At first, I didn't feel very comfortable; not a word came out of my mouth, and it was just him and me in a van, heading somewhere. Meeting a stranger like this was strange, but despite all the crazy feelings inside me, we introduced ourselves.

'Hello I am Lore!' ,I said

'Hi, I am John' , he replied

Then, there was silence for a few minutes.

I'm not usually this reserved; I tend to take control of the situation. But that day, I felt less in control, so I let things flow naturally.

John had a serious, bald, and hairless face. He looked tall and big, middle -aged, probably over 50. The van was messy and dirty; my impression was that he used it for work. He looked intimidating, but he smiled at me.

After a few minutes, he asked me if I wanted something to drink and offered some cans of beer he had in a plastic bag under the seat.

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

I took one, opened it and drank it. He remarked, 'You have a friendly and pretty face, a simple one. Where do you come from?' he said.

'I am from Italy', I replied.

He then said, You also look open-minded; not many people jump into my van as you did without knowing me', and he laughed.

I said, smiling, 'I know. I'm a special one'.

The ice was broken.

We decided to take some pictures near the prison, which was his suggestion. I was a bit puzzled; how could we access the prison?

We reached the prison in North London, and he parked the van.

I hurriedly took my camera out and snapped a few shots of him with the prison as a background but we were immediately stopped by security. We permission.

The security approached me, obviously, as I was the one with the camera, and told me to leave. Knowing myself, I insisted. John told me to move to the back of the prison; we could get some shots there.

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

He said - 'You know, it takes courage, time, and 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.

by Loredana Denicola

...... to be continued ....

"Behind the Lens: A Photographic Journey with Strangers"

Short stories from the photography project: "I am your mirror" by Loredana Denicola © 2017/2018, All rights reserved.

I'd love to create a book! If interested email me to loredana denicola


bottom of page