Smiler aka Mark Cawson captures the rise of London’s squats throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s across West London and Kings Cross. Documenting identity as well as a sense of character within each black and white image, Cawson recorded the moments on an analogue camera. At a time that was awash with political upheaval, the DIY culture was evident in London with communities creating escapism for alienated people while connecting with one another through their shared interest of music and the arts.

Hailing from Nairobi, Cawson was a familiar face on the West London circuit having been apart of the post punk scene playing for bands such as the Tesco Bombers as well as a backing vocalist for the Modettes. This exhibition shows how London as a city has dramatically changed since the freeness of anti-establishment crowds who survived in a time when the city was enthralled in a housing crisis. Intimate moments and rebellious characters are caught beautifully, making you wonder where those people are now. Mark Cawson’s images may have seemed as a bit of a lucky accident within his group of friends 20 years ago but each image has played a part in shaping British culture.
Need I give you any more reasons to get down to ICA to immerse yourself in some of the finest photography curated by the founder of independent publishing project Sorika, Gareth McConnell, alongside Matt Williams, co-editor of NOVEL, this coming Thursday? I think you know the answer to that one.
Smiler: photographs of London by Mark Cawson

Till 29th November
ICA, Institute of Contemporary Arts
The Mall
London SW1Y 5AH

Exhibition Party: 15th October

Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday 11 – 6
Thursday 11 – 9
Closed Monday

Words by Lora O’Callaghan