"Circuit, the

noun

Normally: being on circuit, being available for work as a messenger.

Can also mean the job in a wider sense eg. He's been on circuit forever, since before bikes had round wheels"

Moving Target zine, May 2003

From 2001 until 2014 I worked a job I loved and hated. I was a cycle courier in London.

 

At the end of 2009 I was coming up to the 9-year mark of working on the road. At the same time I started the second year of my photography degree. After spending most of my mediocre savings on university fees (higher education was still affordable back then), I used the leftover money to purchase a second-hand camera and a box of film. I then turned my new lens on the most obvious subject- London messengers.

 

For the next few years I took portraits of people with whom I was working (and often shared my social life too). I photographed my subjects exclusively at work, on the circuit. I usually shot when I chanced upon another courier on the streets, occasionally arranging a meeting on the way to or from work. It  was like playing a very peculiar game of timing light availability with the unpredictable schedules of people who earn their living by moving as fast as possible.

 

This project shows just a small snippet of a diverse work group. For many, couriering is just a temporary stop on their way to pursue other goals and careers. I've met messengers who went on to be stockbrokers, teachers, architects, chefs, artists, academics, lawyers, police cadets, musicians, social workers, doctors, and accountants. Their successes in other fields were made possible thanks to very flexible work schedule allowed by the largely unregulated courier industry.

 

On the other hand the industry is also rife with exploitative work practices, sweatshop wages, and the inherent dangers due to the nature of the work environment (basically 10+ hour long work days on congested roads of Central London; rain, snow or shine). Many, like myself, are caught for years in the conundrum of a flexible, but low paid job. A job where one is constantly on the move, but in terms of future prospects and security gets nowhere. A love/hate kind of job.

 

The Circuit consists of 100 portraits of London messengers taken between 2009 and 2015.

 

 

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