Photos of London exhibited in Prague

Multi-national, multi-cultural, beautiful or ugly - you can describe London in many ways and still never capture the city's character. Jiri Hanak is a Czech-born actor, journalist and photographer, who has lived and worked in London since 1984. Tuesday saw the opening of his photographic exhibition called London Cacophony at the British Council in Prague. It shows rather unusual pictures of London, views that usually escape the notice of the ordinary tourist - such as an old tree in Green Park, which birds avoid because the muttering of dead souls can be heard amidst its branches, or shop dummies wrapped in decorative paper, bearing Shelley's quotation: 'Hell is a city much like London.' Alena Skodova spoke with Mr. Hanak at the opening ceremony and asked him how he worked - did he simply walk round the city and take photos of what he saw?

"These sorts of photographs come to being by walking and watching...because after I came to London, I was unemployed, so what did I do? I walked and did a lot of walks. I found beautiful places in London and London has grown into me, and this is how it shows."

You call your exhibition London Cacophony...

"Yes, because there are different sorts of pictures, even in style, and many contrasts, so I gave it this title."

Has this exhibition see another place?

"Not yet. I've had several series, several exhibitions and this is the last one, which has been compiled only for the British Council."

But you did photograph already in Czechoslovakia and had some exhibitions here...

"Yes, my first exhibition was in 1964, and from the 1970s, when I was not allowed to work, I couldn't have any exhibition, but as I'm an amateur I didn't care if I had an exhibition or not. I had been taking pictures at that time, too, but only for myself."

I'm sure that each of your photos has its own history...

"Not each, but some of them. There's quite a funny picture of an old bag lady, who is sitting under a poster of the Australian rock group INXS. I always ask people whether I can take a picture of them. So I came to her and asked if I could take a picture and I was offering one pound in coin. She had a bottle from beer, I saw it was empty, so I put the coin into the bottle - tin, sorry - and she started shouting 'Not there! It's beer in it!' - So I had to buy another beer for her."