interview | carla borel

Black and white iPhone photos taken on the London Underground.

Black and white iPhone photos taken on the London Underground.

Carla Borel has a natural talent for capturing the quiet beauty in everyday life and she shares with Schön! the method to her work before her upcoming appearance at the Vauxhall Art Car Boot Fair.

A crowded tube station or a quiet day in Soho may seem mundane to the everyday person, but not for Carla Borel. This is where she thrives. Known for her candid black and white street photography, Borel continues to capture the beautiful realities of everyday life through her camera.

Born in Paris, Borel found her love of capturing the city after a summer spent with her father when she was nine. She was asked to keep a diary of what she had done for the day, including a story of her activities and a picture from the day. “I had a love hate relationship with these diaries but they made me take notice of my surroundings,” Borel explains. “Years later, when I began using a camera I took a lot of photos of things I’d seen as a child, either from walking in the streets or things I’d seen from the car window.”

After working at the Moulin Rouge picking up feathers, Borel continued to thrive with dark-venue jobs and found her way to bartending at The French House in Soho. This area served as the backdrop for her first series Stillsoho that she collected from a period of over ten years. “It was all very unplanned, but I did have in mind at the time that I was documenting a very special time in my life.” Although she can’t recall a specific moment when she picked up a camera and knew that was what she wanted to do, she had begun the process of learning to trust her own talent during these years spent at The French House.

In the past few years Borel has begun moonlighting as a gallerina and continues to capture the life around her. Her most recent work includes realistic chaos from her On The Tube series as well as genuine portraits of various artists and musicians. She remains to stay true to her early self by using black and white film even to this day. “It adds a certain drama or glamour that I think is important to my work,” Borel states. “I can’t seem to achieve the same when I work with colour film.” 

Sebastian Horsley at his flat on Meard Street, Soho in the summer of 2006. He was posing for a portrait by David Courts.

Sebastian Horsley at his flat on Meard Street, Soho in the summer of 2006. He was posing for a portrait by David Courts.

The dramatic black and white are not all that set Borel apart in her field, but also the honesty she captures from everyday life. She tells us that her images are all unplanned and “just kind of happen.” When she is in the right place she might capture that moment quickly or step aside and wait for it to happen. “I might see someone, the light on their face, the contrast of the pattern on their dress with their companion, and there’s something there that reminds me of something but I don’t quite know what.”

Borel continues to explain the beauty in her unplanned timing by telling the story behind one of her most famous shots of her friend Sebastian. She was simply walking past his apartment and happened to shout up at him. When he asked her to come up he was there with another photographer who was taking Sebastian’s portrait. “My picture is Sebastian posing for me, while posing for another artist. It all happened very quickly, and then I left.”

The simple portrait of Sebastian and many other of Borel’s favourite photos will be displayed and up for sale this weekend at the 12th annual Vauxhall Art Car Boot fair. This will be Borel’s first time participating in the art show, but has attended on many occasions over the years. “The decisions on what to show came about quite organically and easily,” Borel said after telling Schon! what to expect at the show. She will have images from her On the Tube series, as well as limited edition mugs with her photo of Sebastian Horesely and also postcards of Boulevard Rochechouart by Barbes, which features a nosy canine critter, in adherence to the theme of the fair this year, which is dogs. 

Art Cart Boot Fair launches Sunday 14th of June.

Words / Morgan Bridges






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