Of all the wonderful things to photograph in London, Agnese Sanvito chose one that most Londoners avoid, unless they have to —public toilets.
The phenomenon of public toilets that were once common in Ancient Rome disappeared after the fall of the great empire until it emerged in its modern form in large European cities, first in Paris, then in Berlin and in London in 1851. By paying a penny or two, Londoners could descend into subterranean restrooms to do their business without fouling up the city above. Most of these facilities closed after the Second World War, but you can still see their remains around London. They are easy to spot. They usually have glamorous iron-work railing outside, with stairs leading to the underground. These are the toilets, Agnese Sanvito is interested in.
An old Ladies toilets on Rosebery Avenue in Clerkenwell. Photo credit: Agnese Sanvito
“They’re part of the fabric of the city, but because they’re not in use no-one pays attention to them, they are forgotten spaces,” Agnese told Spitalfields Life.
At first Agnese tried to photograph them in the day, but there were always cars and people around obscuring the view and drawing attention away from these tragic relics. So she started photographing them in the golden light of the early morning, earning the series the nickname of “Toilets at dawn”.
“At the moment, I have just photographed those in the area that are near to me. It’s a work-in-progress, I don’t know where it’s going.” said Agnese. “Now my friends call sometimes and say, ‘I’ve found another one.’”
A Victorian public toilet in Kentish Town, north London. Photo credit: Agnese Sanvito
An old toilets on Grange Road in Bermondsey, south London. This have been converted into a bar. Photo credit: Agnese Sanvito
This public toilet in Spitalfields was once converted into a nightclub called Public Life, which could only hold sixty people. Photo credit: Agnese Sanvito
An old public toilet in Stamford Hill in North London, overgrown with trees and foliage. Photo credit: Agnese Sanvito
A toilet entrance in Spitalfields. Photo credit: Agnese Sanvito
This toilet in Aldwych, central London, now houses a bar. Photo credit: Agnese Sanvito
The entrance to a public toilet on Foley Street in Fitzrovia. Photo credit: Agnese Sanvito
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