Photo project

Second Home: London Pub Families in Jan Klos’ Project

Photographer Jan Klos was annoyed that tourists don’t see past Big Ben, and made a series about London pubs, where you can feel the real city spirit.
Jan Klos Age 31

Documentary photographer. Born in Poland, lives in London. His works were published in The Telegraph Magazine, Newsweek Poland, Wallpaper Magazine, Metropolitan Magazine, N by Norwegian Magazine and Dalstonist Magazine. Specializes in documentary photography and portraits.

The project began as a sort of travel guide. I was cycling around central London one day, which is always hugely busy with tourists visiting Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and the like – all these major landmarks that have been visited and photographed by countless others. Watching tourists visit the same places to pose for the same snapshots made me feel a little frustrated because there’s so much more to London. What are you actually experiencing looking at a big clock tower? What are you feeling staring at the palace? The city is so sprawling and I think a lot of what London has to offer gets overlooked somewhat. The London that gets sold to tourists in travel guides often only scratches the surface.

Around the same time, I started to hear a lot about the problems pubs across London are facing, particularly those in East London, where I live. As historical landmarks go, I think pubs are the real deal – they’re living, breathing spaces that are packed with so many stories.

You only have to go along the Thames towards the Docklands to find pubs that were frequented by Dickens, for example.

It concerned me that these spaces were the potential victims of gentrification and rising rents. I felt compelled to make some kind of contemporary record of them. And then I got to thinking: if just a small handful of the tourists who are so bent on visiting Big Ben made a trip to one of these pubs where there is living history, where they might get an authentic London experience, then maybe some of them wouldn’t be facing closure. So the two ideas – the travel guide and creating a record of East London pubs – seemed to go hand in hand.


It was important for me, to not just do interior shots of empty pubs. I wanted to fill them with life which is why I have chosen to shoot portraits of the teams inside them, posed like families. Bar men and women play such huge parts in the personality of a pub and I wanted to show that a pub isn’t simply a passive building – they also contain colorful, interesting and determined families.The majority of the people I have shot really love the pubs they work in. Some of them work full-time jobs elsewhere and put in extra hours behind the bar out of sheer love. They obviously get paid for their work, but many stay in the business because they come to form such strong bonds with the pubs, their customers and colleagues.


I think for some British communities the pub still definitely plays a central role. In smaller towns and cities where there isn’t much else on offer they play an even bigger role. A lot of them are welcoming, cosy spaces, just like your living room at home that you can easily settle into. Traditionally kitted out with carpets, letting in natural light, offering somewhere comfortable to sit and relax, I think this ‘second home’ feeling makes them really unique. What makes public houses so special is that they can be exactly that – a shared home away from home; a familiar space where you can comfortably relax around others you may know.


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