Under the superficial guise of fashion, Lurker stalks the streets in search of new cover images for a non-existant magazine.

Started in 2003, Lurker was originally a response to an increase in surveillance of the average person in a post 9/11 world. A paranoia surrounded photography, with photographers suddenly considered as sinister. On the street people were wary of them, and in privately-owned shopping malls security was tightened and photography banned. I was interested in how the right to creativity was being curtailed while referencing mass-market magazines, whose regurgitated and formulaic content produces a narrow perspective of what is considered fashionable, and celebrity.

Back then there were no smart phones, social media was in its infancy and blogs were the go to. Stalking was not done. As I look back, I can only think about how naive I was. Somewhere in the intervening years, we’ve completely lost our right to privacy, both on the street and online.

Technology has also changed. Many of us are now armed with a camera in our phone, the images we post and share on Instagram. Photography has changed profoundly.

For an exhibition in 2008, Martyn Jolly said of Lurker: “David Wills is also compelled by strangers he sees on the street. Some of the people he notices, who have a particular hunch of the back, or a particular slouching gait, he collects with his camera, usually rather furtively from behind. He then turns them into the cover shots of a fictional magazine he has created, called with cheeky but still ominous and slightly creepy irony: Lurker.”

As the project has gone on, now for 20 years since the first one, it’s become evident that fashion plays a role and that individuality is important in a world that requires us to conform.

En masse the images highlight fashion and its foibles. Something about a particular person catches my attention, a dash of double denim or they’re dressed top-to-toe in one colour, or are wearing something bold and loud. Unposed and unpretentious, the images reflect a naturalness aspired to by big brands. They become anthropological studies and statements that show consumerist tendencies and a desire to be in vogue.

Lurker is about the act of observation, chance encounters and what documentation reveals. It’s about acknowledging what we’re giving away, and to whom we’re giving it to. What is anonymity in the ‘social’ era?

The rules of play

  • People enter into my field of vision.
  • I take a maximum of four shots . If I don’t get a good shot, then I don’t get a good shot.
  • I never follow anyone, ever. I take the shots anonymously and continue on my way.
  • I photograph people from behind so that their faces are not visible.
  • As quickly as our paths crossed they diverge. In a few moments the photographic process is complete, in full public view with few people, if anyone, noticing.

Lurker, ongoing
commenced in 2003
Pigment prints


Wearables As Media, 
Koo Ming Kown Exhibition Gallery
, Hong Kong, 2011
, Newcastle, 2011
Parade: Manufacturing Selves, Vivid National Photography Festival
, Canberra, 2008