If you’ve spent time on London streets, you’ll accept apparent the cacographic Addendum to Strangers, as all-knowing as the dejected plaques and as clear as billboards, admitting their A4 size. You may alike accept wondered about their accepted theme.
What worldview, afterwards all, connects the statements “Windows of befalling aing quickly” and “Sloths baffle logic”?
There isn’t one, says Andy Leek, a above announcement artistic and architect of Addendum to Strangers – except his own. Leek designs the poster, pastes it about (mostly in London, but additionally wherever he travels), waits for addition to column a photo of it on Instagram, again shares their annual on his account.
The activity was built-in of able burnout. Leek says he had collapsed victim to the London affairs of continued commute, best hours and fixating on career progression: “I was aloof active to work, really, which I anticipate is a above burghal affectionate of thing.”
Returning to assignment afterwards a ages off in 2015, Leek reframed that backbreaking drive as an befalling to create. “It started off aloof me autograph small, absolute addendum that I’d leave in newspapers, bankrupt up on seats for bodies to discover. I hoped that a absolute bulletin extensive them on their way to assignment would accomplish some baby aberration in their day.”
Writing the addendum affected him to anticipate positively: “It became a anatomy of therapy, a way that I could accurate myself.”
Leek had been abrogation the addendum for eight months afore he was accursed from his job. Afterwards six months of freelancing, he had the abstraction to booty his addendum to the aing akin by axis them into posters. He ashore the aboriginal lot up about London one night in backward 2015. By morning, one had appeared on Instagram, aggregate by a stranger.
Since then, tens of bags accept aggregate shots of Leek’s assignment on Instagram with the #NotesToStrangers hashtag, while his own afterward has developed to 110,000.
The ambit of the activity has expanded, too, from life-affirming letters (“Happiness is account the struggle”, “You can’t do it … yet”) to applesauce and non-sequiturs (“I admiration if a cow would try to eat astroturf”, “Some foods accomplish accomplished spoons”, “Avoid big decisions aback horny”) and alike some that alone accomplish aerial faculty (“Fakeness can be agreeable aback it’s honest”, “Clowns are Neanderthal comedians”).
Then there’s “Screw you! (Not really, I’m abiding you are lovely)”.
As analytic the hashtag reveals, Addendum to Strangers draws polarised responses. It seems base to begrudge any efforts to advance positivity – but his letters can accurately of a affable drifter cogent you to smile.
Some can alike appear beyond as judgmental, such as “Sober belief are bigger because you can bethink every detail”, in shouty capitals over scarlet. Addition responded calling it “judgey”. Another wrote: “Nonsense”.
But Leak doesn’t analyze amid his ardent letters of empowerment and “something asinine about pigeons”. “Notes is never meant to be absolutely for admonition or absolutely for ball or absolutely for brainy health,” he says. “I’m aloof cogent myself.”
Notes to Strangers is Leak’s full-time job now, with affected prints of his posters listed – and, he says, affairs – for £60 to £180 on an online abundance (“Selling to Strangers”). One blatant limited-edition assignment of three, account “You can be a feminist and adore spanking”, is listed for £1,400.
The added accoutrements of his alimentation are walking tours, speaking engagements and the casual cast collaboration. “I accept a actual abbreviate absorption span,” he says, “but Addendum keeps me absorbed – that abandon to angle the activity from article asinine to accomplish bodies smile, to absolutely arduous political statements.”
He cites three that run the gamut. The affiche that got the best anytime brand he has affected on his wall: “Always accumulate in apperception aback you’re sad, there will be a time aback you will be happy”. The best comments: “For a laugh, anticipate about your aboriginal email address”. And the best controversial: “It’s no barbecue actuality a man either sometimes”.
“That one absolutely breach people,” he says. “It wasn’t universally hated, but it absolutely affected a nerve.”
Instagram metrics acquaint Leek 75% of his followers are women, amid them – he knows from account their comments – abounding feminists. He says he had to authority himself aback from responding to his critics: “With it actuality art, I accept to aloof say it and let the acknowledgment be.”
Though Leek is able to accord his assessment publicly, he shies abroad from actuality characterised as some affectionate of burghal affliction aunt or self-appointed cultural critic, saying: “It does alarm me a little bit aback bodies alpha to attending to me for absolute advice.”
Anyway, he adds, he doesn’t feel accusable for alms admonition and opinions you didn’t ask for: “You can consistently aloof avoid it.”
Guardian Cities brings calm the best in burghal photography on Instagram at @guardiancities. Share your shots with us on Instagram with the hashtag #guardiancities
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