Instagrammer and south east Londoner Skye O’Neill has won thousands of followers with her photographs of the capital that bring history back to life
Lead image: Skye O’Neil (photo: Warwick Clarke)
Do you ever pass buildings in London and wonder what stories lies behind their shop fronts and wisteria-covered façades? Then you should follow Skye O’Neill on Instagram.
Bursting with images of beautiful buildings in the capital and beyond, her Georgian London page gives followers a glimpse of some of the best architecture the capital has to offer, all with a slice of history on top.
She posts images of different homes, buildings and areas, writing a bit more about their past in the captions. And, given that her follower count is up at 131,000, it’s clear that I’m not the only one that loves the ideas and stories behind her account.
O’Neill tells me it all began when a photo she took of her young daughter on her private account was reposted by editing software company VSCO on their popular Instagram.
‘I was a bit overwhelmed by the attention that it got and it started me thinking that maybe I could have photography as a bit more of a hobby,’ she says. ‘I’d always been interested in it, but had never really pursued it properly and I’m kind of self taught.’
I didn’t expect it to grow beyond more than a couple of thousand people maybe, if I was lucky
This, alongside an interest in history, drove her to start taking and posting photos around Spitalfields in February 2016, settling on the name Georgian London after the beautiful buildings she was seeing.
Her popularity grew quickly with the support of other London Instagrammers featuring her photos, including the wildly popular Pretty City London account. ‘I didn’t expect it to grow beyond more than a couple of thousand people maybe, if I was lucky,’ she tells me.‘
So sometimes it can give you stage fright, thinking “oh god there’s that many people who are going to read what I’ve written or see what I’ve posted”. I think I try to pretend in my own mind that I’m just posting for a small circle of close friends or I just get too freaked out.’
Originally born in Sydney, O’Neill moved to London 13 years ago, living in Spitalfields and Borough before settling in Honor Oak Park with her husband and two young daughters. Now she’s based in south east London, she loves the opportunities that taking photos around this neck of the woods allows.
A quick perusal of her Instagram will introduce you to wisteria-covered houses and cherry blossom in Greenwich, old store fronts in Peckham and beautiful houses in the heart of Dulwich Village, as well as her travels throughout the UK and Europe.
Finding new things is what motivates me. That’s part of why I like south east London, because it feels like it’s a bit underrepresented on Instagram
‘I think sometimes in London it’s difficult to take photos of new things,’ O’Neill tells me. ‘Finding new things is what motivates me. That’s part of why I like south east London as well because it feels like it’s a bit underrepresented on Instagram.’
Before posting, sometimes she’ll research a place and then will know what she’s planning to take a photo of, but other times she’ll see a beautiful building and then find out more about it. And, while not all of her posts have a history hook to them, she always tries to craft her captions into a story, whether it’s a bit about her own life or a fun fact about the building.
‘I think in the beginning it was a bit weird finding a voice for myself,’ she admits. ‘But that’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed about it – just having the confidence to say what I think about things sometimes rather than just feeling like you have to appeal to everybody.
‘But actually thinking, well, if you feel strongly about something or have an opinion about something, that’s not a bad thing. There’s a place for having a voice,’ she finishes, ‘and that’s quite a nice thing to develop as I get older.’