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London 2012

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Every city has its clichés and London is no exception. But beyond the bobbies, red telephone boxes and telegenic young royals, lies a real city that is just as easily toured as St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey. All you need do is hop on a city bus. It’s an approach adopted by photographer George Georgiou for his series Invisible: London, which explores the city’s outer reaches, from Clapton Pond to North Greenwich to Crystal Palace. Georgiou, a Londoner who returned to the city after living abroad for eight years, snapped passing cityscapes and people at bus stops, recording the day-to-day actions that most people simply ignore.

The idea of photographing from buses presented creative benefits. “I kind of like the idea of the reflections and the layering,” says Georgiou, noting that it was not unusual to see Victorian houses with Indian shops tucked underneath. But it also had its challenges. “There’s a lot of dirty glass in London,” he says. Georgiou set out specifically to ride all of London’s routes, exploring places that were only familiar as far-off bus line terminations like Morden and High Barnet. And while he did not intend to train his camera primarily on down-and-out neighborhoods, he found well-heeled areas and people more difficult to capture. “Wealthy people walk differently,” he says, adding that they are generally more private in public and don’t spend as much time lingering on the streets and at bus stops. Moneyed neighborhoods also tended to have more mature trees and greenery, screening pedestrians and houses from Georgiou’s lens. People living in less affluent areas, by contrast, were exposed in a desert of asphalt.

To be sure, London’s council estates and suburbs lack the obvious appeal of its famous monuments. But Georgiou says the city is defined as much by transition as tradition. While familiar characters like the working class woman (“London Bus No. 145. Ilford to Dagenham Asda”) remain, large numbers of immigrants contribute to ceaseless cultural change in the city. The outer reaches of London may be invisible, but there’s no doubting that they are real.

George Georgiou is a UK-based photographer. See more of his work here.

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U.S. Olympic athletes, including Michael Phelps, Allyson Felix and Dana Vollmer, show off their skills during a portrait session with photographer Lucas Jackson in Dallas. Read Lucas’ behind the scenes account here.

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Like the athletes he photographs, Finlay MacKay will go to any length to get the result he wants. Boat too unstable to get a shot of the two-man crew team practicing up-river? The Scotsman jumps into the freezing water with a $60,000 camera to get the right angle. Dead calm on the day he’s slated to shoot a sailing crew? MacKay talks the team into wearing wetsuits and wading in and out of the icy bay instead. Didn’t get the right expression on David Weir’s face? MacKay tries again and gets cursed at by the paralympian’s fellow athletes for standing in the middle of their training zone and slowing their times.

MacKay is one of a handful of lensmen commissioned by London’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG) to work on Road to 2012, a three-year project that aims to highlight the journey to next summer’s Olympic Games. The exhibition showcases both the athletes and behind-the-scenes players who are working to make the event a success.

The London-based photographer—who earned the crew coach’s grudging respect and a case of hypothermia—not only captured the physical action, but managed to document the moments of emotional intensity as well. In one sitting, Weir’s coach, Jenny Archer, opened up to MacKay about her mother’s recent death, even as he was pointing the camera intently at her.

The experience of photographing these lesser-known athletes, who train in their backyards and fight for space in local gyms, was markedly different than the pro-athletes MacKay has shot for Nike, Adidas and the New York Times. Of the big names he’s worked with—including Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt—the photographer said, “They’re so well honed, they’re like machines.”

But machines with only 10 minutes, an entourage and a publicist– who has a schedule to keep– tapping her foot. In contrast, with the athletes from the NPG project, MacKay found himself drinking tea around the kitchen table, meeting parents and photographing them over the chatter of kids arriving for their gymnastics class at the local gym. There were all so generous with their time,” says MacKay. “One athlete practiced his tae-kwon-do kick for me over and over.”

The project has evolved from MacKay’s early shots, which paired coach and athlete in the same frame, to simply framing parallel portraits. He coaxed swimmers, boxers and rowers out of their shells to give an unsparing look at the sacrifices these athletes make in pursuit of gold. ”It wasn’t just about getting them to do a sport,” says MacKay. “It was also about getting them into a space and landscape, so you get the narrative quotient.”

Finlay MacKay’s last cover story for TIME was on the Arab Spring “The Generation Changing the World.” You can see more of his work here

Road to 2012 is on display at London’s National Portrait Gallery through Sept 25. The series is also online here

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