On the road with Jeremy Corbyn – a photo essay

I started photographing Jeremy Corbyn during the leadership contest before the 2015 election. After a short time covering him on the campaign trail, I thought he would do a lot better then people expected. By the time of the next general election, in 2017, I, probably in a minority of one, thought he could win.

Corbyn is quite relaxed with a camera around. When we first met, he would ask: “What do you want? What should I do?” But now he understands I’m not trying to do photocall pictures; I want it to be as if I wasn’t there.


Corbyn and team arrive at the European Commission

  • Arriving at the European Commission in February with (from left) James Schneider, head of strategic communications; Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary; Seumas Milne, director of strategy and communications; and Shami Chakrabarti, shadow attorney general

To start with I didn’t have much special access, but over time I persistently asked to follow him. I don’t think the Labour team ever started to trust me, but they did start to tolerate me.

Jeremy Corbyn about to be interviewed by ITN’s Angus Walker in offices of MEP Richard Corbett in the European Parliament, with Keir Starmer and Shami Chakrabarti

  • About to be interviewed by ITN’s Angus Walker in the offices of MEP Richard Corbett in the European parliament, with Keir Starmer and Shami Chakrabarti, 21 February

Above: Corbyn, with Milne and Schneider in the background, conducts an interview with ITN

Richard Burgon, MP for Leeds East, Corbyn and shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti arrive on the Eurostar for the talks.

Corbyn with Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey before going to meeting with Prime minister May

  • With Starmer and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, before meeting Theresa May to discuss the Brexit deal, 3 April


Corbyn works while waiting for the train on the way back from Morecambe, in March.

I wasn’t expecting him to do the Eric Morecambe pose. I didn’t suggest it. A member of the public asked to do one with him and then he got Lizzi to do one, too. It was very spontaneous.

Corbyn enjoys some seaside fun with Lizzi Collinge, Labour parliamentary candidate for Morecambe and Lunesdale

Corbyn door to door canvasing for Morecambe and Lunesdale

On the train back to London from Lancaster


Corbyn travels to Newport, south Wales, with Diane Abbott

  • Travelling to south Wales with shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, on 30 March, for the byelection campaign following the death of Labour MP Paul Flynn

Corbyn is much more relaxed and open than his minders from the press team. He said to me once, “Oh Sean, are you coming on the train with me?” and suddenly all of his people looked worried; I could see them thinking, “Oh no, don’t invite him – what are you doing?”

Jeremy Corbyn with local candidate Ruth Jones in Newport south Wales

Corbyn prepares to go on stage in Newport


Corbyn makes notes while taking the train to join the Peterborough by election campaign with candidate Lisa Forbes.

He seems very happy and rejuvenated when he’s on the road and appears to prefer it to being in Westminster: I think he feels it’s a bit of a club, an echo chamber. On the road, he seems genuinely engaged, albeit mostly with Labour party members. Perhaps he should go after a few Tories, too.

Jeremy Corbyn and new MP Lisa Forbes in the town centre talking to the press after Labour win

Corbyn returns home after canvassing with local candidate Lisa Forbes in Peterborough


Corbyn chats to pearly kings and queens attending Armed Forces Day in Islington in June

He’s got more energy than I do. I was with him in Hartlepool one day, back in Islington the next: he couldn’t resist popping into a tiny local street festival where there was an Elvis impersonator. Everyone there wanted to say hello to him, even the police officers.

Jeremy Corbyn with Elvis at the Manor Gardens street festival near his home

Jeremy Corbyn visits Finsbury Park Mosque as part of a nationwide visit my mosque open day


Corbyn works on his speech

When he’s preparing a speech, he does very brief notes to himself. It seems like he’s writing prompts. In Tolpuddle, he was making his notes in a porch behind the stage, where a musician had left a guitar.

Jeremy Corbyn with his wife going to the church to lay a wreath on the grave of James Hammett who returned to the village after transportation to Australia

Jeremy Corbyn signs autographs at the festival

Jeremy Corbyn on the march through the village


Corbyn acknowledges applause following his speech to the Labour party annual conference in Brighton in September

I think Corbyn is the only politician I’ve photographed who doesn’t have that lifelong ambition to be prime minister. I’ve never come across anyone like that. All the others, even if there is no possibility of it happening, have that occasional glint in their eye at the thought of “what if?”. For him, agree with him or not, it is all about the policies he deeply believes in; it is not about personal ambition. I think even his enemies would agree with that.

I think he’s a lot more steely and capable than people think. From the little work I’ve done with Boris Johnson, he’s more desperate to be loved than Corbyn; the prime minister seems to get hurt if people don’t like him.

A walkabout on the seafront.

Jeremy Corbyn with shadow chancellor John McDonnell, making an impromptu speech following the news that the supreme court had ruled Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament unlawful

Corbyn and Alvarez wave to the conference audience

London and the south-east

Corbyn address the Climate Emergency demonstration in central London

It’s become harder to get proper time with politicians. Margaret Thatcher was a lot easier to photograph than Tony Blair or David Cameron. They want to stage-manage and control things. With these shots, I feel I got some of those rare candid moments.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn talking on the phone outside his office

Corbyn and celebrities

Corbyn does an interview with Heather Stewart

Corbyn makes last minute preparations to go on stage at the Manchester Apollo


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