‘Lives on the Living Wage’ - New photography exhibition unveiled in London for Living Wage Week

The Living Wage Foundation is unveiling a photography exhibition to celebrate people earning the real Living Wage and employers who choose to pay a real Living Wage to their direct and third-party staff. 

The photo exhibition will be displayed during Living Wage Week, the annual celebration of the Living Wage movement, which is held between 6th-12th November.  

The exhibition will feature portraits of 10 workers and community leaders, which are accompanied by their personal stories of being on low pay and what earning a wage based on the cost of living means to them. It also celebrates the household names - ‘iconic employers’ who choose to pay a real Living Wage to their direct and third-party staff, such as the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust, IKEA and Mercato Metropolitano.

The photographs were taken by Cian Oba-Smith and Andreia Afonso. 

Cian Oba-Smith is a London based photographer whose previous work includes ‘A Quiet Prayer’, a record of London in the first lockdown during the Covid 19 pandemic and Andover & Six Acres, an interrogation of the negative stereotypes placed upon the estates in North London. He has worked for Google, Nike, Guardian Weekend, Airbnb, The New Yorker, Netflix, Vice, Shelter, Amazon Prime and BBC Radio 4 and has been featured in various publications including Paper Journal, The Guardian and Dazed & Confused. In 2022 he was selected for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize.

Andreia Afonso, is a documentary and portrait photographer and videographer based in London and a student at University of the Arts London. She has worked for Elite Models during London Fashion Week, the Mayor of London, Transmedialle Festival and many others.

Where to find it:

Dominika and Lucas, IKEA

Dominika and Lucas Ikea

Dominika is People and Culture Administrator at IKEA having started her career on the shop floor as a sales co-worker; and Lucas is Customer Services Manager at IKEA, they both work at the Croydon branch of the popular Swedish furniture and homeware store. 

Currently the largest retailer signed up as a real Living Wage employer, IKEA pay a real Living Wage to all their staff as they view their people as their most valuable asset and believe that having happy co-workers means that customers have a better experience when shopping with them. IKEA are keen to use their status as a large employer, and their positive experience of paying a real Living Wage, to encourage other businesses and organisations in the UK to sign up to become accredited Living Wage employers.

Sergio, Mercato Metropolitano

Sergio, Mercato Metropolitano, Living Wage photo exhibition photo

Sergio is Assistant Manager of Mercato Metropolitano's Mayfair site, a food-hall cultural hub and sustainable community market.

"It is important that a real Living Wage is paid for several reasons. First, it guarantees a decent standard of living for workers, enabling them to meet basic needs such as food, housing, education and health care without financial hardship and stress. 

A Living Wage can reduce economic inequality, improve people's quality of life and stimulate the local economy as workers will have more resources to spend. 

Furthermore, it promotes a more stable and satisfying working environment, contributing to a more motivated and productive workforce. Finally, supporting a Living Wage is also an important step towards social justice, ensuring that every individual is treated with dignity and respect in the world of work."

Anna and Jacky, London Ambulance Service

Anna and Jacky, London Ambulance Service

Anna said: “I’m so pleased that we are paid a real Living Wage as it really makes a difference to our quality of life living in London. Bringing our roles in-house and being paid the Living Wage makes us feel valued and recognised for the work we do to restock, re-fuel and clean our ambulances so our medics are ready to care for Londoners as soon as they start their shift.”

Jacky said: “We work around the clock to ensure our ambulances are in perfect condition and our crews can provide the best possible care for our communities. Being paid the Living Wage means I can enjoy the opportunities that come with living in London whilst training to be a social worker and help some of the most vulnerable people in the capital.”

Doris, cleaner and Community Leader

Doris - Photo exhibition

"I am paid the living wage. Thousands of people in my community are not, and it makes me angry. We all have a right to fair pay that can be the basis of security and happiness for us and our families. Living Hours is so important too – it’s one thing to have a decent hourly rate but we also need the security of a fixed number of hours of work so we can plan our lives."

Gina Rodriguez, House Keeper, IAG Practitioner and Community Leader

Gina - Living Wage Photo exhibition

This is her experience of the importance of a real Living Wage:

"I could afford £10 a week for groceries so I was surviving on staple foods like plain rice, which I would get for 30p. I was used to eating on a budget and regularly relied on large yoghurt pots for 80p or £1 burger vouchers. Every day, I felt like I was losing money, losing weight and losing sleep.

Thankfully, in the last few years, my life has started to change. Now, I run my own business helping members of my community with their employment problems and explaining their rights. With the cost-of-living crisis, too many low-paid workers are worrying about whether they can afford to turn the heating on during winter or if they’ll be able to afford groceries. This shouldn’t happen in one of the richest cities in the world. So I will continue to fight, including by sitting on the Making London a Living Wage City Steering group, because people like me deserve a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work."

Michael Lascelles, Health and Social Care Worker

Michael Lascelles - photo exhibition

Michael is a frontline worker at Enabled Living Healthcare, here he shares his experience of earning a real Living Wage:

"At times it can be equally challenging and rewarding working in health and social care, but being paid the London Living Wage and a fixed salary not only means I can plan ahead, but it also motivates me to be productive because I know my time and work is being valued by my employer. My kids can’t believe I’m at work. I go to work happy and return feeling the same. I feel like I am breaking the cycle and creating opportunities for my children to reach their potential. All because of a fair wage.”

Sallie Baker, Unite Branch Secretary

Sallie - photo exhibition

"I am a hospitality worker, ex-striker and now Branch Secretary for Unite Hotel Workers and Vice Chair of the Hospitality Combine. The real Living Wage should be a baseline for any London employer. 

With rents rising and workers being forced further out with longer commutes and higher fares, its time to demand a wage that covers the basics such as rent, travel, food and also allows for savings, successful loan/mortgage applications and the holidays we see our CEOs taking. To be working 50+ hour weeks and still not being able to live is not 'working'. It's not about greed, it's about basic needs."

Angela Fields, Community Leader, Custom House Workers Co-op

Angela - Photo exhibition

Angela is the founder of the Custom House Workers' Co-operative, of her experience of campaigning for the real Living Wage, she says:

"When I first moved to Custom House, low pay was everywhere. I was getting offered a zero-hour contracts which was no good to me as I live in temporary accommodation with the high rent cost.  When I did find work, it wasn't paid at the London Living Wage and sometimes the distance you'd have to travel would mean spending most of your money on travelling anyway. It was tough just being able to live.

I got involved with the Living Wage Campaign because I met a community organiser with Citizens UK and that was how I got involved with the Living Wage Campaign. I'm one of the founding members of People Empowerment Alliance for Custom House now, and it was where the idea to set up the Custom House Worker's Co-op came from."

Photo exhibition social media post

Where to find it:

Where to find it:

Opening times:

  • Monday 6th November - (4pm-9pm)
  • Tuesday 7-10th November - (8am-9pm)
  • Friday 11th November - Somerset House (8.30am-10pm)

Please note - this exhibition is open to all, entry is free and no booking is required. The Eventbrite page is for reference only and you will not be required to show a ticket.

Sponsors logos

Find accredited Living Wage Employers using our map.

Many Living Wage businesses with logos in window