Industrial London (2017 - 2021)
As a wide-eyed child visiting London from a much, much smaller town in the early 1990s, my first impressions were an incongruent mix of glittering dynamism and wealth, versus urban grit and decay. Back home, I developed a fascination with the city’s geography, memorising the tube map, and mentally superimposing it on the panning intro to EastEnders. Over a decade later, upon moving to London, that grit became intoxicating. I was drawn to the history, from its Roman origins to the impact of the World Wars, and the distinctive patchwork of neighbourhoods that changed purpose and industry through time. That infatuation remains as strong as ever.
While the street - its architecture and objets d’art - are an eternal source of visual inspiration, this selection of images communicates the heart of one’s existence in the city. Looking at the photographs together, a strong theme emerges. I entitled this gallery ‘Industrial London’ because of my fascination for capturing the oft grubby spaces, places and situations that can be overlooked as bleak or ugly, but which are actually the city’s heartbeat. On the one hand, there’s the people: A community going about daily life, playing important roles in cleaning, construction, transportation that often go unnoticed. In a city of nine million, solitude and isolation are ironically prevalent, as well as retaining or losing one’s identity in a (usually) thriving metropolis. On the other hand, there’s the glitz of the showpieces of the city - world icons of arts, music and sport - which are, ultimately, still just places used by the population, a regular part of the cityscape. There’s a sense of being at the centre of the world; yet ordinary life carries on regardless.
My most enduring fascination, however, has been with the Underground. I’ve been in love with the network since my first tube trip. As a child, its distinctive smell and the sparks flying from the rails enthralled me. Many years later, it still does: The corridors and staircases; trains, packed or deserted; variance of human and wildlife behaviour, depending on place and time of day; signage, type, mirrors. Everything about it is magical and alluring, grubby and grimey.
Although I’ve left and returned, and left and returned, London has undeniably imbued me with its grit and determination. At first, as an outsider, one struggles to make one’s way against the strong city current. But in a strange symbiosis, the city has spurred me to forge my way professionally and creatively. My daily constitutionals and commutes, dating from 2017 to now, have yielded these photographs. Since my style of image is usually composed at street level, it’s important to have a camera that is lightweight enough to carry and pull out for an impromptu frame. I’ve shot on SLRs, dSLRs, bridge cameras, point and shoots, and camera phones. The pictures below are a mix of all five.