Celebrating 1,000 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’
The latest photos in my photo-journalism project ‘The State of London.’ Check out all the photos to date here!
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Today marks 1,000 days since I began posting a photo a day — on a page I set up on Facebook called ‘ The State of London ’ — from what is now a nearly eight-year archive of photos I’ve taken on bike rides throughout London’s 120 postcodes. The project is also on Twitter here . I began posting a photo a day on May 11, 2017, which was the fifth anniversary of when the project began, on May 11, 2012, so today, Day 1000, also marks 2,826 days since this long journey to record London in all its diversity — of weather, wealth disparity and architecture — began. I haven’t been out on my bike every single day, of course. I’ve been away from the capital for at least a month every year, on various holidays, or work-related trips, and very occasionally, through illness or particularly dreadful weather, I haven’t left the house, but, with these exceptions, I have, on every other day, been out on my bike, in London, come rain or shine, camera in hand (or in pocket, to be accurate). Most days, it would be fair to say, I haven’t travelled beyond my immediate neighbourhood, in south east London, radiating out from my home on a hill in Brockley around the surrounding areas, with a particularly well-travelled route taking me through Deptford to Greenwich and back again. Often, however, I have then travelled east or west along the river — to Woolwich (and sometimes beyond — to Thamesmead, for example), or to Tower Bridge and Bermondsey via Rotherhithe. Other times, I have forged routes that take me through the neighbouring borough of Southwark to the West End or the City, and sometimes from there up to north London via Shoreditch or Hoxton, or I have travelled through Peckham and Dulwich to Brixton (an old haunt) and other locations in south west London. A particularly fruitful route out of south east London has been the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, taking me to the expanse of the Isle of Dogs, with its traditional dockers’ communities largely consumed by the sprawl of Canary Wharf, reborn as a bankers’ paradise under Margaret Thatcher (and Tony Blair), and leading on to the perennially fascinating neighbourhoods of east London — Poplar, Bethnal Green, Bow and Whitechapel, for example, and, further afield, the thriving multi-cultural streets of Upton Park and East Ham. The foot tunnel and Isle of Dogs route also leads, on the east of the peninsula, to Canning Town and Plaistow, and on the west, to Limehouse Basin, where two canals are also regular magnets for my attention — the Limehouse Cut, passing through Bow to Stratford, leading to the Lee Navigation, which, in turn, leads north to Tottenham and Walthamstow, and the Regent’s Canal, which arcs through Hackney to King’s Cross and Camden, eventually joining the Grand Union Canal at Little Venice, and heading west, via Ladbroke Grove, to where the city’s western suburbs give way to the country. Overall, then, this entire project is a journey that, nearly eight years in, has gone from the run-up to the Olympics to the fake conclusion, just four days ago, of the dispiriting Brexit saga that has divided the country in a civil war that — to date at least — has not, thankfully, led to much inter-British violence, although who knows what the future holds? However, while a crystal ball would be needed to assess the future, the pattern of the past becomes clearer with hindsight. The Olympics, which typically bring host cities nothing but debt, social cleansing and housing bubbles, duly deposited all those burdens on London — and the wider UK — while also bequeathing a fevered sense of national pride that duly fed into the Brexit vote four years later, toxically packaged up with jingoism’s great ally, xenophobia. London after the Olympics — and with Boris Johnson as Mayor — became a free-for-all for speculative housing developments, with tall towers of overpriced residential apartments rising up in almost every borough — and with particularly horrific concentrations in waterside locations, especially along the river in the priapic forest of towers rising up from Nine Elms to Battersea, where the reimagining of Battersea Power Station is the most startling example of a dystopian future imagined by property developers. Alongside this, the fabric of London is also being torn asunder by a plague of council estate demolitions, largely introduced by Labour councils, thereby confirming that, since New Labour’s triumph in 1997, our political options consist of nothing more than slightly different shades of neo-liberalism. For councils, the estate demolition programme effects social cleansing, removing poorer residents who are seen as nothing more than a drain on resources, while delivering profits to private developers, and also to the very particular leech of the “social homes” sector — the vast housing associations like Peabody and L&Q that have become largely indistinguishable from private developers. Over the course of the last 1,000 days, I have chronicled, one photo at a time, the changing face of the capital as these developments have been taking place — and the occasional resistance movements that have sprung up in opposition to the estate demolition programme, for example — but I have also tried to capture the diversity of architecture and settlement patterns across the capital, to celebrate nature’s co-existence with humans and their built environment, and to reflect on the changing weather and seasons. I love nothing more than the sunlight that sometimes shines so brightly that it is like a vision, turning whatever it falls on into gold, or the dark clouds that I persistently chase, and that persistently surprise me when I end up soaked to the skin, and I love the city’s trees, water, hills and parks. My journeys began as a way of getting fit after a serious illness in 2011, but while they can be infuriating as permanent reminders of inequality and greed, they also sustain me in ways I never knew were possible — as journeys through a vast organism, where humanity, architecture and geology collide, which also confirm to me that we should all, in general, spend more time outdoors, and preferable on a bicycle, one of humanity’s great inventions. Thanks for being along for the ride — and, although I have made these promises before, I do hope soon to be able to provide details of a fundraiser for a book bringing together the best photos from the last seven years and nine months of cycling around London with a camera. * * * * *
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer , film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers , whose music is available via Bandcamp ). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here ) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK ) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield . He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “ Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo ” (available on DVD here , or here for the US, or you can watch it online here , via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55), and for his photo project ‘ The State of London ’ he publishes a photo a day from seven years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.
In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘ Concrete Soldiers UK ’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘ Grenfell ’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘ No Social Cleansing in Lewisham ’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.
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Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign , and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation .
2020-02-04 | Andy Worthington's photos, London photos, The State of London | English | AndyWorthington