Sharing Stories of The West Hendon Estate

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UPDATE: BBC One are screening a documentary film made about the redevelopment of The West Hendon Estate.  It’s called “The Estate We’re In” and it will be broadcast at 10.45pm on Tuesday 15th March 2016. Details here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03lxk60


 

I have been interested in large-scale regeneration projects in the UK for a number of years and have explored this visually through my on-going series Speculate Regenerate.  I have recently embarked on a sideline project and co-founded a new charitable company called Our Yard with three other local residents in my neighbourhood.  Our mission is to protect and restore a set of  Victorian farm buildings which were threatened with demolition under the Brent Cross Cricklewood regeneration.  Although our focus is on the restoration of these historic buildings, we are also very interested in the impacts (both short and long-term) of regeneration projects on existing communities.  In August 2015, Our Yard was commissioned to document the stories of residents living in the West Hendon Estate, NW London – an area currently undergoing a controversial regeneration scheme led by Barnet Council and Barratt Homes.  Our remit was to create a space for local residents to talk openly about their lives on the estate – which brought up stories of belonging, community, resistance and the prospect of a painful uprooting as a result of the regeneration.  The project has resulted in a book of photos and interviews and will hopefully lead to a larger more in-depth series in the future.

West-Hendon-Book_-6I have focussed my Speculate Regenerate project primarily on the built environment and the visible signs of regeneration – boarded up homes, brutalist council housing estate architecture in various states of disrepair and demolition, empty homes in Liverpool.  The approach I have taken is not due to a lack of interest in the human stories but because the standard justification for regeneration and the demolition of homes has usually centred around the inadequacy of the built environment, be it Victorian terraced houses in Anfield or massive housing blocks in the Elephant and Castle.

The Ferrier Estate. Kidbrooke, South East London.
The Ferrier Estate. Kidbrooke, South East London.

This project in West Hendon is a very different body of work – focusing on portraits, the use of existing family photos and interviews with residents about life on the estate. Despite a different approach, there is an important link, for me at least, between the two main facets of regeneration – the ‘renewal’ of the built environment (both positive and negative), and the demolition of homes, the ‘decanting’ of existing communities and the impact this has on people’s lives.

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This project in West Hendon is not a record of every life on the Estate.  To all intents and purposes it is just a snapshot in time. The faces of residents and the stories they tell are an insight into what it is like to live in a home and area deemed to be unfit for purpose and in need of regeneration. It is a study of a community being dismantled and dispersed. The details of each story are unique to each individual, family and location, but the themes contained within them are common to regeneration schemes up and down the country.  It is Our Yard’s hope that this project at West Hendon may lead to similar projects within London and more specifically will include a documentary about the people affected by The Brent Cross Cricklewood regeneration – one of the largest in London and set to last for over 15 years.

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Mitzi Hendy, has lived on the West Hendon estate since 1981.

The Great British Stink – New Exhibition for WaterAid | 6th June – 31st July 2015 [UPDATED – Exhibition dates extended]

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After two months traveling the country working on a project for WaterAid – a public exhibition of my images has opened on the Thames Pathway at London Bridge City Pier. It runs from the 6th June to 31st July (note: originally advertised as ending on the 2nd July), with plans to move to Manchester and the House of Commons later in the year.  See details and directions to the exhibition on WaterAid’s website here. Some of the images from the series are now live on my website here – with more to come.

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My images focus on the history of water infrastructure and sanitation in Britain. The issues that Victorian Britain faced 150 years ago with water borne disease and a lack of basic drinking water and sewerage infrastructure mirror life in many of the world’s poorest countries today. This project seeks to highlight these similarities and to push for greater investment by the British Government in much needed water infrastructure in developing countries.

It has been a fascinating and challenging project for me to work on.  The time scale for production was short but thankfully I had the assistance of some amazing people around the country opening the doors to difficult-to-access locations and helping me to finding interesting and relevant stories.

20-minute exposure of The River Irk, Manchester. This Irk was one of the main arteries of early industrial Manchester. By the early 19th century its banks were lined with fulling mills, dye works, chemical factories, abattoirs and tanneries. It was an open drain for both industrial and domestic waste. Friedrich Engels described it in 1845: “At the bottom [of the channel] flows, or rather stagnates, the Irk, a narrow, coal-black, foul-smelling stream, full of debris and refuse, which it deposits on the lower right bank. In any weather, a long string of the most disgusting blackish green slime pools are left standing on this bank, from the depths of which bubbles of miasmatic gas constantly arise and give forth a stench unendurable.” Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845)
20-minute exposure of The River Irk, Manchester. The Irk was one of the main arteries of early industrial Manchester. By the early 19th century its banks were lined with fulling mills, dye works, chemical factories, abattoirs and tanneries. It was an open drain for both industrial and domestic waste.
Friedrich Engels described it in 1845:
“At the bottom [of the channel] flows, or rather stagnates, the Irk, a narrow, coal-black, foul-smelling stream, full of debris and refuse, which it deposits on the lower right bank. In any weather, a long string of the most disgusting blackish green slime pools are left standing on this bank, from the depths of which bubbles of miasmatic gas constantly arise and give forth a stench unendurable.”
Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845)
Like my previous commission for FotoDocument and Photoworks on Sustainable Water last year – it was a challenge to balance important historical stories and facts with strong and interesting visuals from today. Often it was difficult to weigh up whether to include a really strong story with a weak visual or vice versa.  Sometimes the story is just too important to leave out and sometimes you have to leave out a great image because the story behind it does not fit.

Moreover, WaterAid requested that I shoot the entire series on large and medium format film – which presented challenges and opportunities in equal measure. Sometimes large format is perfectly suited to a time and location.  When I hiked to the top of Raven’s Crag which overlooked Thirlmere Reservoir in Cumbria, there was no other camera that I wanted with me.

View of Thirlmere Reservoir  from Raven's Crag.
View of Thirlmere Reservoir from Raven’s Crag.
However, when I was photographing Lydia Zigomo in a sewer in Farringdon or Hugh Bonneville at Crossness – with multiple setups in low lighting conditions and working to a very short timeframe – shooting large format adds a variety of extra challenges!

Setting up lighting to photograph Hugh Bonneville at Crossness.
Setting up lighting to photograph Hugh Bonneville.

Hugh Bonneville at Crossness. He had an amazing ability for standing perfectly still for 2 second exposures
Hugh Bonneville at Crossness. He had an amazing ability for standing perfectly still for 2 second exposures
It has been a real pleasure to work on this project with Neil Wissink and Laura Summerton and the rest of the team at WaterAid. If you have the time and you’re in London I hope you can go see the exhibition in London Bridge. You will learn lots about the history of water infrastructure and sanitation in Britain and about the incredible work that WaterAid does around the world today. Please add your name to their #Makeithappen campaign.  They are hoping to collect 100,000 signatures to ask the UK Government to make sure the Sustainable Development Goals includes a target to reach everyone, everywhere with taps and toilets by 2030. Sign the petition here.

Lastly – a reminder that I have another exhibition on Water on show.  My work on sustainable water in Brighton & Hove is still being exhibited on Hove Promenade until the end of July 2015.  Go check it out while you can.  Details here.

Series of Sustainable Water for FotoDocument / Photoworks, by Thomas Ball. 2014
Series on Sustainable Water for FotoDocument / Photoworks

Spring 2015 | New Commission for WaterAid

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Happy Easter everyone! I’m excited to announce that I got the go ahead last week for a new commission for WaterAid UK – which has been in the pipeline for several months.  I’ll be producing a new body of work for their Big History Project. I won’t give away all the details now but if you’re interested you can find out more about the wider initiative HERE.  I’ll be shooting my project in April and May 2015 and there will be an exhibition of the work along the Thames in London during the summer.  I will post up lots more details as the project progresses. My series on Sustainable Water for FotoDocument and Photoworks is still on show on Hove Promenade.  If you find yourself down in Brighton & Hove, you still have time to go check it out.  The exhibition is up until the end of July 2015. Details HERE.

Happy New Year // Photo Forum Talk, 8th January 2015

Looking back on 2014 I have been fortunate to work on some really interesting and worthwhile projects. Many thanks to all my clients who I worked with throughout the year, I look forward to working with you again in 2015. Special thanks to anyone who took part in my series on Sustainable Water in Brighton & Hove earlier in the year.  The exhibition of photos from the series is still up on Hove Promenade and will be there until July 2015.

Copyright Nina Emett / FotoDocument
Part of my Sustainable Water exhibition on Hove Promenade.  Copyright Nina Emett / FotoDocument

If you are looking for things to do for free in January, please join me at Photo Forum where I will be presenting my work alongside photographer Jonathan Goldberg at 6pm, 8th January at Calumet Drummond Street. You can find details on the Photo Forum Website here and you can join the Facebook event here.tumblr_static_fbbannerresize.

Sustainable Water / One Planet City Panel Discussion – 24th Oct 2014

Series of Sustainable Water for FotoDocument / Photoworks, by Thomas Ball. 2014

I am taking part in a panel discussion with photographers Sophie Gerard and Murray Ballard, Pooran Desai (founder of Bioregional) and Nina Emett (founder of FotoDocument), on Friday 24th October at The Sallis Benney Theatre 6.30-830pm. I will be discussing my new series on Sustainable Water, and we will be talking more generally about the One Planet City photography commissions in Brighton & Hove.  Do come along if you’re in town, it should be a very interesting discussion. You can book your tickets HERE.

This event is part of The Brighton Photo Biennial 2014.

New series on Sustainable Water at The Brighton Photo Biennial 2014

Series of Sustainable Water for FotoDocument / Photoworks, by Thomas Ball. 2014I have been busily working on my One Planet City commission for Fotodocument and Photoworks on Sustainable Water in Brighton and Hove.  It’s been a great project to work on, as I’ve been given access to photograph in some really interesting locations and met some fascinating people working in water conservation and recycling.

Series of Sustainable Water for FotoDocument / Photoworks, by Thomas Ball. 2014

The selected images from the series have now been sent off to the team at Spectrum who are producing the prints for my exhibition, which will be fitted into custom-built outdoor displays on Hove Promenade. The exhibition will run as part of the Brighton Photo Biennial and will be on show for 10 months from October 2014 until July 2015. The exhibition is being specially designed by Standard8 and my images will be printed with specialist UV inks so they can withstand the sun, wind and rain on the south coast.

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There will be a bus tour around the 10 exhibitions that make up the series, with talks by each of the photographers about their work.  I will be doing a talk on the inner city route and you can book your tickets at the Eventbrite page here. http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/one-planet-city-fotodocument-bus-tour-tickets-9674800589

I will also be taking part in a panel discussion about the series on Friday 24th October. You can book a place to attend here.

[UPDATE: 05/10/14] The series is now live on my Website here.

Alongside this I’ve been working on variety of editorial and commercial assignments.  Here’s a tearsheet from a recent shoot in July for Libération of artists from London-based music label Hyperdub.

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Hyperdub, published in Libération
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(L-R) DVA, Kode9 (founder of Hyperdub) and Ikonika

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I managed to get away from work for nearly 3 weeks in August and went on a cycling and camping trip with friends from Strasbourg to Venice – traveling through France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. Below is a collage of just a few of the photos I took along the way. Despite a few soggy days of wind and rain at the start of the trip, we had a fantastic time and got to see some beautiful towns off the beaten track.  The cycle trip also gave me an opportunity to finish reading Jaron Lanier’s fascinating book Who Owns the Future?  It’s a heavy going read at times, but it’s well worth persisting with, as he offers some interesting opinions on the future of creative industries (including photography) and how the internet and networks are impacting all our lives.
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“Regenerating Capital” at Roca London Gallery 2nd June – 23rd August

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I am exhibiting some work from my Speculate Regenerate series at a group exhibition entitled Regenerating Capital. The exhibition is being held at the Roca London Gallery designed by Zaha Hadid, and is part of the London Festival of Architecture.  It runs from the 2nd June till the 23rd August 2014.  More details here.

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Fotodocument / Photoworks Commission

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I have been awarded a great commission for FotoDocument and Photoworks in Brighton, working in partnership with BioRegional and Brighton & Hove City Council.  The project will focus on the One Planet Living Principle of Sustainable Water, and the images will be exhibited as part of the Brighton Photo Biennial 2014.  

Find out more information in the press release here.