Monthly Archives: August 2011

Wick Village and the Floating Forest

Today was a great day. How often do you get to cruise up-and-down a river – on grass and with a pirate…?

Wick Village comprises a small cluster of houses that line the canalised River Lea in Hackney. There is a green space available to the residents, but it is horribly overgrown and not at all pleasant. Muf Architects specialise in open space architecture. They’re keen to regenerate the area and create an engaging environment for the locals.

Anyone living in the village has a clear line of sight toward the Olympic site and the distance between the two falls far shorter than a decent stone’s throw. Enduring years of unabated construction – on an enormous scale – should be compensated and their space sorted. Only fools fail to recognise the significance of crumbling communities – be it physically and/or psychologically.

In the hope of stimulating the council and its sluggish movements, local support for the initiative is key. To do this, Muf, in collaboration with Floating House Productions and Folly for a Flyover, organised a day out on the river. It was brilliant fun and definitely unexpected.

Welcome to the Floating Forest and Folly

The boat and view of the Olympic site seen from Wick Village

Tom, the 'driver'

The locals, Sylvie and Tereasa

Our resident pirate and Captain Teddy

The Folly

Our young resident

Our youngest resident

The Floating Forest can also be booked for your very own use. Have a look.


Filed under london, photography, reportage, social photography

Failing to Shoot a Riot

NB : This is not a discussion of cause and effect, nor potential remedies. It is merely the ramblings of a young photographer who wants desperately to learn

All of us saw the disturbing scenes broadcast last week. I am sure, then, that the images below are not new, nor are they at all comprehensive. There is little of the flame and fire and unfortunate episodes of looting that have so aptly characterised the UK riots. These omissions frustrate me for now the following images show nothing of the ‘Broom army’, vigilantes, politicians nor those who have lost homes, businesses and cars. They are two hours and two hours only.

Last week’s episode ducked and dived at an extraordinary pace. Keeping up with events was a nightmare; respected news outlets were finding the same difficulties. Twitter had turned into a bird bath of uncensored and, in some cases, rather inflammatory rubbish. According to some tweeters, the Olympic Stadium was engulfed in flames, and to others, the relatively ‘normal’ sound of sirens meant only death and destruction and rioting. Making sense of such public hysteria was made increasingly difficult by the the number of actual flashpoints across the city – and their distance from each other. A car or motorbike was needed and I have neither – yet.

Another facet of my failure – and this is of the greatest significance to me – was the ability to immerse oneself into a seemingly merciless environment. One slip could lead – and in some cases did – to a rather swift and brutal relinquishing of hard-earned equipment. Perhaps even a bashing would result. In any case, the weighing-up of what you hope to achieve by shooting in these environments would always be contrasted against what you are willing to endure. A far more extreme example can be found amongst servicemen and women; neither wish for disfigurement or death but all are willing to take that risk – knowingly or not (?) – in the pursuit of dreams, aspirations and excitement. This was my first ‘dangerous’ environment and I, selfishly or not, wanted to test myself – to see if I could still work under duress.

I arrived on the north side of Hackney Central at 1600. My house is 10 minutes up the road and I have lived in Hackney for three years now. I am very fond of the area. On Monday it was neither homely nor accessible. Initially, I followed a group of riot police about 25 strong. They were understandably anxious and a little on edge. Having realised that I wouldn’t get onto Mare Street, I doubled back and headed towards Clarence Road. It was bizarre. Up the road was a largely balaclava-clad mob that had set up a series of barricades to hinder police movement. They were gearing up for the troubles soon to ensue.

Within 15 minutes of arriving, I bumped into another photographer who appeared more experienced than myself (a simple task in this situation). I followed him to shoot a few photos of fortress Clarence and its occupiers. We moved to within about 20 metres of the burning bins and immediately received a volley of missiles. I dashed to take cover behind some riot vans only to find myself quickly moved away by police. I got back on Clarence Road and there I remained for two hours or so. Had it not been for some very worried friends, I am convinced that I would have stayed. I chose to shoot with a small 50mm and wore scruffy clothes. In light of the obvious atmosphere towards photographers, it was clear that discretion and timing were necessary to avoid a bashing. It was a risk I felt compelled to take and my premature return to safety left me restless, frustrated and slightly on edge. Next time…he says.*

* There is so much to be said about ‘why’ you would or wouldn’t want to watch or simply be around the destruction of people’s livelihoods and outbursts of primal rage. There is most definitely something to be said about witnessing history in the                                                                making – however nauseating that expression can be. These riots are significant. Perhaps something positive can result – or at least be better understood.

What played out in Hackney and other parts of the city and country last week was extreme. It had to be covered and I hope that the images and videos recorded will remain and remind.

Some interesting links:

Jonesblog – a great blog 

All That Life Can Afford – photo essay

The Psychology of Looting – Guardian piece

Dave Hill’s blog on the riots – Guardian

Riot police make their way to Mare Street, Hackney

A father and son watch riot police rush to Mare Street. (re-edit)

North end of Mare Street, Hackney.

Clarence Road, Hackney. This was taken 10 minutes before the chaos

Residents, Clarence Road, Hackney

Hurling a bottle at police about 15m away

The police are only 15m away - and 10-or-so in number

“If you want to understand democracy, spend less time in the library with Plato, and more time in the buses with people.”

Simeon Strunsky

Guardian photo coverage

The riots

The clean-up

The aftermath

Police raids and politicians 

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Filed under freelance photographer, london, news, photojournalism, Uncategorized

The Weekender

Happy, very happy indeed.

I consider this my first ‘proper’ magazine cutting. The Weekender is a Kent focused freemium that looks at lifestyle, food and culture. This is the first issue, and I certainly hope it continues to develop. I love this work.

These pages are ‘rough’ and haven’t yet incorporated print-ready photos, but you get the gist.

I must also thank two very important people, for without their expertise and guidance, I just wouldn’t have had the experience necessary to shoot a piece like this. So many thanks Xenia and Edward!

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Filed under freelance photographer, photo essay, reportage, summer

Festival of the Bicycle, Mabley Green

Welcome to a sun-filled Sunday and bicycles. Yesterday saw Festival of the Bicycle play out on Mabley Green, Homerton. It was a great and eventful afternoon of racing, posing and entrepreneurial excitement.

I am particularly fond of this area. Having spent a super two years here, it was good to be back.

Oh, and I am now horrifically rose-red and my face feels a little warm.

Labour MP Meg Hillier opens the festival


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Filed under freelance photographer, london, news, photo essay, photography, photojournalism, reportage, summer

City and Angel

Earlier this month I faced my first editorial beginner bashing. I somehow believed that I was meeting only the designer to discuss a photo feature on Old Spitalfields Market. This just wasn’t the case, and I soon found myself before a handful of faces, eager to suss me out.

Sat in a small, sweltering glass cage, I fast realised that this was an interview – and I didn’t have my portfolio. Really quite the error that pitched me against the chief photographer. As I was soon to discover, this bloke was only teaching me a few harsh, but very necessary lessons. In the meanwhile, he tore me to shreds. Scary and exciting.

And thank you very much Zest Media. I am now a freelancer for City and Angel magazine.

Here are a few photos for the Spotlight article on Old Spitalfields Market:

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Filed under freelance photographer, london, photo essay, photography, photojournalism, reportage, social photography, summer, Uncategorized