I used to live in the East End, and have been rediscovering the area with my camera. It would have been interesting to see the area before the regeneration had kicked off. However, even seeing the area after the changes have begun, I find it interesting how developers have mixed and blended the old with the new.
Even with the changes, I am drawn to photographing the area in B&W. While many of the buildings have been rebuilt or revamped and upgraded, it still has kept some of character and the memories of the shipping, docks, storehouses and factories of its history.
About a month ago, while photographing in Wapping, I managed to find access to the Thames river bed. The tide was low, and I took the opportunity to make my way down the steps to the river bed and explore.
As a friend from work described it, I felt like I was starting to explore the backbone of London. The Thames has played such an integral part of London’s history and economy for much, if not all of its existence.
The river bed holds the cast offs of history, much of it considered rubbish. However, a man I bumped into had found an old carved pipe used by a sailor. A cast off of one generation is an artefact of another. I felt I was standing amongst a part of London’s history to some degree.
Being below street level also gave me a new perspective of the city. I managed get a few shots of the skyline. However, what really drew my attention were the walls of the river bank, which allowed buildings to be built right up to the river’s edge. These walls tend to be hidden and overlooked by most people.
These moss-covered and water logged walls could probably tell a story or two about the history of London. I found myself drawn to them insomuch as they were very tactile. A viewer can feel them through his or her eyes.
History is often like that. Sometimes hidden and mysterious, but there and ever-present. It’s about the people as well as the environment. Dig a little, and you find the stories and memories of humanity – both the good and the messy. Sometimes we don’t want to see it, but it is there, underneath the surface.
I hope to find some more stairs to the Thames river bed. I want to find some more stories.