Andy Worthington Celebrates Five Years of Photographing London for His Project, ‘The State of London’

12.5.17

A photo from the first day of 'The State of London' photo project, May 11, 2012, of Euromix Concrete, on Deptford Creek, Greenwich, London SE10 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and photographer.

 

Please like ‘The State of London’ on Facebook. Please also note that the photos accompanying this article are all from May 11, and were taken from 2012 to 2017. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Canary Wharf from Rotherhithe, London SE16, on a rainy May 11, 2013 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Five years ago, on May 11, 2012, I began a bike-based project to record London in photos that has ended up with me visiting all 120 of London’s postcodes (those that begin EC and WC, NW, N, E, SE, SW and W), as well as some — but not all — of the areas that make up Greater London, with a population of 8,673,713 in 2016 in the 32 boroughs (and the City of London) that make up the capital.

On these journeys, I have taken tens of thousands of photos of whatever attracts me, architecturally, historically, culturally, as well as photos of the changing seasons and the changing weather, and the changing face of the city as greed and regeneration remake whole swathes of the capital, often in what I regard implacably as an ugly and divisive manner.

A photo from Cutty Sark Gardens, Greenwich, London SE10 looking west towards Deptford and Rotherhithe, with, in the distance, the Shard and the City of London. Photo taken on May 11, 2014 (Photo: Andy Worthington).The project arose as a response to a difficult time in my life. Contracting a rare blood disease in 2011 led to me giving up smoking and piling on the pounds in response. A year after my illness, it was clear that the way I’d been living for five years prior to my illness — and that had largely continued in the year since (although, crucially, with the consumption of sweet and salty fatty things replacing the cigarettes) — was not a healthy way to proceed. My life was too much on a laptop, and largely sedentary, and something had to change.

As a result, I thoroughly reacquainted myself with what was possibly my oldest hobby — cycling, which I began as a child, and which I had always done, although not as regularly as I should have after I began researching and writing (about Guantánamo) on a full-time basis in 2006. I had started cycling regularly around south east London in the early months of 2012, often with my son Tyler, who was 12 at the time, and on May 11, 2012, I decided to start taking photos of my meanderings by bike, and to consciously wander further afield.

Brenchley Gardens, Forest Hill, London SE23 on May 11, 2015, on the route of a railway line from Nunhead to Crystal Palace High Level that was opened by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway in 1865 to serve the Crystal Palace, which finally closed in 1954 (Photo: Andy Worthington).I don’t think that, at the beginning, I had worked out that I would conceive of a plan to visit all London’s postcodes, but gradually that idea dawned, and from autumn 2013 to January 2015 I worked, sporadically, with a web designer, Harry Graham, to create ‘The State of London’, a website for my photos and accompanying essays that I have simply not had the time to develop — yet — but that, in its skeletal form, gives some indication of what I was hoping to achieve.

As I finally try to get the website up and running, check out the Facebook page that I’ve just established, where I’ll be posting some of my work over the last five years on what I intend to be a daily basis.

The Victoria Deep Water Terminal on Greenwich peninsula on May 11, 2016 under a stormy sky (Photo: Andy Worthington).The spring and summer of 2012 was a good time to begin my photo project, as, with ludicrous overkill, all bikes were banned from all trains in the long run-up to the Olympics, so to get anywhere I had to cycle. Since then, I have cycled every day — sometimes for a few hours, sometimes more — managing to visit all 120 postcodes by September 2014, and continuing to visit new places and to revisit old ones ever since. Of necessity, south east London, where I live, has secured the most visits, with north west and west London securing the least number of visits, but although there are geographical imbalances I hope to have built up a worthwhile archive of photos that reflects how much London has changed in the last five years — to quite a surprising degree, I think, as “gentrification” and a largely unfettered world of “luxury” apartment blocks has been priapically climbing to ever more ludicrous heights as Boris Johnson stopped even pretending to care about London’s built environment in his second term as Mayor.

Posters in Deptford, London SE8 on May 11, 2017 warning of the dangers of the Tories prior to the cynically-called General Election on June 8, 2017, which, if there is any justice, will rebound horribly badly on the dismal Theresa May and her "hard Brexit" insanity (Photo: Andy Worthington).These changes, the ridiculous “lifestyle” advertising used to sell these properties, and the language of the market — with its “bespoke” and “boutique” elements — never fails to enrage me, especially as, in recent years, it has also become apparent that part of the way in which new, insanely expensive properties are being foisted on the market is that existing social housing estates are being knocked down on the basis — or under the pretence — that it is unaffordable to refurbish them, a claim that, more often than not, is untrue.

I intend to highlight the blight of the housing bubble and the social cleansing that the demolition of social housing estates is contributing to, along with unregulated rents and endemic greed, in the photos and essays that I’ll be posting as ‘The State of London’ project develops, but I will also make sure that I have time for the beauty of London as well — when the sun shines, in the rain and snow, under the changing seasons, and at night, when, largely devoid of people, it becomes another entity entirely. For my archive of articles about the housing crisis, see here, here, here and here.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride — and please feel free to donate to support my work if it’s of interest.

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 debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for 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).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

5 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, formally launching my photo project, ‘The State of London’, which I’ve been working on for the last five years. Apart from the days I’ve been out of London, I have been cycling around London and taking photos every day, visiting the 120 postcodes that make up the UK capital – plus some of the outlying boroughs that make up Greater London. This introductory article features a photo from the first day of the project, May 11, 2012, and from May 11 on every subsequent year – 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. I hope you enjoy the photos and that you’ll follow ‘The State of London’ here on Facebook, as I continue working to launch the website: https://www.facebook.com/thestateoflondon/

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Pauline Kiernan wrote:

    Looks great, Andy. Sharing. and Liking.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Pauline. Glad you like the look of it. I’ve been waiting for four years to actually have the time to work on this, having always prioritised Guantanamo – and, to a lesser extent, my commentary on the general wretchedness of British politics. But sadly now, with Trump as president, there’s so little happening on the Guantanamo front that I think I can indulge myself a little.

  4. Anna says...

    The pictures are great Andy – both subjects and artistic quality – and actually deserve to have a selection published in a printed book. I just hope that yours are better archived than mine, so that making a choice is possible without having to wonder each time in which file each one can be found :-).
    But even without that it constitutes an amazing testimony of our times and for Tyler one day a treasure trove of shared memories. So keep on with it :-).

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks Anna, for those wonderful, supportive words.
    I do indeed hope to do something in book form at some point – although today I attended DIY Cultures, a great zine fair run by Hamja Ahsan, the brother of Talha Ahsan, who spent six years imprisoned without charge or trial in the UK and was then extradited to the US, which made me think I ought to make some words and images available in zine form: https://twitter.com/DIYCulturesFair
    So I hope my archive is fairly coherent. Some is on an external hard drive some on my laptop, but it’s all dated and it’s not generally too confusing to find photos. However, I have all kinds of loose ages and notebooks providing information about what the photos are of, which isn’t always easy to remember!
    And I’d love to see a book of your Afghan photos one of these days, Anna. I think you have a unique archive!

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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