Celebrating 1,000 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’

4.2.20

The latest photos in my photo-journalism project ‘The State of London.’

Check out all the photos to date here!

Please feel free to support ‘The State of London’ , for which I receive no funding other than via the support of readers. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

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.

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, The Complete Guantánamo Files, 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.

13 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, marking 1,000 days since I began posting a photo a day here on Facebook, on ‘The State of London’ page, drawing from what is now a nearly eight-year archive of photos taken on bike rides around London’s 120 postcodes, in which I record the latest upheavals and changes in the life of this great city, particularly involving the depredations of the housing development industry, the cty’s shopfronts and neighbourhoods, its nature, via rivers, canals, trees, parks and hills, and its more ephemeral aspects as reflected in the changing weather and the seasons.

    Coming soon, hopefully: a crowd funder for a book of photos. Do let me know if that’s of interest!

  2. Jane Ecer says...

    This project has been amazing and I wish I’d discovered it sooner … living in Turkey I miss the city of my birth … I lived and worked in many different areas … born in Islington but brought up in Streatham … I lived and worked in Tooting, Clapham, Bethnal Green, Leytonstone and the Isle of dogs. Your photos and attention to detail are second to none … a book of it all is a great idea … I love London and you clearly do as well … thank you

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the lovely tribute to London, Jane. I’m glad my photos are bringing it back to life for you. Thanks also for recognising how much I love my adopted home city, where I’ve been living for nearly 35 years! I sometime forget how much I love it when I’m cycling around, confronted by so much evidence of its current mismanagement, but I really do!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Shelley James wrote:

    100% interested in a book!I think I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in Walthamstow and how I wished I had photographed a lot of the parts I knew and loved, as a lot of it is gone now. Some changes have been positive and welcome and others not. So I would buy your book for sure. I’m not one to hold onto the past generally but I feel acknowledging our past has it’s place and especially if we’re to learn from mistakes in the future. Considering much of London is becoming bland a book might be all that ends up left documenting what a diverse place it once was.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the support, Shelley – and for your assessment of the current state of the capital.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Melani Finn wrote:

    So many amazing photos here Andy. What an archive!

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the support, Melani!

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Toia Tutta Jung wrote:

    Congrats with the so far 1000 photos, Andy Worthington! I like the way you tell the stories behind the pictures, and you are a great photographer. 👏👏👏👏

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you very much for your wonderfully supportive words, Toia!

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Peter Morris wrote:

    Count me in on the Crowdfunder Andy!
    My financial or other support is long overdue!
    Times is hard times is hard…
    I’m sure you understand 😉

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    I do, Peter. Thanks for your constant interest in the photos – and hopefully I’ll get onto this crowd funder soon!

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Louise Sarah wrote:

    Ooh, I would buy the book!

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Excellent, Louise. Great to hear from you.

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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