Celebrating 1,400 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project, ‘The State of London’

10.3.21

The latest photos posted in Andy Worthington’s photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London.’

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Today marks 1,400 days since I first began posting a photo a day — and accompanying essays — on my Facebook page ‘The State of London’, and I’m delighted that it has continued to grow in popularity, so that I now have over 4,300 followers, plus many more who follow the daily posts on my own Facebook page.

It now seems like another age since I first set out on my bike to chronicle the changing face of London in photos, in May 2012, exactly five years before I started posting a photo a day on Facebook. As I drew on the archive I’d built up for my daily posts — choosing a photo from each successive day, but from any of the years since the project started — the London of the second decade of the 21st century was a recognisable beast; sometimes charming, sometimes infuriating, a place where the gulf between the rich and the poor continued to grow at an alarming pace, and a place that has been invaded and occupied by predatory developers, building skyscraper office blocks that were not needed, and dense forests of residential tower blocks that were unaffordable for most hard-working Londoners, while selling off existing estates of social housing to be knocked down for further profits.

In terms of my photography and my research, the project has seen huge developments. After using simple point-and-shoot cameras at the beginning, I invested in a superior example, the Canon PowerShot G7X Mk II, two years ago, which transformed my photography, and I also began devoting more and more time to the text accompanying the photos, which, in the early days, had often been quite cursory.

And then, of course, Covid arrived, transforming the capital as never before in our lifetimes. Suddenly there was a rift in time — the pre-Covid years, which seemed like a distant, untouchable dream — and the reality of lockdowns, an apocalyptically empty City and the West End, and the overlapping realities of a combined medical, political, economic and social crisis taking place under an unprecedentedly useless government.

For 121 days straight, from March 18, when the pubs first closed, through to July 16, I was out on my bike every day, documenting the largely empty capital in those first few months, the green spaces that drew people in as the city basked in an extraordinary (albeit environmentally troubling) heatwave, the sudden resurgence of protest via Black Lives Matter, and the partial return of what looked like pre-Covid normality from June 15, when “non-essential” shops were allowed to reopen.

From July 17 through to December 20, as the lockdown was eased and then reimposed throughout November, I continued to chronicle London’s Covid reality, interspersed with sometimes poignant photos from the pre-Covid years, and as the third lockdown has shut down normal life once more, in a particularly isolating manner because of a winter that has often been quite harsh, I have been out for 80 days straight (with the exception of seven days in late January and early February when I was self-isolating because my wife had Covid), often struggling to overcome an enervating sense of Groundhog Day as I have undertaken by now familiar circuits from my home in south east London into the City and the West End and back, often interacting with other human beings only when visiting Gregg’s for lunch, to continue building up what is now, very nearly, a chronicle of a year of London’s difficult Covid experience.

Throughout this time, I have reflected on the lessons that could — and should — be learned, have watched gobsmacked as developers have resumed working on buildings that have no purpose, and to engage in the environmentally unforgivable demolition of existing buildings for new developments — patterns of behaviour that have gone from being deluded pre-Covid (ignoring the need for environmental responsibility and the crushing impact of Brexit) to being almost unutterably incomprehensible, a zombie industry unable to recognise its own redundancy.

What will come next is anyone’s guess. I hope for the creative re-use of empty skyscrapers in the City, and rents crashing in the West End so that penniless but vibrant entrepreneurs can take over from the dull corporate chains that made central London, pre-Covid, increasingly bland and overpriced. What we also need, of course, is politicians with vision — obviously not to be found in the current government — to address the tsunami of unemployment that Covid has also brought with it.

Will this happen? I can’t say, but I fully intend to be out on my bike chronicling whatever does happens in the coming months, as we see whether or not the government’s lockdown easing roadmap progresses as intended, and I hope you’ll be with me.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer (of an ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’), 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 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).

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.

5 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, marking 1,400 days since I began posting a photo a day, with accompanying text, on my Facebook page ‘The State of London’, from my nearly nine years of photos taken on daily bike rides throughout the capital, with particular reference to the last year that I have spent photographing and reporting on London under Covid.

    Many thanks to everyone who has been taking an interest in this project, a labour of love chronicling this “sometimes charming, sometimes infuriating” city, “a place where the gulf between the rich and the poor has continued to grow at an alarming pace, and a place that has been invaded and occupied by predatory developers.”

    I hope for a better future. The people of this great city with its long, long history deserve better than what politicians and profiteers have delivered in the first two decades of the 21st century.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Anna Giddings wrote:

    Amazing Andy and I do love seeing your posts about this dear old town. Since lockdown I’ve seen more of it than I did before as we have more time to look. Thank you.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the supportive words, Anna. Great to hear from you.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Mohammed Zakaria wrote:

    Andy, thanks for documenting. These images will be useful for future generations to understand this period of time in history.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the supportive words, Mohammed. Good 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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