3,000 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’

30.7.20

Some of the most recent photos from ‘The State of London’ on Facebook, where I post a photo a day from eight years of photos taken on bike rides around the capital.

Check out all ‘The State of London’ photos here!

Please feel free to support my work on ‘The State of London’, for which I have no institutional funding. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

My photo-journalism project ’The State of London’ has just reached a noteworthy milestone — 3,000 days since I first consciously went out on my bike, on May 11, 2012, to cycle around London taking photos to chronicle the fabric of London and the many changes wrought upon it, beginning with the upheaval that attended the capital’s role as the host city of the 2012 Olympic Games. I began posting a photo a day on Facebook on the fifth anniversary of that first trip, on May 11, 2017, and have been posting a photo a day for the 1,176 days since.

In the eight years since, I have taken many tens of thousands of photos, covering all 120 of London’s postcodes in the 241 square miles of the London postal district (those beginning EC, WC, W, NW, N, E, SE and SW), with a particular focus on central London — the City (EC1 to EC4) and the West End (WC1, WC2 and W1), and the immediate surrounding postcodes (SE1, SW1, NW1, N1 and E1) — and with other clusters of repeated activity in the whole of south east London, where I live, in east London, most readily accessed via the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, and in parts of south west London — particularly, it seems, Brixton, Vauxhall and Battersea and Chelsea — and west London; especially Paddington, Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove.

These 3,000 days have not only been a way of keeping physically fit; they have also played a major role in ensuring some sort of mental equilibrium amidst the general chaos of the state of the world — even if some aspects of ‘The State of London’ have added to my sense of rage rather than placating it; in particular, the colossal and colossally expensive construction projects that have transformed the city to an alarming degree over the last eight years.

Some of these, particularly in the City and Canary Wharf, are office-based, but mainly they are housing projects that are either largely private and astonishingly unaffordable for ordinary hard-working Londoners, or replacements for existing council estates that involve social cleansing, and a mixture of private housing and alleged “social” homes that are actually much more expensive to rent than the council homes that they have replaced.

This is a picture that has been repeated across London — and that was given an adrenaline boost as a result of the Olympics, which, as I recently wrote, “cost £8.77bn, an extraordinary amount for a country suffering swingeing cuts to public services because of a cynical ‘age of austerity’ introduced by the Tories two years before”, and which “also permanently inflated property values, in an already hideously over-priced capital, and contributed to the excessive jingoism that eventually fed into the ill-advised 2016 Brexit referendum and its catastrophic result.”

In addition, approval for almost any kind of development was promiscuously approved by Boris Johnson, when he was the Mayor of London (from 2008 to 2016), a time of extraordinarily inept leadership to which Johnson is now subjecting the entire county as an extraordinarily inept Prime Minister.

Over the last five months, of course, ‘The State of London’ has been transformed, after the arrival of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, led to a lockdown that, for a while, saw empty roads everywhere, as most work and economic activity stopped in a successful — albeit criminally belated — effort to prevent the virus from spreading uncontrollably.

Throughout this period, I continued to cycle and take photos, building up what I think is a rare if not entirely unparalleled portrait of an empty London; and, in particular, an empty West End and an empty City of London (see here for a ‘My London News’ article featuring some photos from that time).

Gradually, over the last month, since “non-essential” shops were allowed to reopen, people have returned to the West End, although in nothing like the numbers that previously sustained the entire hectic, greedy — and, it should be noted, environmentally unsustainable — edifice of 21st century London. International tourism has, however, not reemerged, and nor, for the most part, has the world of office work, and while this has dealt what looks like a relatively slow mortal wound to the West End, it has left the City like a ghost town, with — still — almost no one in the empty canyons between its now pointless glass towers.

There is a poetic justice to all of this, I’m pretty sure, but it has also, ironically, allowed the buildings themselves — both in the City and the West End — to be appreciated much more intensely than before, and, after 120 days straight of posting a photo a day on Facebook from my lockdown journeys, I continue to chronicle this extraordinary and unprecedented time in the capital’s history, with no clear idea of what the future holds.

Whatever it is, I intend to be there to record it, as my daily bike rides, and the central area I mentioned at the start of this article, which consumes most of my time, has become like a part of me, or I have come a part of it, a perennial wanderer — or a cycling flâneur, as a friend once described me — forever roaming an urban landscape that is like my nervous system, or the vessels that pump life through me.

I’m glad to have you along for the journey, and I’m pleased to be able to announce that I’m currently looking into getting a book published, and am also very interested in setting up a website, and having an exhibition, so if you know a sympathetic and affordable web designer, and if you know of any good printing deals and/or galleries that might be interested in showing my work, please do get in touch.

* * * * *

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 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 eight 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.

One Response

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, marking 3,000 days since I first set out on my bike on a daily basis – on May 11, 2012 – to take photos of the changing face of the capital for a project that became known as ‘The State of London.’

    On the fifth anniversary of the start of the project, I began posting a photo a day on Facebook, where I have now posted 1,176 photos, but it all began over eight years ago, in the run-up to the 2012 Olympic Games, which were instrumental in unleashing a wave of property-based greed in London, and, nationally, launched a wave of patriotic fervour that eventually led to the EU referendum in 2016 – and its disastrous outcome.

    For the last five months, of course, the capital has changed in an unprecedented manner, in response to the arrival of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and I have been out every day recording this extraordinary period in the capital’s history, particularly in the West End and the City, which have been particularly hard hit by the lockdown that has dealt the most enormous blow to the economy in our lifetimes.

    What the future holds is still unknown, but I will be out on my bike recording it, and I’m glad to have you along for the ride.

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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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