AYLESBURY & HEYGATE ESTATES PROJECT (ELEPHANT & CASTLE, LONDON) – INITIAL PHOTOGRAPHS

AN ANTHROPOLOGICAL EXPLORATION

Some months back I was at a party and chatting to my good friend Dave Yates who is embarking on a PHD in Anthropology.  We were chatting about his research project and field studies and how Photography could play a role in the process.  The idea was muted that I could explore the areas he was investigating, take some photographs and see how this could feed into his research.

You can read about Dave’s studies on his blog ‘All Comments Appreciated’ and follow him on Twitter @DrEd101.

Following numerous emails and much reading of some rather heavy academic essays on how people view their local space and society, we finally settled on a date for me to travel up to London Town and shoot some pictures. The idea being it would start a potential collaborative process between us that would assist his research as well as produce a stand alone photographic project in its own right.

AYLESBURY & HEYGATE ESTATES

The area he is looking at is the Aylesbury Estate and Heygate Estates in Elephant and Castle, London. For those who are not aware, the Aylesbury Estate is one of the largest housing estates in Europe – it is vast with a population of over 10,000.  It is also one of the most notorious estates in Britain – a classic ‘sink’ estate which was designed and built to house some of the poorest families in London.  It was also the setting for Tony Blair’s 1997 Election Campaign and how New Labour would tackle poverty.

Alongside Aylesbury sits the Heygate Estate – which also enjoys a reputation as one of the roughest estates in the country – with high crime rates and urban decay.  The whole area has been earmarked for regeneration and the Heygate residents have been moved on and the building has started to be pulled down.

I won’t go into too much detail about the area as it has been written about numerous times and there is much information available – for those interested in learning more, here are some useful links:

Aylesbury Estate Wikipedia page

Aylesbury Estate regeneration news

Heygate Estate Wikipedia page

The Death of a Housing Ideal (Guardian Article)

These are just a few key pieces of information – a google search will bring up numerous sites and reports about the area, its history and regeneration.

My task, however, was to spend a day in this region photographing it in whatever way I saw fit.  As such, my chosen method was to go in fairly blind.  Apart from a small amount of investigation, I did not know much about these places prior to visiting and felt this would produce more interesting and balanced shots.

Below you will find my initial edit of the photographs I took.  I shot several hundred and below is quite a big edit, but I felt they are all quite interesting photographs and worth sharing. Rather than say any more, I will let the images speak for themselves, however, I will share with you my journal notes written whilst on the train up.

JOURNAL ENTRY – JOURNEY UP TO LONDON

On a crowded train to London to Photograph the Aylesbury Estate with/for/because of Dave.
The idea was muted some time ago during a conversation at a party & following much procrastination – it is now happening.
Aylesbury Estate, The Heygate & surrounding areas are the subject of his studies towards an MA/Phd in Anthropology.  What exactly he is looking at…I don’t know!  From what I have read & various conversations, I think it is identity of place and how those identities change over time & with regeneration etc.
I was keen to enter the process ‘blind’ to an extent.  Explore the area, shoot it and then review the images with him to (hopefully) in some way accompany or assist his investigations & studies.
What do I know of the area? Very little. I know it is a key sink estate and one Blair visited as part of his election campaign in the 90’s.
I started to research a bit about the estate, but all I saw was negative news – including muggings, gangs & poverty. I quickly stopped reading not wanting to 1) influence my choice of shot before seeing the place & 2) so I didn’t think myself into a state of anxiety over what could happen!
In reality, you have to experience things for yourself & go on your own instincts.  So, besides minimising what I have on me – an expensive camera is enough to make me stand out – I am entering this assignment blind & ignorant as to what to expect and very much as myself.
I hope it is as photographically interesting as I hope.

INITIAL EDIT OF IMAGES

Below is my first real edit of the images I took on the day.

NOTES – there are 28 images here, so I suggest you let the page load the click on the first image to view as a slide-show.  The titles given to the images are just my initial ‘note titles’ which act as a reminder to me of what the photographs are of.

JOURNAL ENTRY – JOURNEY BACK TO BRIGHTON

A day without notable incident other than enjoyment and inspiration! Took about 200 images in & around the area that DY is studying and really enjoyed it.
Despite the brief research I did in advance throwing up horror stories about crime, muggings, council workers refusing to go there etc – I felt quite safe on the whole!
Either naivety of proof that media soundbites only focus on the most sensationalist and newsworthy topics.  I admit to being a bit apprehensive before going because of these stories – I even wondered if I should dress a certain way etc, but decided it was unnecessary. It is funny how you can get sucked into a stereotype even when trying to keep a clear mind.
The area is photographically very rich – the Aylesbury Estate fascinating in a modernist architectural way and socially interesting too. Heygate is just great and the highlight was certainly venturing into this abandoned edifice of social housing.
I am pleased it went well and pleased I felt comfortable there as this will drive my confidence and images on the next visit.
Mostly it seemed like an estate like any other – just massive and with a good sense of community!
A very rewarding day.

 

My thanks for Dave for his initial suggestion at my involvement – I am looking forward to a second visit and will keep posting up my results as they come!

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