Photography Exhibition | Residual Traces
A GROUP EXHIBITION CURATED BY BRIDGET COAKER, TROIKA EDITIONS
27 JULY – 7 SEPTEMBER 2012
“Cities need to have holes in them. Places where they can breathe – a valve where the unexpected can be let out” (Silke Dettmers).
Residual Traces brings together six photographic projects, each of which has engaged with the consequences of the London 2012 Olympic Games coming to one of the most deprived areas of London, the Lea Valley. This secret pocket, loved by the locals but little known to the rest of London, was an untamed part of the East End where golfers and quad bikes played next to gasometers and scrap yards, and where giant weeds dominated the river bank. The hinterland of sprawling post-industrial wilderness, an enclave with an eclectic social mix of young artists, street gangs and run down council estates, was characterised in 2007 as a “ragged hole in the city?s fabric” (Andy Beckett, The Guardian).
Five years on the area has been transformed and the hole has been partially filled. New housing developments, restored tow paths, cycle tracks and organic cafes are evidence of a new era in the valley, but the older traditional society is still in residence, perhaps more marginalised than ever.
The work included in this exhibition documents aspects of this transformation. It begins with the photo essay The Lea Valley shot by Sophia Evans for The Observer newspaper in 2005. Photographed to mark the announcement of the success of the London bid the images have become a poetic snapshot of an area that will be changed forever.
Archaeology in Reverse by Stephen Gill starts and finishes as the bulldozers roll in. Shot on his famous lo-fi camera, purchased for 50p at Hackney Wick Market, Gill’s photographs document the surface detritus and objects discarded in the construction process. Although sceptical of Hackney?s brave new tomorrow, Gill’s book features witty and wry observations and presents clues and traces for future archaeologists excavating the great Olympic Park of 2012.
The Manor Garden Allotments was one of the early and noisy casualties of the compulsory purchase orders issued the Olympic Delivery Authority. “Residual Traces” has brought together two different projects on the allotments for the first time. Firstly the interior chaos of the deserted sheds captured at the moment of eviction in Gesche Wurfel’s Farewell from the Garden Paradise and then Jan Stradtmann’s poignant stately portraits of the sheds themselves, in his series Manor Garden Allotments.
Zed Nelson’s Hackney – Tale of Two Cities is a document of the photographer?s own backyard. Nelson has lived in Hackney all his life, and with the arrival of the Olympics he has witnessed accelerated changes in the area, producing a confusion of cultures and identities.
This mixed social landscape of an under-privileged generation with seemingly limited opportunities living side by side with the new wave of urban hipsters gravitating to the new housing developments and chic cafes has created a bizarre juxtaposition of wealth and poverty, aspiration and hopelessness. These groups co-exist together sharing the same space, but somehow remain entirely separate.
Jason Orton has been documenting the post-industrial landscapes east of London for a number of years. Many of the spaces he chooses to preserve in his photographs often appear as blank canvasses, waiting for life to inhabit them. But in his combination of topographical observation and cultural interpretation these places take on a poetry that places them firmly within the tradition of the English landscape. The Channelsea River photographs taken on the fringes of the Olympic Park in Stratford in 2011, show a hinterland untouched by the construction work. So while some things change others do not, so bringing us back full circle to the ragged hole though which the city can breathe.