Up the Junction!

 

This triangle of overhead track at Loughborough Junction, east of Brixton, initially looked uninspiring. How wrong could I be! A few highlights...

I found James at JB Cabs, in Padfield Road, relaxing outside his arch at the end of a hard week's work. Click! One of my best images so far.

Then, hidden away down an alley, Miguel’s Boxing Gym; a ring backlit by an arch-wide window; low light, moving boxers, fast film – a challenge!

Next,  a meeting with Anne at Meanwhile Space CIC, where I discovered another facet to London’s Railway Arches. CIC? Community Interest Company. They are working at Loughborough Junction to ‘activate empty spaces while they wait to fulfil their longer term purpose’, thus providing a very useful first-home to start-up companies. Visited a few… The Edible Bus Stop organisation ‘transforms neglected sites across the UK’s transport hubs into valuable community growing spaces’. Their arch was jammed full of plants… however, my shots didn’t quite work, so another addition to the re-visit list.

Up the (Loughborough) Junction, SW9

Up the (Loughborough) Junction, SW9

 

A Brixton Bus Stop...

 

The arches here are under threat today and their residents have mounted a massive campaign to save the area. There are many photo opportunities here – I mention just a few...

Premium Coaches allowed us into their yard – provided we wore their hi-viz jackets – to shoot their two magnificent Routemaster buses housed in an arch.

Catwalk, a beauty business for the Afro/Asian community had a 10-metre wall of wigged heads.

The brilliant hole-in-the-wall, One Love Café shot still eludes me...

Brixton Station Road, SW9

Brixton Station Road, SW9

 

Return to Maltby Street

 

The return visit to Maltby Street and Ropewalk; this time for the weekend market where this short section of arches is transformed into a ‘foodie’ street that is thronging with people.

Ropewalk Food Market, SE1

Ropewalk Food Market, SE1

My photographic aim was to capture this transformation – blokes in aprons serving food, where, during the week, floorboards are being sold.

On the ‘other’ side of the tracks, Druid Street plays host to a vast variety of arch activities. Peter at the Southwark Brewing Company was particularly helpful and enthusiastic about my project. I will return when his arch is busier…

Druid Street, SE1

Druid Street, SE1

 

A Shot in the Dark...

 

It can get pretty dark, Under Tracks...

Ah, you say, if only I shot digitally…????   No! NO!

As in my Under Glass Paris project, I've now started taking two Nikon FEs on my trips. One with 400 ASA film, the other with 3200 ASA for those shadowy corners.  I won't ever use flash, so I await the outcome...

Film for the Dark Side... Ilford Delta 3200

Film for the Dark Side... Ilford Delta 3200

 

My A5 Calling Card

 

By April, this project was gaining momentum and my experiences so far made me decide to produce an A5 flyer on Under Tracks, that could be my ‘calling card’. I would hand it out to everyone I approached.

It’s turned out to be a brilliant idea, as I feel it immediately puts me in a positive position. It explains it all… and they can keep it to check out the project and me. People have even looked at the thumbnails of the shots taken so far and recognised the locations.

My A5 Calling Card...

My A5 Calling Card...

 

Not Just a Photographic Project...

 

In March, our next foray was again south of the Thames, walking from Elephant and Castle north towards Southwark. This was another good day in an area likely to be regenerated. Everyone was really positive.

Then it dawned on me, this wasn’t just a photographic project – I was in fact recording social history. What were the arches used for 50 (or 100 years) ago? What will be in them in the year 2050?

We received a great reception from the trainer Mateo and the super-fit Leon at Crossfit Blackfriars.

However, I began to realise another problem to be faced… shooting hand-held on film in dark places. The list of places to revisit was getting longer – The Last Supper in Newington Causeway, The Union Theatre in Union Street and The Ring Boxing Club in Ewer Street.

 
Leon – Super Strong! Crossfit Blackfriars, SE1

Leon – Super Strong! Crossfit Blackfriars, SE1

Two’s Company

 

For my next trip ‘Under Tracks’, my wife Susan came with me – not for photographic reasons, but because we first went to the National Portrait Gallery to see the John Singer Sargent exhibition (now that’s art!).

We started off in Vauxhall and immediately received a much warmer welcome than in the East End. After explaining my project, we were invited inside the VauxWall Climbing Centre premises… ‘Shoot what you want!’ etc, etc from the manager. From Vauxhall to Bermondsey – Enid Street, Maltby Street and Ropewalk.

The guys at Scooterworks were friendly and helpful – just brilliant! The boss had used Nikon FEs whilst serving in the New Zealand Air Force. I realised here that Susan was my ‘foil’. A couple turning up gives a different first impression than a single bloke. Then after my introductory chat, she engages the subject(s) in conversation, whilst I snap away.

At Ropewalk, LASSCO (the London Architectural Salvage and Supply Co.) have leased a section of arches to themselves. I shot a timeless image here, LASSCO Flooring, which I'm pretty pleased with. This section of arches host a weekend ‘foodie’ market. We would return.

Timeless... LASSCO Flooring, Ropewalk,SE1

Timeless... LASSCO Flooring, Ropewalk,SE1

 

Racked with Grief...

 

On the first clear Friday in February 2015, I started the long walk beneath the railway tracks from Liverpool Street, east to Bethnal Green, then north through London Fields to Hackney Downs – my first outing on my new Under Tracks project.

And an interesting journey it was… I didn't think it would be easy, but I didn’t quite expect the flack I got for taking photographs at a few of the arch businesses in the dodgier parts of Bethnal Green. I had not thought it through, but this is the turf where the ‘underworld’ may work? The guys (and dolls?) who maybe shouldn't be working in the UK at all?  On the journey home, I did seriously think about whether this was going to be a worthwhile photographic project.

However, it wasn’t a fruitless exercise, as from this one trip I did capture one lovely image – Wilco Engineering in Cambridge Heath Road – and several others that looked pretty good.

Custom-made roof racks at Wilco Engineering

Custom-made roof racks at Wilco Engineering