Up the Downs and Down the Fields

 

I’m told there are over 4,000 railway arches in (Greater?) London and I’m sure a high proportion of them are used by the motor industry. In eight months, I must have peered into a few hundred such ‘motor arches’, but at C&D motors in Andre Street, Hackney Downs I found an ideal and visually interesting location for monochrome photography. Panel sprayers require good lighting, so the banks of horizontal fluorescent tubes here provided a very graphic backdrop for my shots.

Under the arches near the station, we find Champions Boxing Club where Mark was enthusiastic for me to capture their surroundings for Under Tracks.

On to Bohemia Place at Hackney Central, where we discover Dog Villas… a ‘pooch-sitting’ service for dog owners. Jessica handles the 10 or 12 dogs milling around the arch with ease, but as many a photographer knows, children and animals spell challenging!

Lunch at the Bohemia Café. Nice shots here!

Gentrification has hit (literally) the arches at Hackney Central in an area to be renamed Hackney Fashion Hub. I’m at least a year too late at these arches in Morning Lane, as long stretches have either been fitted with plate glass fascias (for the smart shops), or boarded up to house the contractors supplies and equipment. I shoot nonetheless. These are the railway arches as they today in 2015 – wheelbarrows and cement mixers. Maybe I’ll return towards the end of this project, by which time the new designer shops in the arches might be open?

Walking south, I retrace the steps of my first Under Tracks day out to Mentmore Terrace at London Fields. I had shot outside the e5 Bakehouse, but this time I was welcomed inside to photograph the interior.

The day ends in Paradise Row in Bethnal Green. The Row contains just five bars and restaurants in large, wide arches. Mother Kelly’s (‘On Mother Kelly’s doorstep, down Paradise Row...’ goes the lyric), Paradise Garage and Mission provide good photographic opportunities here for me.

Bohemia Café, Bohemia Place, Hackney Central

Bohemia Café, Bohemia Place, Hackney Central

 

Farewell to an Arthouse Archway...

 

I’ve got permission from Amy at Le Pain Quotidien head office to shoot at their South Bank restaurant, so that’s our first stop.  Using my Pentax 67 on a tripod, I photograph the original arch at the rear of the premises featuring wonderfully lit brickwork.  I even get a latte on the house!

Next, on to Druid Cycles in Roper Lane near Druid Street, Southwark. I’m hoping they are open, but alas not so.

Then north to Haggerston. At Turning Earth Ceramics in Whiston Street, the large studio is busy with potters working at individual benches. The arch is well-lit and features a rear half-moon window with daylight pouring in. I’m keen to get some close-up shots here, and Olivia is willing to be my subject. Sometimes you know immediately that images will really work in monochrome, and this is one of those occasions.

Walking south, my next call is Pretorius Bikes in Drysdale Street, Shoreditch. I start shooting, but quickly realise this arch would be crowded with ‘bikies’ at their ‘after-work’ bar later in the day. Another for the re-visit list…

Across the road we find Shem clearing up at the Hoxton Gallery, empty since its last exhibition and being readied for closure and a move to a much bigger space in Old Street – goodbye Shoreditch, hello EC1. The arch is very dark, but hand-held at 1/30, I click away on my Nikon FE on 400 ASA film hoping for the best. The results are moody, gritty and atmospheric to say the least!

Farewell to the arch... The old Hoxton Gallery before its move to Old Street.

Farewell to the arch... The old Hoxton Gallery before its move to Old Street.

 

Some Late Summer Sequels

 

My list of ‘return visits’ has been getting longer and longer, so time to tick a few off.

We start in south London at Herne Hill with Dallas and Angel at the DnA Factory. They are on good form preparing for their own exhibition of their sculptures in November. Using both my medium format Pentax67 and 35mm Nikon FE, I shoot about a dozen frames of them ‘at home’ in their comfy arch surrounded by their art.

North to Haggerston and Headway East – an art studio supporting people affected by brain injuries. Permissions were required not just to shoot here, but also from their clients to be photographed. I take several long-shots past the ‘artists' arm with the artwork-covered arch in the background.

On our way to our next appointment we walk past The WhitePepper in Acton Mews – a women's fashion store/showroom. Amazingly, in seven months of shooting Under Tracks, this is the first fashion outlet I've encountered. Ines is fine about shooting here – some nice images captured.

Then on to Charterhouse Aquatics in Stean Street. I happened upon this place whilst doing a pre-walk internet search. The boss, Paul (who himself is a photographer) was great about me shooting here. Their showroom features large aquariums and young Richard was only too willing to ‘service’ the tanks during the shoot. My biggest problems here were the reflections on the glass from the street outside the arch, but some judicious angled photography worked well. Every shot taken was from my tripod here – very, very low light levels...

Dallas, in the doorway of the DnA Factory, Herne Hill

Dallas, in the doorway of the DnA Factory, Herne Hill

 

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