I first photographed what we now call the ‘Olympic area‘ in the early 1980s. Then it seemed rather like the back of beyond, a long-neglected backwater of London, which appealed greatly to my imagination.
The pictures I remember well are largely those on one of my least-finished web sites, ‘The Lea Valley‘ which looks at London’s Second River – The River Lea (or Lee.) It’s probably 20 years since I went back and looked at the contact sheets for the pictures I made there rather than just the relatively few that made it to a portfolio.
In the past couple of days I’ve been doing just that, and it’s interesting to see how looking at the pictures takes me back and reminds me of things that were previously submerged in the hidden depths of memory as well as some lost completely. I don’t think I’ve found any great work I missed but there are certainly things that stir my interest.
One that I’d forgotten taking was of these gates on Waterden Road:
Waterden Rd, Hackney Wick, 1983 (from a quick scan on my flatbed)
which isn’t a startling composition, but the text on the notice caught my eye. It may be a little small to see clearly, so here it is larger:
Twenty years later not far away, close to Bully Point nature reserve, I took another picture of allotments started by Major Villiers:
and a couple of years further on I played a very small part in the big campaign to keep the Manor Gardens Allotments as a green centre-piece for the Olympics. As we all know was unsuccessful (their great campaign running up against a total failure of imagination by our Olympic organisers) and they are now in Leyton, struggling to grow crops on damaged land.
My River Lea web site does have quite a lot of work from the area, including a few of those black and white images from the 1980s, but the vast majority of work on it is taken since 2002 – for example pictures of the Stratford area – such as this:
The site however covers much more than the Olympic area, with pictures that start at the source in Leagrave, near Luton, and go to both Bow Creek where the river enters the Thames and also to the Limehouse Dock entrance, which offered an alternative route to the Thames.
Perhaps one day I will find the time to put more work on that site. Of course it is so much easier to put digital images on line, although there are many on My London Diary that I’ve not yet got around to also putting on the site – most can be found from the site index, though I’ve not quite kept that up to date either. But it’s even more time-consuming to work with those old pictures from the 80s and 90s on film. In 2005 when I started the River Lea site I wrote “1990s (to follow)” and they are still to follow three years later.