Similar to a spot the difference competition or a before and after weight loss case study, Chat’s Palace’s new joint exhibition is displaying photographs of Hackney’s urban landscape spanning a good twenty years or so. The premise is simple but entirely effective; a picture is taken back in the late 1980’s by local photographer Berris Conolly. These pictures are put in a book then discovered in a bookshop by another local artist Alex Pink. Pink likes the photos and subsequently contacts Conolly who now lives out of London, through email and gives him an offer he can’t refuse. He agrees and Pink immediately sets about taking pictures of the same scenes using the same shots that she took back in the bleak 1980’s. Now side by side these pictures are open for the public to view at Chats Palace.
Looking at these series of photographs it is a bit of an oxymoron to see how much some things can change in the space of twenty years and also how much they stay the same. This collaborative effort is obviously an aesthetic of contrast of change; Berris’ old black and white photo’s look bleak and desolate whilst at the same time portraying an un-prospective future. Look at the picture of Broadway market, where an elderly woman is crossing the road. The street looks like a ghost town where most of the shops boarded up with a clear skyline. Alex’s counterpoint photo shows the same street from the same point of view where although minus the human presence, it is far more alive.
The same could be said of the photo’s of Linscott road where the autumnal leaves on the ground in Berris’ black and white gives the impression of austerity. Alex’s image shows that the streets are cleaner; no leaves, plastic bins strategically placed and a signifier of life include a bus stop where there was none before. As a born and bred Hackney boy I have recognised some of these changes. I remember when the Builder’s Brothers vicinity on Linscott (which was a small independent B and Q type business) and now of course it is a quite popular pub. I also remember there being a petrol station on Dalston lane near Hackney downs train station which has only recently been turned into a Tesco metro. In that particular pairing of photos with two different capitalist corporations catering to our everyday needs, both Berris’ and Alex’s scenes displays an image of soullessness
It is perhaps a blessing that pink stumbled upon Connolly’s photos because the Hackney Revisited exhibition is a treat. Pink is among a growing group of dedicated photographers documenting their own urban environment. The main character within the images captured by these people is of the urban landscape rather than the people within it. An important lesson has been learnt from both Pink’s and Connolly’s photos and that is small changes occur in the space around us which most of the time goes unnoticed or worse still forgotten. For example though I know Northwold road well, I cannot remember when those modern flats were put up. The collection provides a fascinating glimpse into our lives.
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