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Documentary Photography Review | 1st June 2017

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A Collective Narrative – 1 Camera, 6 Photographers [Group 1]

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Chris King

This project is about the creation of a ‘collective narrative’ – one subject explored using one camera, but by 6 individual photographers.

A Holga 120GFN camera with 1 roll of Ilford HP5+ 120 Roll Film with 12 exposures is being used by the group to explore a given topic – ‘Ethnic’ Business and the people within.

Each photographer has 5 days from receipt of the camera to take their 2 images before delivering it on to the next photographer.

Photographer No.1 – Colin Cafferty – 22nd to 26th April 

Dalston has experienced many changes in the last 3-4 years since the Overground has arrived in this part of East London. The area has become a magnet for young professionals and hipsters who want to be part of the local scene now that they’ve been priced out of nearby areas such as Hoxton and Shoreditch. Despite this, many small ethnic businesses still thrive cheek by jowl with the newly opened cafes and trendy bars. A strong sense of community and tradition exists amongst the various immigrant populations which keeps the local businesses alive.

Mohammed is a young and cheerful chappie who styles, fits and sells wigs to Afro-Caribbean ladies. His parents originally came from India via Tanzania. Afro World has been trading in Dalston for more than 17 years now. I’ve always been mesmerized by the rows of mannequin heads staring at me as I passed by on the street.

Aladin (not pictured) is a Turkish barber who’s been serving the local community by cutting hair and shaving beards for well over 20 years. I asked if he had seen many changes in that time and he laughed to himself. I guess it was a rhetorical question in any case.  

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Photography No.2 – Rebecca Enderby – 27th April – 4th May

Tooting, in the borough of Wandsworth, South London, is a bustling area of great ethnic diversity, and home to a large South Asian community.  Whilst slowly changing, with ‘trendy’ bars and coffee shops moving in, it seems there is a long way to go before it looses its distinctly Asian roots;  I for one hope it never does. In Tooting Broadway the Asian community is immediately apparent from the independent shops where you can buy all things Indian, and the array of restaurants tempting you with huge paper dosa and moreish Mango lassi. Having spent some time in South India going to one of these restaurants was like taking a nostalgic, and genuine, trip down memory lane. The service is a little chaotic, with some orders never materialising, the kitchen load and bustling and the food served as and when it’s ready, on traditional shiny steel plates. On your way out you can pick up some heart attacked inducing sweets. All the staff are Asian, as are nearly all the customers. As a white British woman I was definitely the odd one out, but happy with that.

After couple of trips to Saravanaa Bhavan, on Upper Tooting Road, I had the image I wanted to take in my mind: the lively kitchen. However I was not allowed to take this picture, for reasons that were not clear. I was told I could take one from far away, which I did with my iPhone and can be seen below, the waiters in the white shirts, sorting out a take way from the hectic kitchen at the back. Unfortunately the staff were a little shy to be photographed or interviewed, but two men spoke to me briefly.  The Manager that day was originally from Chennai in Tamil Nadu (South India) and has lived in London for 5 years. He lives with his family in Wembley and commutes down. He told me he enjoyed living in London and it was like a “mini India” up in Wembley. The waiter I spoke with had just moved to London 9 months ago and was still settling in though liked it so far. He worked part time at the restaurant and was also doing a Masters in Logistics and Sales. The image that I did take with the Holga was that of the Manager on the phone behind the cash desk and colourful sweet counter, pictured below but without the manager.

My second image, not pictured here, was taken in a organic food store on Lordship Lane in East Dulwich. SMBS Foods, a family run shop, offers organic and local fruit and vegetables as well as many Indian, vegetarian and vegan products. The man working the day I visited with my camera was the son of the owner, born and bought up in the UK. His parents were East African Indians; his father came to the UK via East Africa whilst his mother came straight from India, both were originally from Gujarat.

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Photographer 3 – Isobel Ricketts – 5th – 9th May

Afro Design and Textile Centre – East Street

To say East Street was a thriving, close-knit community wouldn’t be apparent on first glance but after only a few photographs of the Afro Design and Textile Centre I was semi-surrounded by other curious shop owners.

Florence has been running the tailors for twenty years. Originally from Lagos, she travelled to England to study as a doctor, and still with this ambition in mind; she is forging ahead with the creation of the most extravagant African wedding dresses and suits I’ve ever seen!

Florence explains “African people like to stand out; they like to celebrate all of the time. There is always a wedding or event and anyone with any budget can get an outfit made to look good.”

Twenty years ago the community urged her to move from working at home to owning the shop which didn’t come naturally to Florence “I was happy just how I was, but then people around me found this shop and told me how I could run it and I said, ok, I will do it.”

Now Florence has never been busier and not only has teamed up with another tailor from Nigeria working alongside her but has a fully equipped training studio ready for students to come and learn from her!

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Altamarea – Borough

Down a cobbled alleyway leading to Borough Market you will find the welcoming smell of home cooking coming from Altamarea. Ettore and Massimiliano own this Italian café, and not only do they feed the local masses but have also ebbed their way onto markets such as Brick Lane with AltaMarea food stalls.

Ettore and Massimiliano met in England whist working together and decided to set up their own café, which has now been running for two years. When asked how it started Ettore replied ‘‘we had a stall on Borough Market and was offered this spot under the arches for storage but we knew it would make a perfect café! We decided to specialize in pizza and Calzone as I had worked on a special dough recipe for 3 months which was very light and digestible and you can’t find this pizza around here.’’

The café oozes everything that’s great about Italy and that could be down to Ettore and Massimiliano’s dedication to bringing Italian produce to the UK to cook with. Whilst drinking coffee it was made clear the Italian community is drawn to this café be it businessmen, tourists and the local traders.

I was kindly sent home with one of Ettore’s Calzone with strict cooking instructions and I could taste why the café is so busy!

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Photographer No.3 – Alec Leggat – 10th – 15th May 

First Portrait: Shine manages Barry’s Stores on Barry Road in East Dulwich. His family is originally from North India but he was born and brought up in Kent, a Gravesend boy. Living above his family’s shop a career in retail was expected of him and that’s where he ended up. However, he did make a detour into counselling after studying for several years. Although listening to people’s problems wasn’t the right career move for him he uses his people skills to good effect in Barry’s Stores where he knows his regular customers by name.

Second Portrait: Isabel is a friend I met initially as a fellow parent. Our children go to the same school and two are in the same class. She has also just started running her stall at Northcross Road market in East Dulwich. I often chat to Isabel on the way home from dropping off my children at school as she is setting up her stall. She imports crockery from the south of France and sells it mostly from her stall at street markets in south east London but she also has a website to promote her business. Isabel is from Marseille and the French Connection is personal cultural decision as well as a business one. Being a stallholder is particularly tough in the cold and wet, particularly if you don’t have many customers – time always goes more slowly in those circumstances. But, the main reason for setting up her business is to find a degree of independence in her working life and more personal fulfillment.

MORE TO COME SOON!!