Secret London: photos of lost rivers and abandoned London

Lovers of London urban landscape, lost rivers, photography and, for want of a better word, psychogeography, should be aware of a forthcoming exhibition, From The Westbourne To The Wandle at Maggs Bros gallery.

Curated by counterculture bookdealer Carl Williams, this brings together the work of two London photographers and writers, Jon Savage and SF Said. Savage is best known as a music writer, but in 1977, inspired by JG Ballard, he set out to photograph the urban wastelands of West London, taking a sequence of stunning black and white pictures of the lost land beneath the Westway.

He has written, ‘In its emptiness, austerity and gloom, it is an interzone waiting for something to happen, for the beasts to be unleashed. This was how London felt at the time: coming, coming, coming down – like a speed hangover merging into an apocalypse. But in there was also a sense of possibility that new ways of thinking might grow from this emptiness – like the scented buddleia on the bombsites.’

SF Said’s picture were taken for last year’s excellent Lost London Rivers book. Said shoots on Polaroid, which he describes as like a ‘photographic time machine’ and says he wants to ‘capture the dreams that a place might have of itself, or the memories that it stores under layers of time’.

He uses expired film, which can create strange, mesmeric effects and explains ‘as their chemical layers decay, they start to produce strange flame-like swirls and flickering light leaks that go even further into dreamlike realms.  These hallucinatory effects are unpredictable and random; sometimes they ruin a picture.  But when you’re lucky and it all comes together, I think they give you something magical that you could never get any other way.’

The exhibition is at the gallery at Maggs Bros, 50 Hays Mews, W1J 5QJ from March 22 to April 19.

7 responses to “Secret London: photos of lost rivers and abandoned London

  1. That exhibition sounds amazing. If only I didn’t live on the other side of the world….

  2. Great post – love the Savage photos. Looks like a great exhibition.

  3. Very nice post. At BD, the architecture magazine I work for six days a month, we ran a series called ‘Urban Trawl’ last year where columnist Owen Hatherley visited some of Britain’s forgotten urban landscapes. It’s amazing what’s out there.

  4. And linking this piece and your blog on the Hawksmoor mini-exhibition at the RA – upstairs in the RA at the moment there is also a rather lovely little exhibit of drawings from the collection. One, part of a scrawled letter, contains the information that Buddleias are named after “the amateur botanist, Reverend Adam D Buddle, born in 1662 at Deeping St James, a small village near Peterborough”.

  5. Pingback: Place – what does it mean? « dianajhale

  6. Pingback: Secret London: dealing with the counterculture at Maggs | The Great Wen

  7. Pingback: Secret Rivers at the Museum of London Docklands | The Great Wen

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