Clapton Portraits is a week-long photographic project celebrating local people from Clapton E5 from 27 November - 3 December. It's a not for profit community enterprise and part of a major documentary project of the Chatsworth Road area which I have been working on since 2007.
After the riots in Hackney I wanted to use my camera to tell my area's story as well as offering youngsters work experience to help out with the project. This area is in a time of rapid change, being a short walking distance from the Olympic Village and the latest area to be gentrified in Hackney. I think it is crucial to give the local people a face and a voice. I welcome changes and improvements, but at the same time I feel it is important to remember what a community is and what values it is based on.
My simple belief is if you give people attention, a chance air their opinions, something inspiring to do and a small dose of respect, something good will come out of it. This country is run by too many people who have no understanding of how neigbhourhoods like Clapton work on a day to day basis. One can't justify how the rioters earlier this year acted but one can understand the frustration of being misrepresented and ignored by its leaders and by how the media over the last decade has been glorifying wealth and money.
In my blog One Portrait A Day I have been approaching my subjects in the street and public and private spaces for the last two years. With Clapton Portraits I am inviting the subjects to come to me in an empty shop I have been lucky to borrow on Chatsworth Road in London's E5 postcode. I also set up a crowd-funding site and raised money to buy paper and ink to produce the photographs. I have been working with youth in earlier projects and one ended up as a book with the name The Norwegian Way I wanted youth to be the core of this project too, and being a Norwegian living in Clapton I can safely say their lifestyles are miles apart.
My portrait studio just finished its fifth day and there are three more to go. It has been one of the most enjoyable photographic projects I have ever done. Despite the bureaucracy of local schools not letting me have any pupils for work experience because I didn't start the paperwork two months ago and the hard task of persuading young men to come in, I have met the most interesting people of all backgrounds and realised that the best way to get to know your neigbhours is to open your door (or borrow an empty shop).
In this first post I wanted to show a few work-in-progress portraits and then write more about my experiences next time. I hope you will enjoy the journey.
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