Hackney is beautiful, Hackney is ugly. A host borough of the 2012 Olympics and one of London’s trendiest neighbourhoods, it is also one of London’s poorest and most crime-ridden areas. Such contrasts have become the subject of acclaimed photographer Zed Nelson’s most recent project, ‘Hackney: a Tale of Two Cities’.
During his career as a photographer, Nelson has covered some of the world’s most troubled areas, including Sudan, Israel and Iran. Now, as a lifelong resident of Hackney, he has decided to turn his camera lens on his home.
Fascinated by the gentrification of Hackney and the effect it has had on such an under-privileged area, Nelson has set out to capture the contradictions that have arisen from such a diverse social and cultural makeup.
“It is an extraordinary contemporary social situation”, he told EastLondonLines. “Part of Hackney’s beauty is its diversity and multiculturalism, but at the same time there’s a massive sense of separation.”
“The invasion of hipsters has brought an injection of life, but they have no real connection with locals. These two groups exist side by side but are almost invisible to each other.”
Nelson admits to having contradictory feelings towards the huge influx of young middle-classes into Hackney, something that comes across vividly in his portrayal of what he describes as, “the bizarre juxtapositions of wealth and poverty, aspiration and hopelessness.”
‘Hackney: a Tale of Two Cities’ will be exhibited at the London Festival of Photography throughout June, though Nelson tells us that the project is far from finished. Much like Hackney, it seems, he has described this project as, “a work in progress”.
By Anthony Cuthbertson