Regeneration programmes occurring throughout London’s boroughs are the focus of a new photography exhibition entitled ‘The Marshland’, currently displayed on various street walls along Deptford High Street.
The photographer, Tanya Houghton, took the images in the protected grassland of Hackney Marshes, highlighting the area as a London location that has remained untouched from regeneration.
Houghton said: “To have that space accessible in a city, that’s protected and hasn’t been regenerated, is amazing.”
Houghton’s images juxtapose urban and rural settings to demonstrate London’s contrasting landscape. She uses “objects we leave behind”, from litter to railway lines, to reveal human interaction with green spaces. Houghton’s work is rooted in anthropology and sociology, promoting “ideas with people and community at the forefront.”
Hackney’s regeneration creates a backdrop for Houghton’s images and the exhibition’s location. She told East London Lines: “Deptford is being slammed by regeneration. It reminds me of how Hackney was when I moved there 14 years ago. Change is good and it’s unavoidable but usually it happens at the expense of someone else.”
Tanya McKenna, 51, a florist working on Deptford High Street, said: “The pictures look lovely and I think regeneration is great, but my landlord has doubled the rent; he wants to sell it as he thinks he can get lots of money for his property, and I can’t afford to stay here.”
Despite the rent increase that is forcing McKenna to leave, she said: “I think [regeneration] is great for the area and it needed it round here. It puts people in a better frame of mind.”
Ali Anjad, 39, who works as a butcher on Deptford High Street living in Catford said: “The regeneration is happening really fast, with too many houses popping up everywhere. It’s good but we need parking and all those other facilities. They’ll have to divert a lot of road traffic.
“My uncle’s been here since 1972 and we’ve seen some serious changes. I’ve been here about eight or nine years and I don’t know if it’s for the best. The street’s looking better but it’s not as busy as it normally is.”
In North Deptford, Lewisham Council plans “four ‘strategic’ regeneration sites” to provide half of the borough’s new homes by 2026, with Deptford High Street and Deptford Market having already undergone refurbishment.
As part of the UrbanPhotoFest, the exhibition follows its theme of cartography and mapping contemporary city spaces. A fifth of Lewisham Borough is greenspace and Houghton believes these green spaces demonstrate “how we as human beings interact with the space, reclaiming the urban landscape – we’re taking ownership.”
The exhibition also coincides with the publication of a report by Goldsmiths’s Citizen Sense, revealing pollution in Deptford and New Cross is six times higher than the world safety limit. Houghton commented: “With the bad quality of London air at the moment, we need all the help we can get from green spaces.”
Expressing a sense of duty to local communities, Houghton said: “As photographers, it’s up to us to get a dialogue going, to represent people and get their voices out there in a way which wouldn’t normally be heard.
“Deptford as a community is amazing. It is a shame that it is undergoing such regeneration. If I can just cheer one person up, I’d be really happy with that.”