Friday, 21 November 2008

Supporting Industry

Two months after the completion of the fence I was in London with the sole intention of catching up with friends and seeing some live music. But when my plans were thrown awry by a situation beyond my control I found myself in a fowl and frowning mood traveling east on the Silverlink North London Line with a few hours to while away. I looked up from my self-absorbed misanthropy when I reached Hackney Wick and not wanting to end up in Stratford, leapt off. The thought of trespassing that evening had not crossed my mind until the train pulled away, but I was now in the habit of carrying the camera and ancient portable tripod that I used with me on all visits to the capital, and it seemed a suitable pursuit on which to vent my aggression.

I went over the fence in one of my favoured spots, and the post-apocalyptic abondenment I had witnessed in the same spot just a couple of months before had begun to be torn down. The JCBs had moved in and the landscape had begun it's journey towards wasteland. Acrid sodium lighting shone all around casting twisted shadows on exposed interior walls, the whole ground seemed to glow a lurid orange when compared with the calming deep blue of the night sky. With the buildings coming down and the rubble heaps going up staying hidden could not have been easier. At a distance of a hundred metres I reckoned a passing security van stood zero chance of spotting me - even in the bright red hoody I was wearing, having not planned to be 'jumping' tonight - as long as I was frozen still.

I didn't have to go far before I found a subject worthy of a whole evenings imagery. It was a building I had known well which stood on the site of the first temporary buildings in the zone. I almost missed the majestic state of semi dismemberment but glancing nervously back over my shoulder as I crouched beneath a dormant digger I was awestruck. I spent the next two hours in this small space of ground, mostly cowering beneath the JCB, staring intently at the crumbling facade, trying to work out my next move. And having planned my pose, set up the tripod and checked for approaching security vans; scuttled across the open ground counting the ten seconds of shutter delay and hurling myself into position, where I froze, counting the seconds again - this time to fifty, all the while tense and as still as my adrenalin pumped body could stay.

On that evening, in front of this epic crumbling cliff-face, I came up with two responses both attempting to create a dialogue between the foreboding scale of destruction and my own puny body. In the first - the only image as yet produced to have a title - I leant with all my might against the structure, performing the architectural role of a flying buttress. The image is titled 'Supporting Industry'. In the second I threw myself at a predetermined architectural springboard and clung to some handhold for the duration of the exposure. Heroic as this may hope to sound, it took several attempts to pull off with even vague success, only two of which produced 'usuable' images. On the final attempt, my arms aching from earlier fruitless efforts, clinging doggedly to some slice of conduit, I saw the telltale revolving orange light of a security van approaching in the metallic reflection an inch in front of my face. In an atypical moment of level-headed calm I reasoned that even were they to identify my form, the spectre of a human figure draped near lifeless beneath crumbling concrete would be too incredulous to register as anything but optical illusion. The reflection continued steadily across my field of vision fading into the distance. Almost half a minute after the shutter had closed I climbed down and scampered back to the safe shadow of the digger to calm my heart rate.

I took one final photo that evening, cowering among the sheets of twisted metal which had been torn from the building. I should here pay brief and possibly surprising tribute to the excellent job that was done of recycling the building materials. This night among many others I encountered heaps that had been meticulously sorted - metal from masonry, much was made of this in the publicity but as few people will have clapped eyes on the evidence, I thought it should be noted.

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