Health consultant and writer Katy Cooper has written this latest guest blog about her year-long project photographing her neighbourhood.
Six months ago today, I was reading on Next City’s website about Chuck Wolf’s book, ‘Seeing the Better City’, which exhorts us to use our cameras to keep an urban diary as a de facto planning tool – and I realised I don’t really know that much about my neighbourhood: Brockley, South-East London. Despite moving in 17 years ago (before the arrival of much-improved transport links and much-inflated house prices), I tend to rattle about in the same few streets, the same few cafés and the same park: I needed a reason to expand my horizons. So, I’m doing a photography* project, taking a photo a day from Brockley for a whole year and posting it on Twitter (@healthkaty).
Some of the photos are time bound: the spring blossom for which Brockley is rightly famed, Open House Weekend, the London Marathon, Brockley Max festival, conkers in September, the demise of a local garage, and (stretching the definition of ‘Brockley’ to breaking point) the Tall Ships Festival at Woolwich – or a car, abandoned after a crash, that sat on the pavement for months before being removed. But most are simply Interesting Things that I have encountered on my meanderings over the course of six months: the local cemeteries (notably Nunhead, one of the Victorians’ ‘Magnificent Seven’), new cafes and businesses, hidden mews, beautiful flowers in front gardens and at the station, Brockley’s famous street art, and all the buildings featured in a June conference about innovation in the conservation area.
I’m loving it. It gives me a reason to get out and about,** to check out places of which I’ve heard but never visited, and (if I’m running) an excuse to take a quick breather to get a picture! Beyond the photos themselves, I’ve never been more aware both of the transience of place – the fleeting bursts of colour from summer flowers, the very first subtle shifts marking the transition between seasons – and of its history and continuity. And I know what makes Brockley ‘Brockley’, even as its boundaries morph into Nunhead, Lewisham, Ladywell, New Cross, Honor Oak… SE4 is my place. It’s home.
Finally: all suggestions for local photos are welcome – after all, I have another 183 days to go!
* I say ‘photography’, but this is something of an overstatement. I’m using my iPhone camera, for convenience – I can snap whenever I want.
** I confess that I do occasionally use a photo that I took on an earlier day – but I try to post them on the same day they are taken whenever I can.