Photographer Joshua Blackburn has captured the surprisingly colourful interiors of London’s launderettes for Launderama – a book celebrating their enduring place in culture.
Armed with a map, a spreadsheet and 462 names, Blackburn spent months trekking across the city to photograph every launderette in the Greater London Postcode District.
First drawn to the neon lights ‘spilling onto the street at night’, Blackburn soon started taking pictures of everything from marble-effect walls to the angular lines of 1960s industrial design. His photographs reveal spaces frozen in time, filled with dated typefaces, pastel colours and retro logos.
But his work tells another story too. What was once a high street staple is rapidly disappearing from London. Often, notes Blackburn in the book’s introduction, many launderettes were converted into coffee shops or bakeries by the time he visited them, and some he’d shot at the beginning of his project had closed down 18 months later.
All this, despite their unshakable hold on our cultural imagination. As Blackburn points out, launderettes are ‘almost revered’ in fashion and advertising, where they’ve formed the backdrop to several campaigns – not least the iconic 1985 Levi’s commercial.
‘In an increasingly homogenous world – fast, convenient and digital – the launderette is resolutely analogue, both in spirit and practice. It is out of time and out of place, literally and emotionally, simultaneously creating the reason for their appeal and the cause of their decline,’ he writes.
‘Launderama’ is out now published via Hoxton Mini Press.