These photos, shot in lockdown, exhibit a dystopian London
Mass Collective depicts a city-in-progress rarely seen by outsiders
Lockdown didn’t stop London from expanding outward and upward. Nor did it stop the urban-landscape photographers of Mass Collective from documenting the city creep. Early this year they despatched a group of eight photographers to eight satellite neighbourhoods, and the results – on show at the Building Centre until 4 November – are alluringly dystopian.
The collective’s Francesco Russo sees the project as ‘visual research’ of the impact of development. Reporting from the Nine Elms complex expanding around Battersea, he discovered a Thames-side Victorian brick enclave devoured by rapid, relentless construction. “I wanted to represent [the new high-rises] as if they were extraterrestrial entities that landed overnight, populating the area,” he says. “The lights of the construction sites reflect on the bare concrete structures, giving them an otherworldly quality. The contrast with the traditional victorian houses is quite striking.”
Also featuring the work of Sue Barr, Caroline Charrel, Simon Kennedy, Andrew Meredith, Luca Piffaretti, Polly Tootal and Henry Woide, ‘Londons: the Polycentric City’ romanticises the past while questioning the city’s future. “If this project is a kind of map,” says Russo, “it contains the seeds of the next evolution.” Streetscapes in greenbelt neighbourhoods like Barking and Kingston appear tightly controlled and partitioned; crumbling car parks in Croydon expose governmental failures. Brentford and Stratford seem more like palimpsests.
“London is 2,000 years old and still in the process of shapeshifting.”