Fantastic photo exhibition showing brand new sides of London

One of the side effects of lockdown, according to many, was the way it encouraged us to better connect with the physical spaces we inhabit.

To this end, a new collective of photographers used the period of covid restrictions to examine London’s diverse faces, which are often invisible, both to us who live in the city and to the people on the outside who look in.

The results are nothing short of amazing, with the latest images giving us new ways of looking and thinking about London.

Your local guardian caught up with the photographers from Mass Collective behind London: The Polycentric City during their ongoing exhibition at The Building Center in central London.

How did MASS come together in the first place? Why?

The fair started in 2019 from the desire to create a community of photographers working in architecture and the built environment in general. Founded by photographers Francesco Russo, Luca Piffaretti and Henry Woide, it was created as a space to socialize, share ideas and experiences between like-minded photographers.

The collective organizes exhibitions and other opportunities to promote personal photographic projects, while social events and conversations aim to create a cohesive community of photographers dedicated to documenting the ever-evolving constructed landscape.

News Shopper: © Francesco Russo © Francesco Russo

Can you explain the process of this project? How did the collective generate the resulting exhibition?

The idea of ​​London started in late 2020 to create a project that could provide a snapshot of how London is evolving.

In recent decades, London has moved from a monocentric city to a polycentric city. When we look at the identity of the new satellite centers that are rapidly growing around the capital, we think can give an unusual picture of what direction our city is taking.

Given the nature of the project, we thought it was the right approach to have several photographers working in different areas with their own vision, but under a common brief.

We then invited five photographers to join us and create eight photographic series in total that work coherently as a unified collective working group. For a period of about six months, everyone worked in their areas while having regular meetings to review the work together and give each other feedback. Unfortunately due to the recent lockdown, most had to be done remotely, which added an extra challenge to the project, but luckily we managed to meet in person for the latest reviews.

When we felt the projects were finished, we started working on the exhibition and we curated the series to present them to the public. The work is presented in two forms: the exhibition, which now opens in the Building Center in Bloomsbury, and a self-published zine, which we sell in a limited edition, with a different narrative about the same projects.

What stands out more is how working with so many different styles and photographic approaches works coherently in a single show.

News Shopper: © Henry Woide© Henry Woide

What did you learn about London by doing the project?

Especially for the photographers who work in the areas that are undergoing relevant changes like Stratford, Nine Elms, Westway, it is incredible to witness how fast the urban fabric is changing. Going to the same places over and over again, over a relatively short period of time, really showed us what is happening on the outskirts. When the mapping with our cameras was complete, the overall picture was quite impressive.

Can you describe how you feel when you take pictures like these?

When talking about the photographic process that drove the creation of this project, it is important to keep in mind that it was almost completely shot during the third lockdown, between December and May 2021. Although the lockdown itself did not necessarily inform the appearance of these photos – in fact, one of the points in this project is that London kept growing and changing almost unaware of the events of the pandemic – for many of us this was a gloomy period when commissions almost stopped. Having the chance to work on this project certainly served as a relief from the stress of the particular historical period, while we focused on something inspiring for when, as we kept saying, “the world will go back to normal”.

News Shopper: © Sue Barr© Sue Barr

To what extent can photography, in particular. for younger people, be useful for better connection with where one lives?

In a place like London, where many people live in a certain area only for a limited period of time before moving to another place, photography can be a powerful tool for exploring and understanding our surroundings. Moreover, focusing on photography instead of just seeing our surroundings can be a powerful tool for noticing details and situations that we would otherwise ignore. In our case, there is always the desire to find the next perfect composition, and that drives us to explore parts of the city where we would not otherwise venture.

What does the collective come up with in the future?

The “London” project was the first collective project we curated. The whole process taught us the value of working collectively, and we will definitely continue to explore this way of working.

We have a few ideas for some future projects involving new talented photographers and possibly looking to expand our photographic work outside of London. In connection with the exhibition, we have also arranged a workshop for students and a photo wall that explores one of the project areas on 30 October. We also want to continue to organize conversations and portfolio reviews as well as social gatherings with our photographers.

London: The Polycentric City by Mass Collective runs until November 4 at The Building Center Monday – Friday 9am – 6pm and Saturday 10am – 4pm. It includes work on:

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