Photos of London’s Isle of Dogs, before the big money

Photos of London’s Isle of Dogs, before the big money

East End memories — Between 1982 - 1987, photographer Mike Seaborne captured the people and places that made up the East End community – long before the world of global finance set up camp.

Before global finance came to town and the Canary Wharf skyline was still just a distant, obscene fantasy, the Isle of Dogs was East London’s industrial hub.

Back in 1982, photographer Mike Seaborne stumbled upon the area by chance and began photographing the local community: the people, places and industry that made up its unique social fabric. Then, it was no secret that change was only a matter of time – but the exact nature of what exactly that would entail was still unclear.

For Seaborne, the desire to document the Isle of Dogs was born out of the recognition that, in the face of impending transformation, it was important to capture the community as it once was. However, the project soon evolved into something equally concerned with the social consequences of deindustrialisation.

“It quickly became apparent that the Isle of Dogs was a rather special place in that its geographical isolation from the rest of East London meant that its inhabitants had, over several generations, formed a very close-knit community,” he explains.

“The aim of the project was to create a photographic archive loosely based on the concept of ‘a day in the life of the Isle of Dogs’ that would give a representation of the Island before whatever fate lay ahead for the area began to take effect.”

The subsequent images now come together to form The Isle of Dogs: Before the Big Money, the second helping in the ‘Vintage Britain’ series from Hoxton Mini Press. Taken between 1982 – 1987, Seaborne’s photos – of workers on lunch break, locals queuing for the bus, kids playing down by the Thames – depict a very different London to the one we know today.

When asked if he feels confident about the city’s future, Seaborne is dogged in his response. “I don’t really feel confident about anything at present. I don’t know what future London has,” he says.

“I hope it might be one that doesn’t continue to rely almost exclusively on its being the world’s financial capital and a paradise for property speculators and  money launderers. I used to think that London was the best city in the world, but no longer. I think it is now suffering the consequences of its own success.”

The Isle of Dogs is available now from Hoxton Mini Press.

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