A portrait of UK life on the edges of gentrification

A portrait of UK life on the edges of gentrification
Homegrown — Photographer Stephen Burridge talks preserving the memory of places on the margins of capitalism and celebrating the UK's vibrant patchwork of communities.

When photographer Stephen Burridge was young, his father, then a London taxi driver, would often take him driving through the capital’s winding roads. Burridge remembers gazing out of the cab’s window with endless curiosity: “I just had this affinity with watching people on the streets and looking at their mannerisms,” he recalls.

These journeys would grow into Burridge’s love of photographing the streets. “I continued but in a different aspect, with the camera instead of a taxi,” he says. Burridge has since spent much of his career capturing the UK’s diverse, primarily working-class neighbourhoods, among them Deptford in South London, Roman Road and Bethnal Green in East London, and the UK’s coastal regions of Blackpool and South Bay.

These photographs now form a series entitled Homegrown – a reference, Burridge says, to the “authentic, real approach” of being a Londoner photographing his own streets and integrating with the communities that comprise the project.

It was through photography that Burridge first became acquainted with Britain’s class system, and in this sense, his work has always had a political dimension. “It’s become a personal challenge of mine to break-down facades, to get close to the people in these communities and to show the individual characteristics of an area.”

Burridge speaks about his role as a photographer with a sense of duty – that being to preserve the memory of areas from the slow creep of gentrification. “The very purpose of gentrification is to take away the soul and life of an area, to commercialise it, and use it as a commodity,” he says. “To show the beauty of these misaligned areas – which are becoming few and far between – is an art form in itself.”

For this reason, he avoids shooting wealthier suburbs, which he describes as homogenised in their appearance. Instead, he chooses to document the “unconventional eloquence” of those existing on the margins of capitalism, whether it’s London’s bustling street markets or takeaways on the beachfront.

His photographs, he says, are a mixture of “semi-arranged” pictures, where he asks to shoot his subject, and “serendipity”, which involves waiting for the right moment to photograph a person without them knowing. It is these chance encounters, Burridge says, that allow for the “nuanced and brutal imagery” that has become a trademark of his work.

In the past, British documentary photography depicting the working classes has attracted criticism for its voyeurism and distance from the lived reality of its subjects. But Burridge’s work offers nuance, something he owes to his own background and compassion for the people behind his lens.

“I have close ties with these groups and I have a natural connection with them,” he says. “Instead of looking down on, I photograph in an intrinsically appreciative way.”


See more of Stephen Burridge’s work on his official website, and follow him on Instagram

Enjoyed this article? Like Huck on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Latest on Huck

The activists fighting the mental health crisis
Election 2024

The activists fighting the mental health crisis

Micha Frazer-Carroll examines the way the mental health crisis has escalated in the last five years and meets those organising to end it.

Written by: Micha Frazer-Carroll

Little White Lies’ new issue explores the sick, comic excess of Kinds of Kindness
Film

Little White Lies’ new issue explores the sick, comic excess of Kinds of Kindness

The latest issue from Huck’s sister magazine is an eye-popping and lurid exploration of Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos’ new offering writes editor David Jenkins.

Written by: David Jenkins

Documenting Gay power and Pride in 1980s America
Photography

Documenting Gay power and Pride in 1980s America

New photo book ‘Castro to Christopher: Gay Streets of America 1979–1986’ is an epic story of creativity, community, strength, joy, and resistance on two coasts.

Written by: Miss Rosen

Fragile, intimate portraits of California’s imprisoned youth
Photography

Fragile, intimate portraits of California’s imprisoned youth

New monograph ‘A Poor Imitation of Death’ documents and humanises the stories of seven young Californian inmates, aged between 16 and 20 years old, who were tried as adults despite being juveniles.

Written by: Isaac Muk

I was made homeless 11 days after the Asylum decision I waited 16 years for
Election 2024

I was made homeless 11 days after the Asylum decision I waited 16 years for

After spending years waiting for a decision on his refugee status torture survivor Gideon discovered his traumatic fight for security was far from over.

Written by: Gideon, a client at Freedom from Torture

Save the date for Rishi’s Leaving Drinks
Election 2024

Save the date for Rishi’s Leaving Drinks

Huck is teaming up with our friends at Dalston Superstore and Queer House Party to bring you an election night viewing party like no other.

Written by: Ben Smoke

Sign up to our newsletter

Issue 80: The Ziwe issue

Buy it now