On London’s busy streets, it’s easy to dash about, never fully looking around, and never fully appreciating the city’s somewhat wonky beauty.
A new book of photographs by Chris Dorley-Brown encourages us to pause. Focusing on street corners in the East End of the city, Dorley-Brown creates portraits that are cinematic and eerie, reminiscent of Gregory Crewdson’s constructed photographic narratives, yet starring parts of the city that are banal in their regularity.
If the photographs seem otherworldly, that’s because they are. They are created from multiple exposures that are layered together to create a final image. The characters featured are therefore unlikely to have been on the corners shown at the same time, and this effect may also explain the dreamlike quality of the sky in the shots.
Shot over several years, the photographs focus on an area of London that is always constantly changing. Writing in the book’s introduction, Cathy Lomax points out how Dorley-Brown uses the street corner as a wider metaphor for the East End.
“The street corner is the site of so much urban activity, a location in flux, a place of intersection that people pass through to get somewhere else,” she writes. “For this reason the corner stands as a metaphor for East London as a whole. An area that has seen waves of immigration, Huguenots fleeing persecution in France, Jews escaping from the pogroms in Eastern Europe, communities of Chinese and African sailors setting up around the docks. These communities gather and then dissipate to be replaced by new groups of immigrants.”
Presenting a world that is free of cars, and exists outside the usual dirt, bustle and noise of London’s real streets, Dorley-Brown’s series presents reality and fiction simultaneously: portraying parts of London that will be familiar to many, yet in a way that is entirely new.
The Corners by Chris Dorley-Brown is published by Hoxton Mini Press on May 17; hoxtonminipress.com