A series of images shot over 3 years of the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle, South London. The estate, left empty for 7 years after the 3,000 residents were “decanted” is now being regenerated although only 3% of the new homes will be available for social renting.This disparity in planned housing echoes what is happening across much of London.
The Brutalist architecture of the Heygate, which was completed in 1974, was hailed as a new modern style of living. This perception changed over time and towards the end of the Estates life it became renowned for crime, and dilapidation. The residents of Heygate have been rehomed due to this new construction project, which adds to the increasing gentrification of the area.
Many architects, planners and professionals have analysed the site over the years and many came to the conclusion that it could easily be regenerated (for less than demolishing and starting again) using the existing, structurally sound buildings.One previous estimate of what it would cost to refurbish the Heygate Estate to a modern standard was £35m. The cost of evicting the residents for Southwark Council was £65.5m and the site was sold for £55m but Lend Lease, the developers are expected to make a profit of £195m from the sale of new flats.The Heygate Estates fate differs greatly from the fortunes of other Brutalist housing projects such as The Barbican or Trellick Tower, which have both been awarded Grade II listing status.
Nick JS Thompson is a documentary photographer who focuses on communities and the effect they have on their surrounding landscape. Born in 1988, Thompson spent his formative years documenting BMX and its associated subcultures, before moving into travel photography.
His extensive and poignant project Phuomi in South-East Asia focuses on the floating villages of Kompong Loung and Chong Kneas on the Tonle Sap Lake. In this set of photographs, the villages and their inhabitants are documented going about their daily lives, fishing, cooking, and socialising. To the uninitiated observer, these normal routines appear surreal and exotic, and are captivating to watch.
His second exhibition Fanø, was shot in one week on the Danish island of the same name. Occupied by the Third Reich in 1940, The Island is now home to upwards of three hundred Nazi bunkers, all of which never saw any conflict. These nowdesolate concrete shells have been bricked up and broken into over the 70 years since the occupation.
Thompson and his two assistants spent the week crawling through minute gaps and investigating the pitch-black spaces, often only seeing the whole space for the split second when the cameras flash was fired. Graffiti, bedding, and animal sacrifices are just some of the things found inside.
This most recent project The Decline of Conscience is something a little closer to home, shot over three years in and around the Heygate Estate in Elephant And Castle. This new body of work shows the negative effects of gentrification, and the adverse effects it can have on the underprivileged members of society. Nick is a photographer with a strong sense of social conscience, and his work is always both beautifully alluring and ethically charged. This duality is what balances his work perfectly in-between honest documentary photography and fine art.