Updated: Jan 16, 2019

Before I started the project about the regeneration of Elephant and Castle, I doubted how could I document the changes of the Elephant in such short time. But when I soaked myself into it and think of the state of the world, I really saw changes. A few days ago at a junction, two destroyed road piles were exposed to me, and the naked steel bars were entangled and held together like two exiled orphans. When I came back later, they had been replaced. It’s a different world to that of a decade ago, different to a week ago, different even to a second ago.

Focused on landscapes, Affinity reflects my interests in human landscapes - through it I have developed a passion for documenting the overlooked, for finding visual interest in seemingly ordinary locations.

When I had no choice but to wander around the Elephant with the group for the first time, I saw the dilapidated kindergarten gate, which is covered with old writing. And the bare cable attached to the wall like a terrible alien creature. I also saw a brand new bus stop against the shiny new buildings and the Shard gleaming in the distance. For me, it is just what’s happening all over London, nothing special. However, when I slowed down my steps intentionally, the magic just happened. I saw a small yard that is not used anymore, a cluttered dead tree in front of the house and some tree ferns and dead branches clinging to the iron net. The tranquility and mystery of these landscapes bring me closer to residents' feelings. I can find people's joys and sorrows through such landscapes. I am not saying that landscape can speak by itself. But the unique beauty of the Elephant itself inevitably paint a picture of every day the Elephant today, and people's relationship with their surroundings. This kind of beauty is quiet, unwilling to be disturbed, but it is experiencing changes and transformation.

This is the magic. There were moments when the beauty of this area and it’s people so overwhelmed me that I couldn’t speak. It was no longer like the way people commented online that there are a lot of crimes, that it is a chaotic areas and that you shouldn’t go out at night. Don’t get me wrong, I have to admit there were days when I felt suffocated by the fact that I had to walk around Elephant and Castle in freezing winter days, carrying my heavy camera. It is not a shiny area attracting thousands of tourists from all over the world. But is that all about the Elephant?

There’s definitely a lot I still don’t know about Elephant and Castle, about what the future might bring to this multicultural society. But I do know the Elephant has its own beauty that has been ignored for a long time.


© 2019 by leizhang