Sloightly on Th’ Huh in Elephant and Castle

I attended a Photojournalism course in May at the London College of Communications. Below is the photo assignment I did as part of the course, one of two ideas I had. 

Check out the photos in the gallery here.

Sloightly on Th’ Huh in Elephant and Castle

skew; slant

Arriving in Elephant and Castle for the first time, I felt a little on th’ huh. It’s what we say in Suffolk when something is a skew on the slant. It may take only a few hours of travel, but it is like visiting a foreign country.

Suffolk has 520 people per square mile; with so few, you may have met them all. In the borough of Southwark, with Elephant and Castle in the North West, there are 28,000 per square mile! You would only see that many people in a mile when Ipswich town play at home.

It is evident when you arrive it is different, not just the tall buildings, transport links and the number of people but the change the area is going through now and in the past.

My destination is the London College of Communications for a photojournalist course. It’s a short walk from the tube station. A primarily grey, stereotypical-looking college complex with a tower & maze of corridors.

We are tasked with producing a photo assignment, and it has to be based in Elephant and Castle, with the tutor Terri making clear it’s got to include people and quotes. She also said the task was supposed to “push us out of our comfort zone.”

That won’t be hard; the entire place is out of my comfort zone. It was challenging when I stood outside trying to pick a story from the constant flow of people, cars, buses and construction. When you start researching the area, it doesn’t get easier. The rate of change has caused countless effects on the local community; as you dig into the past further, it becomes evident that it’s not even a modern-day issue.

Something that had been present for a long time was the church next to the college. The metropolitan tabernacle only has its original facade remaining, with its most recent incarnation from 1941 after it was bombed in World War II.

I arranged to meet Ade on a Friday lunchtime to talk to him about the church’s history and get some pictures.

Ade is the bookshop manager, a welcoming guy who grew up in northern England. He found his way to the Tab after attending a service. He explains, “We have people visit from all over the world, mostly Brazil, USA & Holland” due to the church’s previous highly influential pastor, Charles Spurgeon.

Ade explains that the bookshop serves as a way of supplying books and teaching in an accessible way. It was first started due to the lack of material available in the UK market, so they started importing material from the USA. However, it has not been immune to the modern-day changes. Even located in a Church with a thousand-strong congregation & live streaming in seven languages, “We have been trying to find our place for the last 20 years”, Ade explains. It was a leader at one time in selling books by mail order & online, but its customers have dwindled as the congregation move to competitors like Amazon.

The shop extends to the street outside on Saturdays, where a small group meet & greets passers-by to talk to them about the church. They also have a selection of books for sale.

I find Mark, Debbie & Victoria outside. Mark explains he only moved to the UK a year ago with his family from Texas in the USA. They are the only American family attending the church. He also found Elephant and Castle a very different experience from where he used to live.

I have found a story, the bookshop within the Tabernacle. I also found that my experience with Elephant & Castle is another story I am telling now.

Mona & Mark, fellow students on the course, also added to the experience as they had the challenge of creating a photo assignment. Tackling a new challenge that put them out of their comfort zone.

Elephant and Castle, at first glance, was full of people passing through on their busy days. Once you scratch the surface, it’s packed with individuals with depth & many different backgrounds.

It’s nothing short of fascinating & inspiring.

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