If you're looking for some lost soul, maybe Brixton SW9 is the place to find it.
Brixton’s past is violent and colourful. When I lived there, Sundays in the summer always seemed to bring people out on the streets: the rocker a few doors down who threw open his window and sang to his guitar, and the guy from round the corner who serenaded people at the bus stop. There was always something of a party spirit in the air in Brixton, and always a warm welcome.
Back in the day, outside the tube station (last stop on the Victoria line) you could find the vocal combination of the Big Issue guy and the incense guy. It’s hard to explain their sound but I’ll try – a Caribbean voice “biggy-biggy-biggy-big isuuuuuuueeeee” pause then in a much deeper tone, “incense”. And repeat. After living away from London for a few years, I headed back to my old haunts to find, and photograph these guys. But where were they? In their place was a redesigned station, but no Big Issue guy or Incense guy. I had a crisis moment – maybe there was now no soul left in Brixton. After all, it was now the O2 Academy, instead of the Brixton Academy.
It didn’t take much time back in SW9 to realise that the place still has character. Although not entirely the same, there’s something very lively about the combination of bus stops, flower sellers, campaign tables that seem to accumulate outside the station. Diana Mini particularly enjoyed shooting a couple of half-frame shots there – combining and contrasting the various scenes. Diana F+, on the other hand, is much more into markets.
Check out the market running down Electric Avenue (I challenge you not to hum ‘Electric Avenue’ while walking down there!). Mingled with the usual market stalls you’ll find the more unusual jewellery and accessories, and the shops surrounding the stalls sell fresh halal meat and fish. Many of the fish salesmen are happy to show off their finest catch and this makes a great photo opportunity. See if you can get your hands on one of the specially minted Brixton pounds, created to bring more commerce to the area. I didn’t see one, but I’m not done visiting there yet!
Once you cast your eyes off the markets you’ll notice the graffiti art that’s dotted around. It may not be Banksy, but the colourful murals and paintings on the sidings of shops add to the somewhat festive atmosphere. Once you’ve investigate the area around the railway arches, wander around some side streets, where it’s more residential. The typical terraced houses of South London can sometimes be found with decorative murals painted on the side, and the repetitive shapes of the doorways and steps can make for some great shots. I also headed on down Coldharbour Lane towards Loughborough Junction, where the renovated stands side by side with the semi-derelict.
I get the impression that Brixton is an area of change, but one that will always maintain a lively and culturally vibrant atmosphere. It’s this that’ll keep me coming back with a camera full of film.