Things are on the move. We know this is true of so many places in our modern world, but when it happens on your doorstep, it gets you thinking. Shoreditch – home to our studio and to so many other creative businesses – is on the brink of a significant transformation. Large-scale developments are popping up, the skyline is rising, and the physical, urban fabric is visibly changing. This can’t help but affect the social and creative capital of this particular part of London.
It was time to record something of all of this, and what better way than with a camera obscura? The idea was in part inspired by the work of the artist Rodney Graham. His vast, upside-down tree photographs play with the notion of human observation and perception, taking people out of their everyday environment and leaving them to reflect on the image and form their own interpretation.
Reflection was just what was needed. If people could be made to focus, just for a moment, on the upside-down ‘cliff’ of steel and glass creeping towards Shoreditch from the City of London, then perhaps they’d see it for what it was – the destruction of so much of the city’s past and present.
We built our camera obscura with our own hands on a Shoreditch rooftop in 2014. Then, as part of the London Festival of Architecture and later as part of London Open House, we welcomed well over 500 people and invited them to look at London differently. Every time that looming cliff of steel and glass provoked an unexpected reaction, a fresh thought or a critical look, our camera obscura was doing its job, just as we’d hoped.