Last summer was a proper scorcher. The nation went wild thanks to World Cup fever, temperatures hit the mid 30s, and the capital was brimming with good vibes. For British photographer Nick Waplington, nowhere encapsulated this merry atmosphere better than the Hackney Riviera.
A Hackney local (and proud), the artist has regularly visited the marshes for as long as he can remember. Whether that be to visit his studio or a birthday spent “raving in the woods with thousands of people and a sound system.” However, Waplington only started photographing the area after following his children into the River Lea’s swimming spots – a part of east London affectionately known as the Hackney Riviera – and seeing the beauty in the scenes there which are symbolic of the inclusive, outward-looking community that the borough is famous for.
It’s apparent that Waplington’s photos reflect and honour Hackney’s outlook. “I get the feeling that London, and East London in particular, is a microcosm of the world. Not many people vote for the Brexit party around here and there’s always been an element of resistance in Hackney,” he explains. The spirit of Hackney is paraded in the jovial snaps of swimmers and bathers, all of which showcase unity in the face of an apparently “polarised” Britain.
Having had an E9 postcode for quite some time, the photographer has seen a lot of changes to the area. “I think the major change since I first moved into the area is the amount of people. I would guess that there’s probably five or six times the amount of people living here now than there were 30 years ago.” This rapid explosion of new residents has sparked changes in the area. “You used to have to go to the West End if you wanted anything. There weren’t – even over the weekend – any pubs that were open. There was just the London Apprentice, the gay club, and that was it.”
While the photographer is happy to see more businesses opening up, he comments: “It’s a shame, all the old style pubs have almost all gone now. They’ve all been ‘hipstered’ or whatever. I used to like the ones near supermarkets where people used to come in selling meat they had shoplifted from Tesco to buy drugs. There was one particular pub in Bethnal Green that people used to go to to get their meat for their Sunday roast. They would go in there, have a beer, and wait for the junkies to arrive.