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Gillett Square

Roland Ramanan | United Kingdom

Graham on the right foreground, sadly committed suicide. After struggling with mental health issues, the authorities decided he was "fit for work" and should move to a smaller apartment. It proved too much. Humour has a dark edge in the square. London 2012.

Gillett Square is a unique space in Hackney, east London. Derelict and underdeveloped for years, in the 1990s it became an experiment in community regeneration. Today, it remains a magnet for the dispossessed and those left behind by gentrification:a metaphor for the current struggle for the heart and soul of the city.

Over the last several years I have photographed and recorded the lives that float in and around Gillett Square. Lives full of addiction and pain, but, also of hope and optimism.

I have been privileged to be allowed into the lives and homes of some of those I have met to photograph their fights and struggles; their families and their lovers. Some of thesepeople are now my friends and some are no longer with us.

They are the faces of a normally unseen Hackney who are nonetheless woven into its fabric. This work is a portrait of those powerless to influence what Hackney - and London - is becoming but also what remains. A brutal but tender place.

I have been privileged to be allowed into the lives and homes of some of those I have met to photograph their fights and struggles; their families and their lovers. Some of thesepeople are now my friends and some are no longer with us.

They are the faces of a normally unseen Hackney who are nonetheless woven into its fabric. This work is a portrait of those powerless to influence what Hackney - and London - is becoming but also what remains. A brutal but tender place.

Further development of the project would allow me to do more participatory work with the community.  For example, I have taken many snap shots of them over the years and handed out prints which they greatly appreciate.  I wish to make a limited run Blurb-type book which will be a collection of these memories just for the members of the community.  Many of them do not have pictures of themselves.  I also want to make a professional standard pop-up studio in the square for those people who would like a portrait made and a good quality print.  I have many more ideas for how I can underline the fact that their stories matter!  In the end, that is the whole point of the project, which I aim to make into a book – to show that the lives of this community who may be overlooked, really do matter.

Roland Ramanan

Webpage www.rolandramanan.com 

Instagram @rolandramanan

Email: rolandramanan.com

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