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Wandering The Greenwich Peninsula with a Lomo LC-A

The Greenwich Peninsula is an area of London that has undergone many changes over the years. From being a marshland drained by Dutch engineers in the 16th century, to being a site of gunpowder magazines and pirates’ executions in the 17th century, to being a hub of industry and innovation in the 19th and 20th centuries, to being a cultural and creative hotspot in the 21st century, it has always been a place of interest and diversity.


The Peninsula still has its extra-urban, industrial feel, and in this journey I'm bringing that side of the peninsula out; a memory of heavy and light industries gone, and a reminder of the not-so-distant past that we now call our homes. For this walk, we will focus on the western side of the peninsula, where much of the industry is still extant in some form or another. The northern and eastern parts of the peninsula are still very much under redevelopment, however the remnants of industry are very much gone for the most part.


The Lomo LC-A is a well known camera so I won't go into too much detail here about it, but suffice to say that its vignetting, rendering and ability to produce unpredictable effects married very much up to the atmosphere. Combined with Lomography's CN400 colour negative film, which has a slightly more muted and grainy rendering than comparable Kodak Ultramax and Portra 400 emulsions, you can get a taste of the past coming through each image.


I hope you will enjoy this journey as much as I do every day.

 

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Greenwich Power Station

A colour photograph of the chimneys of Greenwich Power Station as seen from below.
The looming chimneys of Greenwich Power Station. Photo credit: Michael Elliott

At the southern end of the peninsula stands the looming chimneys and hulking bulk of Greenwich Power Station, one of the first "central" power stations in the world - alongside Deptford Power Station, now long gone and whose demolition was subject of a very famous Mike Seaborne photograph, one of my favourite images of 80's London.


The power station survived (albeit with trimmed chimneys) and is still available to London Underground as a backup generator should there be a problem with the National Grid. Apart from the fact that it is no longer coal fired (it is now hybrid oil/gas fired), it can still be employed to generate electricity today.


A colour photograph of the interior of Park Row Motors garage on Hoskins Street in Greenwich.
Park Row Motors garage on Hoskins Street. Photo credit: Michael Elliott

Next to the Power Station, and in the shadow of it, is a traditional car workshop, and it's always fun to poke your head in and give them a surprise. I guess they never think that anyone will find their work, and workplace, interesting enough to photograph, but I find these kinds of workshops fascinating. The cars jacked up at various levels, in various states of inspection, repair, or disrepair; the mechanical has a special intrigue for me.


A colour, multiple exposure, dynamic photograph of the coal jetty at Greenwich Power Station. The multiple exposures lend a dynamism to a seldom frequented structure that once was a hubbub of activity.
The Coal Jetty, Greenwich Power Station. Photo credit: Michael Elliott

Moving down to the riverside, the coal jetty - which was formerly used to offload coal from barges on the Thames into the Power Station, stands proud and untouched by the ravages of redevelopment. A lot of these jetties were destroyed as they became redundant, but at some point in the 2000s, someone realised that they could, for the most part, be used as habitats for the birdlife that frequents the riverside - and quite a few now remain around the peninsula, punctuating the riverside with shards of the past being slowly taken over by the greenery that has been sowed on them.


This particular take on the jetty stands out from the rest, not because it's an accidental multiple exposure (thanks, Lomo...) but because that multiple exposure gives the jetty a new-found dynamism that evokes the hustle and bustle of the past activities, of the coal moving from river to land, of the people heaving and ho-ing; a nostalgic view, and probably one tinted heavily in rose, but nonetheless, an interpretation that in my mind adds new life to the jetty.

 

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Enderby Wharf to Victoria Deep Water Terminal

A colour photograph of a jetty at Enderby's Wharf, Greenwich, with historic cable gear, as seen from below.
The Cable Gear at Enderby's Wharf. Photo credit: Michael Elliott

As you move up the peninsula on the riverside, you pass many jetties, and this structure, next to Enderby Wharf. This is the cable gear that was used to wind out the first (and subsequent) transatlantic telephone cables on to the ships that then laid them in the Atlantic.


A colour photograph depicting wasteland on Greenwich Peninsula, with uPVC window frames discarded in the centre of the frame, and other detritus visible. In the background there are tower blocks from the other side of the peninsula visible, as well as the CHP plant adjacent to the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road, with Conrad Shawcross's Optic Cloak on show.
Desolation. Wasteland north of the first stage of the Enderby Wharf redevelopment, left to waste after the planned cruise terminal was axed due to (quite valid) environmental concerns. Photo credit: Michael Elliott

On the landward side, further up the western side of the peninsula, there is still quite a lot of undeveloped wasteland. This sits just north of the Enderby Wharf development (the Enderbys of Greenwich had much to do with the site developing into the Atlantic Telegraph Company, being the predecessors who acquired the land and built a ropewalk there). This site was to become a new residential development with attached cruise liner terminal, however that seems to have stalled since the cruise terminal plans were scrapped. One has to wonder what will become of it... In the background you can see some of the residential blocks on the other side of the peninsula, as well as Conrad Shawcross's "Optic Cloak", which covers the chimneys from the district heating plant adjacent to the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road.


A colour photograph depicting a pile of tyres in front of a yellow forklift truck. The pile of tyres is almost the same height as the forklift. In the background are more tyres and a crane.
A big pile. Tyres stacked next to a forklift (almost similarly sized). Impressive proportions. Photo credit: Michael Elliott

The Thamescraft Dry Dock sits between Morden Wharf and Victoria Deep Water Terminal. There's always something going on here, and always some new subject to photograph in the yard. I was impressed by the size of this pile of tyres, compared with the forklift behind them.


A colour photograph depicting the Thamescraft Dry Docking yard from the landward side. A yellow crane moves a skip in the background, while in the foreground, assorted metals and other ancillary items lie around.
A different view of the Thamescraft Dry Docking yard from the landward side. Photo credit: Michael Elliott

Other times, the cranes are working and moving skips around. A veritable hive of activity. Behind the crane, you can see the silo and part of the elevator at Victoria Deep Water Terminal. When I took this photo the silo was still under construction and unclad, while now the cladding has been applied and you can no longer see into the skeleton and what goes on underneath.


A colour photograph of a red and white pilot boat next to a red barge offloading aggregates to Victoria Deep Water Terminal. Canary Wharf is in the background, and other boats are visible on the river.
A pilot boat next to a barge offloading aggregates to the Victoria Deep Water Terminal. Photo credit: Michael Elliott

Barges and container ships can moor further up the peninsula at Victoria Deep Water Terminal. Hanson Heidelberg now run the site and receive regular deliveries of aggregates to produce cement, crucial for projects such as Crossrail, the Silvertown Tunnel, and so on. As much as the peninsula is being redeveloped, I struggle to see this industry leaving in the near future.


A colour photograph from a low angle showing the insides of the silo structure at Victoria Deep Water Terminal, where aggregates are offloaded into from the barges on the riverside.
The silos where the aggregate materials are offloaded to. This is now fully clad, so there is no opportunity to see the underbelly of this structure any more. Photo credit: Michael Elliott

Taken on another day, this shows the silos at Victoria Deep Water Terminal from the riverward elevation. The final elevator into the silos is visible. The structure is tall and sticks out when viewed from further up the river in Greenwich itself.

 

North Greenwich to Trafalgar Road

A colour photograph looking down the escalators at North Greenwich tube station in London. The scene is very quiet, as if it were a very quiet Sunday afternoon, however this was taken on a weekday morning during rush hour (during Covid...)
Unbelievably quiet at rush hour at North Greenwich tube station - during Covid. Photo credit: Michael Elliott

At the height of Covid, you could go into the Jubilee line at rush hour and be greeted with virtual desolation. I very rarely see North Greenwich tube station this empty even on a Sunday evening, so it was that I took a photograph.


A colour photograph through the fence looking at the outside area of North Greenwich club "Studio 338", with a replica aircraft with trimmed wings visible, among much waste and detritus.
The outside area at Studio 338 - what once was thriving with clubbers has now been swept clear for the Silvertown Tunnel. Photo credit: Michael Elliott

Another sight that is no longer there is the mock aircraft parked in a lot behind Studio 338. Since the commencement of works on the Silvertown Tunnel project, this area has become more and more difficult to access, being right at the confluence of accesses to both Blackwall and Silvertown Tunnels. This outdoor area used to be used for events held at Studio 338; having not been past for a while, I'm not sure what they use now.


A colour (but almost monochromatic) photograph of a teddy bear which has been strapped to the topmost part of a lamppost and left to rot.
A forlorn teddy bear strapped high up on a lamppost under the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road. Photo credit: Michael Elliott

Underneath the A102 (the Blackwall Tunnel Southern Approach), you find a rather sad scene of a teddy bear, strapped to the top of a lamppost, looking down imploringly on the passers by. It's been there for years, and still is, gradually disintegrating. A fitting scene for such a depressing environment (although the ersatz skate park below does make up for some of the grimness of the underpass...)

A colour photograph of a pair of people on a red moped, moving through traffic into Greenwich.
Racing through the traffic. A couple on a moped escape the queues of traffic coming off the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road and into Greenwich. Photo credit: Michael Elliott

A final shot on Blackwall Lane of a moped rushing through the traffic lights and past the snaking traffic (regularly reaching the underpass (above), and beyond, when traffic is bad in Greenwich). The compactness and ergonomics of the Lomo LC-A really helped capture this panning shot. Sharp, no. But that's not always the point, and that's why I love the LC-A.


I hope you've enjoyed this short tour of part of the Greenwich Peninsula on film. The aesthetic of the Lomo LC-A camera and the Lomography CN400 film go hand in hand with my vision of the peninsula as a liminal space between redeveloped residential areas and untouched heavy industry. The gritty and grimy atmosphere is only enhanced by the grain of the film and the vignetting of the wonderful Minitar lens.

 

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