Revealing photographs of South London before gentrification arrived
Niall McDiarmid, the Scottish photographer who has been based in London for a number of years, has forged his prolific career by documenting the people and landscape of Great Britain.
Returning with his latest book Southwestern, McDiarmid has turned his attentions to the English capital city and, more specifically, the day-to-day life those locals living south of the River Thames before the sprawling mass of gentrification crept its way into Peckham and beyond.
Given the subject matter of McDiarmid’s work, it should come as little surprise that comparisons to Martin Parr have been made over the years and, to coincide with that, a series of there Scotsman’s portraits are currently held by the Martin Parr Foundation along with the Museum of London, the National Portrait Gallery and the Sir Elton John Photographic Collection.
Focusing more specifically on Southwestern, however, McDiarmid has handed himself the opportunity to house some of his revealing images of a place he called home into one publication to complete 72 pages of breathtaking imagery.
“I took many early shots in the series in the late evening and into the night. I used to drive around trying to make visual sense of neighbourhoods such as Mitcham, Colliers Wood and Tooting – areas that seem to be overlooked in the contemporary history of the UK capital,” McDiarmid said in an interview with The Guardian.
The area of Tooting, which is featured in a number of McDiarmid’s work, became one of his first major subjects having found himself in completely new surroundings: “I had moved to the area from Highland Perthshire in the early ’90s, as it was one of the cheaper places in London to live,” he explained. “It was nowhere like the countryside where I had grown up. Visually, I found it fascinating. Street markets, greasy spoon cafes, rundown laundrettes and endless commuter railway lines all seemed to spring out at me in semi-suburban, mundane glamour.”
He concludes: “Maybe south London is more glamorous than people think.”