2020VISION Assignment: Community Gardening

There is revolution in the air! It's green, muddy, joyous and passionate. It's happening under flyovers, among high-rise flats, on roundabouts – in fact, it's happening right under our noses, if only we could be bothered to raise them up and smell the compost. 

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© Paul Harris/2020VISION

Personal Commission: Community Gardening
Location: London
Photographer: Paul Harris

 

There is revolution in the air! It's green, muddy, joyous and passionate. It's happening under flyovers, among high-rise flats, on roundabouts – in fact, it's happening right under our noses, if only we could be bothered to raise them up and smell the compost. 

Gardens have appeared in the most unlikely places: on rooftops, on barges and even in skips.

As part of this challenging 2020VISION brief, I visited places in London I had never heard of, let alone visited. But it is the kind of documentary photography I have been doing for years – telling very human stories.

Global Generation, Capital Growth, Roots and Shoots, Project Dirt... These are only a few of the umbrella organizations that are connecting gardeners, volunteers and permaculturalists with businesses, councils and health centres to develop a greener, healthier city.

Last summer, Nick Gardner and Mark Shearer, the young and vibrant co-founders of Project Dirt, set me up with a list of green initiatives which have so far raised thousands of pounds, won green awards, brought back community spirit and even encouraged wildlife back to areas of the city long since abandoned.

Creative space

Loula Saragoudas lives close to Mudchute City Farm on the Isle of Dogs. Her building used to house labourers who loaded cargo on and off the old Thames Barges.

The flats back onto a tiny patch of land which has been transformed into a thriving community garden with a stunning view of Canary Wharf.

In Deptford, I came across Evelyn Community Garden. Started in 2005 with only a small shed, poly tunnel and pond, it now attracts regular volunteers and visitors, and works closely with the adjacent allotment.

Young families new to the area bring their children here as part of their home schooling. The parents have been astounded by the knowledge of plants and animals the children have already picked up.

In North London, I sat on the roof of Budgens supermarket among recycled plastic containers full of herbs, photographing a morning of seed collecting, while behind me recycled plastic bottles were being strung together end-to-end to form the wall of a new greenhouse.

Barely two years old, ‘Food from the Sky’ is a Permaculture project created by French-Lebanese Azul-Valerie Thome and is already part of this growing movement towards green independence, sustainability and a wildlife-friendly urban environment.

 

Paul's top tip for photographing people

 

  • Getting in close to your subject has always been essential to good people photography.
     
  • Engagement is the key, allowing your subject to feel more at ease and to concentrate on whatever activity they are doing.
     
  • Pack away that long telephoto and bring the viewer into their world with a wide angle.

 

2020VISION is a multimedia project that highlights the link between people's wellbeing and the restoration of natural systems.

Uniquely, it pairs the talents of 20 of the UK's most skilled outdoor photographers with writers, editors, videographers, sound artists and scientists to make a compelling case for rewilding landscapes - for wildlife and for people.

To see some of the best images taken on 2020VISION assignments so far, click here.

To find out more about 2020VISION, click here.

 

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