As you will see from the main portraits page of this site, I've been doing quite a lot of 'soft news' shoots for Camera Press recently -- exhibition openings, press calls to launch campaigns, that sort of thing. On Tuesday I got invited to one of those, in which a Well Known Person was going to be photographed posting a letter to the Prime Minister in support of a worthy cause. It was scheduled for 2pm, then brought forward to 12.45. I rushed over there and then stood, with about 20 other photographers, for an hour on a street corner in west London, waiting for WKP to arrive. Alas, she was a no-show, apparently due to problems with a connecting flight. With travel time, that ate up three hours of my day.
Imagine my delight then, to have cycled 10 minutes over to Brixton and worked with Clapham Film Unit for the following two days and taken portraits of some lovely people with no agenda and no connecting flights. This is part of a project called 'For What We Are About to Lose', addressing the recent and on-going regeneration of Brixton and asking older residents to recall what the place used to be like. I've been taking still photos throughout the project. The result has been two documentaries directed by Charlotte Bill which you can see on the CFU website. Charlotte sees this as an on-going project as much more redevelopment is promised/threatened in the near future.
The photos here are of Etta Burrell, who runs Etta's Seafood Kitchen in Brixton Village. Eight years ago she dreamt that Brixton belonged to her and the next day she happened to be there when the council started offering units with the first three months rent-free. This brilliant scheme gave lots of people a chance to start a new shop or restaurant which they probably couldn't have managed without that financial break. Its a financial model that has been copied elsewhere since, not least because Brixton is now known as a foodie destination and the area has been revitalised rather than demolished. Of course it is also a testament to Etta's cooking skills that she has survived and thrived for eight years in a difficult business.
Anna Watson: photographer, parent, juggler