anita strasser



Deptford High Street

Deptford High Street - book

Deptford High Street is the outcome of an 18-month project (2009-2011), which aimed at utilising photographic research to meet local people, gain local knowledge and to embed myself into the area I had just moved to. I photographed and spoke to shopkeepers, customers and residents on the High Street, asking them to share their experiences of this street and Deptford in general. Storytelling reduces the gulf between the photographer / researcher and participants, which is necessary in building relationships with the people whose history is being talked about. To encourage more uninhibited responses when describing their lived experience of Deptford, the comments were left anonymous and do not correspond to the images in the book. The responses are not to be read at face value, as facts or as complete knowledge; they are subjective perspectives of life in Deptford, but they can provide insight into how some people experience the area, touching on themes such as regeneration and gentrification, multiculturalism, community and others. Lived experience is deeply embedded in history; even if interpretations are subjective and often ill-informed, as psychological truths, these accounts are just as important as “factually reliable” accounts and need engaging with. These accounts of lived experiences formed the basis of subsequent research into Deptford, trying to make sense of these accounts which, in this project, where largely left to stand alone. Further projects and extensive historical and sociological research gave me a better understanding of the social and political history of Deptford and how/why different people perceive the changes taking place in the area. Eventually, I decided to do a PhD at Goldsmiths, researching the gentrification of Deptford with a participatory arts project called Deptford is Changing: a creative exploration of the impact of gentrification, which was published as a book in 2020 (click here).

The photographs are the outcome of an immersive practice, which attempts to counteract the widespread practice of Street Photography, where photographers refrain from any kind of engagement with their subjects and have full power over how people are (mis)represented in images. Through ongoing dialogue with my subjects during the whole research process, participants were given shared power in representing themselves and their community. All images were shared, discussed and handed to participants. Overall, the project resulted in lasting friendships, connections and other projects in the local area, which can be viewed here. The project has been exhibited in The Greenwich Gallery (2010), St Nicholas Church (2010) and The Deptford Lounge (2014). The Deptford High Street book is available for reading in Deptford Lounge, West Greenwich Library, Goldsmiths Library and Special Collections.