Above: Saunders Ness Road and the old Cumberland Oil Mills, early 1980s; photograph copyright Mike Seaborne
London photographer Mike Seaborne created his photographic record of life on the Isle of Dogs between 1982 and 1987, just as it was on the point of transition. Between the two world wars, a mainly white working-class community had lived around the docks and factories built in the nineteenth century. The Second World War was shattering in its effect, but more far-reaching changes came in the following three decades. By 1980, the Island and Islanders faced the final and complete erosion of a way of life which had originated in the Industrial Revolution. The docks and most of the factories had been closed down; plans were on the table for a complete transformation of the built environment. This was the moment when Mike Seaborne arrived with his camera. He soon engaged the then very new Island History project in his plan to record the Island, and Island life, before they had altered forever.
The work was funded by a small grant from local government arts money, supplemented by voluntary input from Mike and Island History staff. Mike photographed the streets, pubs, small shops, new ASDA superstore, community meetings and protests; he spent hours with established Island companies Burrell's, Tate and Lyle, and Lenanton's, recording everyday working life; he captured phases in the construction of the Dockland's Light Railway as it carved a route from Limehouse to Island Gardens across the old Canary Wharf and over the docks. He pictured small businesses at work - car-repair and cafes; he took his camera into Cubitt Town School and George Green's Centre.
30 years on, thanks to further funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and to more voluntary input and the support of Island History, Mike's fantastic photographs have been digitised, archived and catalogued. The nearly 1,500 images are an invaluable record of the Island which has gone. See for yourself the haunting beauty of derelict industrial workshops, the desolation of the abandoned docks and the vibrant life of the traditional Island community at www.80sislandphotos.org.uk . email Mike your comments and say "thanks" for the great job he has done.
Below: When Mike Seaborne took this photograph, he was standing with his back to Tiller Road, looking east towards the old Glengall crossing of the Millwall Dock. Stand there today for a completely altered view, along the new Pepper Street - but still crossing the dock! copyright Mike Seaborne
|Pictures to come|
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