I couple of months ago I saw a post in the Victoria Park Friends Facebook group (one of my absolute favs) from a representative of St Margaret's House in Bethnal Green looking for photos of the park taken by it's members for an upcoming exhibition at SMH. Thankfully, after a couple of years of on/off lockdowns with the park right next to my house and a few lens upgrades that had me wanting to get out and take photos, I had a lot. So I went through the however many thousand photos I've got on my computer and got all the best ones of the park together and sent them over to see if any were suitable. Long story short, they were! SMH loved some of the photos and wanted to feature them, so I got some prints done, dropped them in and they are now hanging at the Gallery Cafe in Bethnal Green. The exhibition started on Monday and will be running I believe until sometime in August, so if you'd like to go and check them out along with the work of other local photographers and artists please do! I'll include the address at the bottom of the page, but I thought to celebrate all this happening I'd include all the photos I sent over for people to see what I've been up to and how the park has been looking over the last two years.
As anyone that's walked through the park with me will tell you, I really really love the Burdett Coutts drinking fountain. I find it really unbelievable that such an ornate structure with such a simple purpose can just be sat in the middle of the park and no one seems to bat an eyelid. To me it looks like it could be a major historical monument in Paris or something, yet it's actually just a humble drinking fountain in the middle of an East London park. I probably could have done a whole blog post on just the fountain alone, but that'd probably get dull fast, so I just included a few select shots here. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for my absolute favourite photo of the year which, you guessed it, is of the fountain. I'll stop talking about the fountain now.
One great thing about this year was the solid week or so we had of snow in London, which really gave me a pretty rare set of landscapes in the park to take photos of. Weirdly enough I didn't actually like many of the photos I took around this time, I think because I generally really like playing with colour and white snow with a white sky is pretty much the complete absence of colour, but here's a couple I didn't mind. The swan on ice (two photos below) is one of my favourites, and one of the ones currently hanging at SMH.
Another absolute favourite location that I think you'd be hard pressed to not include in any kind of photo series about Vicky Park is the boating lake. I actually really struggle with this lake, as it always looks so beautiful in person but I've never really felt like I've managed to capture that in a photo. However there's a few attempts in this article where I've felt like I've got close, including the shot below which is another featured at St Margaret's House.
The picture above was actually a particular success story from the year. I took it on a sunny day in September and really liked how I'd randomly managed to get a picture of the lake with a guy hanging out reading in front of it and a tiny dog (that I don't believe was his) standing nearby, both of which totally make the photo. So I posted the picture in the Victoria Park Facebook group, then someone commented on it saying "Great picture, shame about that guy standing in the front of it." I said "No, that guy totally makes the picture" and he said "Thanks, that's me!" Long story short, he sent me a message and we started talking, me mostly saying "Sorry, I probably should have asked your permission before taking your picture and posting it all over the internet" and him saying "NO, I love it! Can I get a print?" So I got it printed for him, he came to my house (turns out he lives two streets over), we had a nice chat and he now has my picture framed on his wall. Not exactly mindblowing I know, but in an age where the internet (and Facebook in particular) often plays a role in dividing people, it's nice when small little success stories like this happen.
Another absolute favourite location in the park is the Pagoda. A bit like the fountain (I've mentioned the fountain right?) I'm always just a bit like, 'what the hell are you doing here?' A Chinese Pagoda on it's own island in the middle of a park in London? Like what?!? Turns out there's actually a very plausible reason; it was originally the entrance to an exhibition about China in 1842 and just kind of hung around until the second world war where it got pretty badly damaged and was subsequently demolished. The beauty of a structure you see in these photos is a replica built in 2010, which is probably why it looks so fresh. So it does in fact all make perfect sense. Unfortunately for most of lockdown the island with the Pagoda on it was shut due to covid so I couldn't really get too close for most of it, but think I still managed to get a couple of nice shots. The photo above is another of the shots currently on display at St Margaret's House.
So there you have it, that's 2019 - 2021 in Victoria Park. I've never had any work hung in any kind of gallery or exhibition so I'm very excited about this one opening this week, and huge thanks to St Margaret's House for showing an interest and putting all this on. The exhibition is called 'An Unexpected View - Artwork by Victoria Park Friends' and is open from now until later in the summer. You can find a link to their website with all the further info below:
It is held at The Gallery Cafe, 21 Old Ford Road, E2 9PL and is open 9.00am - 6.00pm - Monday - Sunday with free entry, so please go and check it out. I'll leave you with my favourite photo of the year of the Burdett Coutts fountain in the snow. Did I mention the fountain?