Life on the Road – The North Circular

The North Circular is a road with its own environment. It could be described as noisy, dangerous, and suffocating but also for many, bizarrely, home. Actually with six lanes of traffic at its narrowest, it is effectively a motorway yards (or a yard) from the residents’ homes. It’s been named the most polluted road in London, and with one in 12 deaths linked to pollution, it begs the question, who would live here? This project explores the road and meets some of the people who live on it to ask them about “Life on the Road”. London’s new Mayor, Sadiq Khan is planning to introduce ‘cleaner air’ measures; possibly extending controls up to the North and South Circular. Finally goverment is taking the issue of pollution seriously, but for some of course it might be too late.

Why I made these pictures

When ever I decide to so something purely for my self a project purely for the love of photography, love of life I suppose I seem to end up somewhere ordinary, somewhere overlooked. I recently completed a body of work exploring globalisation by photographing people at their desks, drained workers, in their cluttered functional spaces. Maybe it’s a reaction, in me, to the beauty aesthetic that dominates in photography that drives me; or maybe it’s a search for something universal and essential.

Actually for me there is something glamorous about this “ugly, Twisting brute “ of a road as Louise Millar (writer and carbon monoxide breathing partner in this endeavor) so eloquently puts it. All those people all those journeys make this particular road a king, an Alpha amongst the Betas, surely that gives it status something to puff about. And the history of the road, its ambition is impressive. Conceived as part of the post war utopian dream of modern city living when everything seemed to get better and better and architects like Corbusier inspired urban planners to build towering skyscrapers or they built garden cities with spacious 1930s terraced housing, like those lining the road today. Roads and motorways , also part of this modernist dream, were built aplenty rampaging through the countryside to the future.

Of course when the future arrives and the dreams fade to the reality , is when it gets interesting for a photographer. The North circular; always had such a powerful and unique indenity, all be it in a hugely dysfunctional way. The noise, the pollution the lack of space.

Life On The Road, Living on the North Circular
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