18 May 2012
Last updated at 06:09
Photographer Zed Nelson has been studying Hackney, which is one of London's trendiest neighbourhoods despite its high crime rate. "I didn't want to do a depressing, gritty series about all its problems," he said. "I wanted to show the beauty in the ugliness."
"There was a sense of time standing still, a sense of boredom and tenderness," the lifelong Hackney resident says of this shot. The Olympic stadium can be seen a stone's throw from the location, on the River Lea
"I began the project by focussing on Kingsland Road, which is the centre of this new trendy Hackney," he says. "Some of them are incredibly young. I was a bit cynical when I began, but I realised most of the newcomers to Hackney are really nice, pleasant people."
A 16-year-old girl, Agnes Sina-Inakoju, was shot dead in this chicken shop "and this is just a block away from where I was photographing all these hipsters," says Mr Nelson. "These incidents happen in such close proximity - yet life goes on without a hiccup."
Mr Nelson said he chose not to use photographs of last summer's riots, even though they took place during the project. "It would've taken the project in the wrong direction," he said. "But crime does happen in Hackney - this is just an ordinary car that had been stolen and broken in to."
The borough's Hasidic Jew community is one of the biggest in Europe. "It's just another strange and interesting element to the area," he says. "Even though there are lots of different groups in Hackney, one of the nice things is that they all seem to get on."
One of Mr Nelson's goals was to explore the disconnect between the grittier facade of urban life and the arrival of the fashionistas. "The spread of all the hipsters and bars makes me a bit sad," he says. "They haven't really blended into the area in any meaningful way."
"Technology now means anyone can take a technically good photo," says Mr Nelson. "So photography should be about having something to say. I've spent 20 years travelling - from Afghanistan to Angola and Somalia - but found a fascinating world on my doorstep."
"I wanted the beauty to be juxtaposed against the reality of life in Hackney," says the photographer. "The berries were beautiful - but they look almost like a crime scene, like blood on the tarmac."
"There is an interesting clash of cultures emerging in Hackney," says Mr Nelson. "Not gentrification exactly, but there's an element of that. You have these two worlds side by side. I wanted to capture Hackney at an interesting point in its history."
"I had reservations about approaching this group," says the photographer of the three partially-masked young men in London Fields. "They were a bit more menacing, but they tolerated me. In the background you have this million pound middle class house."
"A lot of the shots look at nature reclaiming Hackney," says Mr Nelson. "Cracks in pavements and roots breaking through walls. Here the opposite is happening - it's like the tree has been beaten by all the concrete."
"Hackney Marshes is a strange place," says Mr Nelson. "It's completely encircled by housing estates - yet you find these lovely pastoral scenes." The photographer's work can be viewed at the London Festival of Photography at a show called The Great British Public.