Out of sight, out of mind

Photographer Ben Nathan on what has influenced his recent work capturing some of Edmonton’s desolate landscapes

A view of Edmonton incinerator, part of Ben Nathan’s Remains (2028) exhibition
A view of Edmonton incinerator, part of Ben Nathan’s Remains (2028) exhibition

I’m sitting on the Superloop express bus flying over the North Circular bridge at Edmonton – looking south I can glimpse Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, the old Ikea, and Canary Wharf on the horizon.

Looking north, out of the opposite window, I see the Edmonton incinerator at ‘Edmonton Eco Park’ and, below, the River Lea, Lee Navigation and Pymmes Brook, all entombed in concrete, surrounded by vestiges of local industry and cleared development sites.

Earlier this year, I was the artist-in-residence with AiR, an artist collective based at Hastingwood Trading Estate next to Banbury Reservoir in Upper Edmonton. As a hybrid artist/industrial archaeologist I explored and photographed this exploited area, now in a state of rapid transformation.

Climbing through gaps in fences and into contaminated sites, I made images with my pinhole and folding plate cameras, developing the views of industrial remains in a temporary on-site darkroom. The 100-metre incinerator chimney repeatedly appears in my photographs, hovering above the manifold fly-tips. The plant was opened in 1971 and is currently being replaced by an even bigger one. It is responsible for burning waste from seven London boroughs, including a staggering 557,094 tonnes of residual waste in 2022/23 according to the North London Waste Authority’s annual report.

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This is where our household waste in black bin bags goes – single-use plastics, dirty nappies, polystyrene, juice and milk tetra packs. Out of sight, out of mind.

Buddleia and brambles push prolifically through concrete hardcore and rubbish mounds, reclaiming the polluted bottleneck for nature and revealing possibilities for an alternative rewilded landscape. Only instead, in the last few weeks, this growth has all been scraped clear again. Desperately needed homes also desperately need open public green spaces, like the old allotments and common lands. Not rubbish, but nature.

A free exhibition of Ben’s photographs, Remains (2028),will be available to view at The Valley Room, Unit A29, Hastingwood Trading Estate, Harbet Road, Edmonton N18 3HT from Saturday 18th May, 12pm-4pm. For exhibition hours and more information about Ben’s work:

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