In a self-published photobook, the German-born Londoner explores the edges of the city
“I have always been interested in exploring London, I’ve travelled around London and photographed it for years, but it took me a long time to think of what I was doing as one project because London is so disconnected,” says Philipp Ebeling. “You can pop up out of the tube and be somewhere that looks totally different, and is totally different.
“There has never been a grand plan for London – there were attempts after the Second World War, and there was talk of a complete renovation a la Haussmann [who remodelled Paris in the late 18th century], but it has never come to anything. You have Harrow, which was part of the Metroland [the new area opened up by the Metropolitan tube line] then grown by a private developer, then you have the Docklands [which were transformed over the 1980s]. It’s something I very much enjoy, but which makes London a hard subject to put together.”
He’s risen to the challenge with his new book, London Ends, which traces a ring around London well out of its better-known centre but just before the leafy suburbs proper. Including Bromley, Enfield, Waltham Forest and Kingston, these areas are peripheral and often slightly run down, and they are inhabited by locals who often think of London as a separate entity.
“People who live there have the space and freedom to do something different,” says Ebeling. “So in that sense they are very special places.”
Born in Hanover, Germany, in 1977, Ebeling moved to the city to study photography at the London College of Communications [then the London College of Printing], graduating in 2002 and shooting to attention just two years later when he won the prestigious Observer Hodge Award. His winning image showed a snowstorm in Whitechapel – it was caught on the fly when the weather changed, but it helped kick off his interest in shooting the capital as well as kick-starting his career.
This interest was fed when Ebeling started getting work from with architectural and urban planning practices, and eventually his interest in the city and the site-specific commissions he was shooting melded together into London Ends. About half of the images in the book were shot over the last five years; the other half were shot over a ten-day journey, when he walked 250km around London “without crossing the centre or going home”.
Ebeling was accompanied on his walk by his partner, Magnum photographer Olivia Arthur, with whom he set up the Fishbar Gallery in 2010. He is exhibiting the work in the gallery from 01 December in a show that deliberately layers framed prints on large wall prints “to give an idea of the layering of London”; Ebeling has also published his book via the Fishbar imprint, which has previously published Arthur’s Jeddah Diary and Richard & Pablo Bartholomew’s Father and Son (among many more).
In addition he’s currently in talks with the Architecture Foundation, which has run a series of events over the last couple of years studying London’s peripheries and reconceptualising the city’s shape as a donut, and he may work with them next year. “Hardly anyone lives in the centre of London anymore, and with the rise of home-working people no longer necessarily commute every day,” says Ebeling. “About five years ago I realised that London is changing, and that these areas are changing because of it. That’s when I really started this project in earnest.”
London Ends by Philipp Ebeling is published by Fishbar, priced £35. The exhibition PV and book launch will take place on 01 December at Fishbar, 176 Dalston Lane, London E8 1NG. fishbar.ph