Lewis Bush: Metropole

© Lewis Bush | Metropole

There is no other city like London, anywhere in the world. It’s multicultural and vibrant, gigantic and opulent, exuberant, and full of adventure. You can live in London your whole life and never visit the same restaurant twice, you can see some of the best art exhibitions, theatre plays, and music concerts. This glamour and luxury, both financial and cultural, is only an inch deep though; all it takes is a little detour from the centre and you’d see homeless people, litter and young professionals bemoaning their extortionate rent for a room the size of the city’s famous red telephone boxes. There is a darker side to London, one marred by dodgy money, shady political dealings and unscrupulous overseas investors. The city is a bit like Marmite, I am yet to meet someone who feels neutral about it — its inhabitants either love it, hate it, or, more often than not, a bit of both depending on the day of the week.

A fee for this story is donated to CENTREPOINT 

Lewis suggested donating his fee to Ceterpoint.org.uk — the organisation that provides housing and support for young people regionally in London, Manchester, Yorkshire and the North East and through partnerships all over the UK.

As Lewis Bush states, “once the Metropole, or mother city, at the heart of a vast global empire, London is now the dominion to a new world power”. The photographs in his body of work Metropole are predominantly black and white and they combine multiple exposures, overlaying and found material from development billboards. The effect is complete disorientation, dizziness, perhaps even a slight headache.

© Lewis Bush | Metropole

Images like these are powerful at any size — both tiny screens and huge billboards — but they achieve their full potential when printed large, in particular the monochrome double exposure photographs. They show metal structures and constructions, buildings-to-be surrounded by cranes and glaring lights; the photographer has achieved conveying exactly what it feels like to walk around London at night after too many pints of beer expensive enough to make you reconsider your life choices.

Bush’s practice is uniquely informed by research. You might go as far as saying that he’s a researcher as much as a photographer — data on the property developers and their use of intricately complex use of offshore finance structures and political lobbying are at the center of Metropole and the flesh on its bones.

London is, or at least was until very recently, a global financial hub. The financial market is notoriously deregulated — we all know that too well as it lead to the crash in 2008. Metropole was created between 2014 and 2018 or, in other words, just before, during, and after the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union. Now that the real price of Brexit is becoming more and more palpable, only time will tell whether the London documented here will soon be a thing of the past.

— foreword by Zak R. Dimitrov

Lewis Bush is a photographer, educator and curator

works across media and platforms to visualise the activities of powerful organisations, practices, and technologies. Since 2012 his practice has explored issues ranging from the aggressive redevelopment of London, to the systemic inequalities of the art world. Recent works include Shadows of the State, which examines the democratic deficit of intelligence gathering, and Wv.B which examines the dark histories of space exploration.

He is currently working on a long-term project about computer vision which runs in parallel with an ESRC funded PhD at the London School of Economics. He is also course leader of the MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography (online) course at London College of Communication.

Once the Metropole or mother city at the heart of a vast global empire, London is now the dominion to a new world power.

Subject to the flows of global finance and whims of markets, the city has become little more than an investment opportunity for multinational developers and overseas investors. Metropole records the brutally disorientating effects of this by documenting these legions of new corporate and residential blocks as they are constructed and occupied.

Multiple exposure photographs are combined with appropriated, repurposed photographs taken from the billboards of the developments, alongside extensive research into the property developers behind these schemes, including their extensive use of opaque offshore financial structures and unaccountable political lobbying.

© Lewis Bush | Metropole

Metropole photo zine

© Lewis Bush | Metropole

Metropole Photobook, Zine and prints are available at the author's website

© Lewis Bush | Metropole

© Lewis Bush | Metropole

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