Harfield Village photographs

“In my final year at art school I decided to do a postgraduate diploma in photography. The lecturer at the time, Dimitri Fanourakis, was particularly brilliant. He showed me images by an American photographer Bruce Davidson. His way of doing things was to walk into the slums of Harlem with his cameras and equipment hanging from him. Here he would wait until people asked him to photograph them, thus a non-exploitative dialogue began with his sitters, and he exchanged  prints for the privilege of photographing them. At the time I was living up the street from an area which was being cleared of “people of color” so the area could be for declared whites only. It was the hey-day of documentary photography at Michaelis, and I decided to document this area, Harfield Village. Most of the photographs were taken in Second Avenue. One half of the street (the half I lived in) had always been a white-only area, the other half for “non-whites”. It was this other half where people were being evicted. I began hanging around the area with my camera dangling from my neck. Sure enough within 15 minutes I was invited into one of the dark little cottages. Thus began an intimate dialogue with the people of Harfield village. I printed the photographs I took and gave them in exchange for the privilege of being allowed into their homes. Rapidly I became known in the area, I was invited to photograph babies, old grannies who took to their beds in winter, children dressed up in their best, friends. Some made me special meals; a tailor made me a pair of pants. I was given samoosas to take home. The poorest gave me bread with Lucky Star pilchards spread on the slice. I photographed there for a year and produced a series called Second Avenue people. Tragically within the next few years this the humble cottages were rebuilt and gentrified for “whites”. Today I wonder how many people living there now know a vibrant community was destroyed and good people displaced because they were “coloured”. Some of these people, and their children, are surely out there somewhere, perhaps they still have some of these photographs. If anybody knows them, and sees this, I should love to know.”