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Kaleidoscopic Places and Spaces

"Rasmussen’s images bring out moments of eye-popping colour set against muted back-tones"

In the late 70s, schoolteacher and photographer George Plemper began taking photographs of the children in his class as a way to inspire and instill courage in them. Unwittingly, Plemper was about to document this world from an entirely unique perspective: he was an insider. With an inquisitive eye he captured the reality of the period in a visceral and wholly truthful way.

Plemper once said, “Britain is a changing kaleidoscope of different cultures and beliefs”. His sage words continue to echo through to today and perfectly summarise the diverse and intimate communities that continue to make up South East London. Known, in particular, for his Riverside School series in which he explored the communities of Thamesmead, Plemper notes that it was “my intention to capture a place in time.”

His black and white images exude the life and energy of the area during the period, yet were only shown once in 1979. Titled Lost at School, it was misinterpreted as a reference to the kids central to his work, when in actual fact it was a comment job as a schoolteacher. Decades passed and his lay dormant, sitting stuffed inside plastic bags and gathering dust in a secure bottom drawer.

Yet, in 2007, Plemper discovered the modern day wonder that is Flickr. Since then, his images have been liked, loved, shared and published, and the intimate lives of those in London’s SE postcode during the late 70s are once more given life.

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Photograpy: George Plemper

In response to Plemper’s work comes Intimate Spaces, an exhibition commissioned by the Greenwich Peninsula cultural team which expresses its interest in urbanism and London’s emerging neighbourhoods. We’ve seen an interestingly inclusive approach by London galleries of late, such as the V&A’s Friday Takeovers by Dalston and Peckham residents. Intimate Spaces adopts a similarly embracing approach to the local communities.

Inspired by Plemper, this exhibition will bring together his work, along with a new collection from four young photographers, documenting the growing neighbourhoods that make up Thamesmead, Woolwich Arsenal, Eltham and Greenwich Peninsula. Over a period of three months each photographer has shot one of these areas, revealing a glimpse into the lives of the communities they document, all in the spirit of George Plemper.

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Photography: Ingrid Rasmussen

The original photographer for Thames and Hudson’s ‘STYLE CITY’ series and shooting for a host of different companies – from EMI Records, to Visit Britain and Vogue – Ingrid Rasmussen is a multifarious talent. Her first book ‘Takeaway’ explored the diversity of London, a subject she continues to investigate in the village of Eltham for Intimate Spaces. A contrast of housing estates set against a backdrop of medieval structures, Rasmussen’s images bring out moments of eye-popping colour set against muted back-tones, revealing the bursts of richness that make up everyday life.

Equally, photographer Nina Manandhar demonstrates her command over dazzling colours. Having partnered with the likes of Nike, Dazed and the Tate and working as an associate lecturer at the London College of Fashion, her work focuses on investigating and documenting contemporary global youth identity. Capturing Thamesmead, an area synonymous with George Plemper and its Brutalism background, Manandhar’s images evoke a mythical playground, with luscious colours illuminating the concrete blanket upon which the area is growing.

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Nina Manandhar

Photographer Cian Oba-Smith, winner of the 2015 D&AD New Blood Award, delves into the world of subcultures, his work giving the misrepresented a new light. Featured in the likes of The New Yorker and Vice Magazine, the Irish Nigerian photographer from London has a history of documentary photography, previously capturing the Six Acres Estates in London and various dirt biking communities across the city.

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Cian Oba-Smith

Through the Intimate Spaces exhibition, his images of Woolwich will represent the familial ties that bind a community, passed down from generation to generation as it shifts from a military past into a fresh and vibrant hub of cultures. The photographs are poignantly real and are captured in the diffused light of ‘magic hour’ (that special moment before dusk falls). As the Thames River winds to the edge of South East London, Carlos Jiménez captures the fresh and budding neighbourhood of Greenwich Peninsula.

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Photography: Carlos Jiménez

A new community where traditions are being built, Jiménez – a Royal College of Arts graduate – depicts the interiors revealing the intimacies and identities that the community is built on. Bringing this variety of work together, the exhibition will be supported by a 3D visualisation of the neighbourhoods. Donning VR headsets, gallery-goers will be able to ‘interact’ with each of the areas, bringing them closer to a variety of lifestyles and communities, courtesy of creative studio Pidgin Perfect’s Dele Adeyemo.

Intimate Spaces will present a snapshot of South East London’s progressive communities, allowing a rare insight into the many notions of ‘neighbourhood’ and ‘community’ that exist in 2016.

Intimate Spaces is on 30 September – 23 October 2016 at NOW Gallery.