Darren Lock has a born and bred Walworth pedigree who is well known in the area for how he has documented the changes since he took up photography in the mid-90s. He would often be seen clambering around empty blocks of flats in order to photograph their final days before the wrecking ball smashed the bricks and mortar, with all their lifetimes of memories, to bits, writes Michael Holland.
Darren’s childhood was the concrete jungles of the Aylesbury and Heygate estates where he would be up and down the ramps on skates or his BMX bike; places much-mocked and derided by those that never grew up on council estates but which held the key to lifelong friendships, all the experience you needed to negotiate the mean streets of SE London, and a feeling of community that can never seem to be found elsewhere. The family home was Aylesbury Estate’s Wolverton during his formative years, his schools were St Peter’s in Liverpool Grove, and then on to Walworth School. His whole world was within walking distance of the front door, and that was all a young boy needed.
It was when he saw the Thames Television 1972 documentary, We Was All One, that he began seeing his world in a different way. This now iconic programme took a look at how the streets of London were changing and communities dispersed when the terraces were demolished and housing estates built in their stead; a documentary in a long line of similar films that shone a spotlight on changing communities, from Anstey & Elton’s 1935 classic Housing Problems that focused on Stepney’s slum clearances, through to the present day. ‘Watching that changed my life and I realised the Walworth needed to be documented somehow,’ Darren tells me, ‘so I spent hours down the Borough research library going through their photos of my area…That’s when I started my own collection of photographs.’
In recent years that collection has been used for three different publications about Walworth that he co-authored with Mark Baxter, where old photos were matched with contemporary updates. ‘All books have done really well and we still receive royalties from sales, which is good since the last book was published 5 years ago,’ he says.
Life Through a Lens is Darren’s latest book put together with images from his collection. I asked what this one is about: ‘The changes in Walworth and me being out and about with my camera documenting the ever growing change, and where nothing stands still for long before it’s either nicked or knocked down.’ He adds that readers will ‘have some lovely memories flooding back’.
I asked about the cover photo: ‘The cover of the book is from a picture taken from our old flat on the Aylesbury when I managed to get in there just before they was about to demolish the block, with me having to risk life and limb, and asbestos flying about all over the shop!’
That is true dedication to his art.
People can buy Life Through a Lens for £10, direct from Darren at: email@example.com, from the ‘Now and Then Walworth’ Facebook page, and, he says hopefully, Threadneedle Man (Walworth Road tailor to the stars) and Arments Pie & Mash will stock it too.