photography from a long, hot summer in london

Nick Waplington spent summer 2018 at Hackney Riviera, capturing the different characters frequenting London’s hidden oasis.

by Ryan White
01 October 2019, 5:10pm

Remember the heady months of summer 2018? The hottest since records began, spent overheating on the Central Line, squashed into the corners of packed-out pubs watching the World Cup and lying in any available shady area of the city’s various parks, heaths, lidos and basins. Amidst all this (admittedly overdramatic) hysteria, British photographer Nick Waplington was inspired to capture the different groups of people populating one of the city’s lesser-known oases. “It started when I heard about this spot from my son and his friends and other children in the area,” he says, “I decided to go and take a look and have a swim myself.”

Known locally as the Hackney Riviera, Londoners young and old gathered around the banks of the River Lea in east London to find respite from the hot weather. Only a few minutes from his studio, Nick soon began taking his camera with him to capture the different characters that congregated. “I worked on it during the hot spell of June and July 2018 through the World Cup and a little beyond into August,” he says, but not long after, the heat passed and Britain returned to dreary grey normality. “I went to Spain for a holiday and by the time I got back the moment had gone.”

Hackney Riviera, the subsequent book by Nick, creative directed by Jonny Lu and published by Jesus Blue, is a portrait of a very particular time, in a very particular city. Seeking to capture the unique atmosphere “of being in what seemingly was a wilderness, evoking a Victorian landscape painting, but being in central London” Nick photographed as all different people, friends and family populated the cool, quiet spot.

But given the political unease that runs through this period, and continues to do so today, the pictures contemplate something far deeper than just simply hot weather. “London is a 'safe haven' in many respects -- a bastion of racial tolerance and inclusiveness compared to many parts of Britain that have been polarised in wake of Brexit and the divisive language of Johnson and Farage,” Nick says. “The fun and multicultural nature of life in London against a backdrop of Brexit... I hope that the work resonates with this positivity.”

Famed for capturing enchanting vignettes of British society, from the interior dynamics of families to the designer Alexander McQueen working backstage, Nick’s images always bring out the subtle details of a scene. For this particular project, Nick tried to remain as unseen as possible. “I make many types of work but in an instance like this I am definitely trying to disappear and just follow what I see around me... none of the pictures are 'art directed' or posed. This is just what I saw, but I'm not sure you'd call it a document as such, what I tend to capture is always very different from a documentary photographer. My sensibilities and vision for my work are somehow different.”

Nick Waplington’s ‘Hackney Riviera’ is available to buy here.



Photography Nick Waplington

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

Nick Waplington