This Photographer Reaches The Parts Of London Others Cannot

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 22 months ago
This Photographer Reaches The Parts Of London Others Cannot

Jet engine testing establishments. Vast, rusting steelworks and power stations. Beautiful crumbling hospitals and villas: designer and photographer Matt Emmett has been shooting hidden and lesser known locations for over five years.  

"I have seen places I would not have believed were real before I saw them with my own eyes and have been struck speechless by the beauty of places left to rot," he tells us. But there is one city in particular that captures Emmett's imagination: "Although I have been all over Europe to capture these images, some of my favourite places have been in London."

In these photos, Emmett reaches the parts of London others cannot.

Emmett in one of Clapham's deep level shelters

"Back near the start I approached a friend who worked at the HQ of Thames Water in my home town," says Emmett. "A short while later I was allowed through the gates at Abbey Mills."

The site is still partly active, processing waste water. Sections, however, are heritage locations. The main historic building, 'A Station' is known as 'The Cathedral of Sewage' on account of the level of craftsmanship and intricate detail that Joseph Bazalgette put into the design.

On another part of the site is 'C Station', a long-abandoned building that used to contain rows of large motors on concrete platforms that pumped sewage up from a deep main drain into several outfall sewers. "These days the main floor of the hall in flooded with several feet of algae right water and is quite an unusual sight," says Emmett.

Here's a cavernous subterranean space beneath Finsbury Park. Built by the East London Waterworks Company in 1868 this cistern was used during Victorian times for the storage of drinking water.

One of Emmett's images here — created using a technique called light painting — won the Arcaid Award for Architectural Photographer of the Year 2016:

"Visually it's an incredible place to stand in the middle of," says Emmett. "You can look in any direction and see a different symmetrical repetition heading off into the gloom, it's like standing in a hall of mirrors. The space is completely dark and a portable light source must be brought with you to light the space."

"I quite like the fact that the original Victorian builders most likely never saw the space fully lit like it is in the photo, once the roof had gone on."

Posting his images on social media opens Emmett's work up to a large audience and one of the big benefits is getting invited to other locations. "I was contacted by a member of BBC staff just at the time they were closing down Television Centre on Wood Lane," says Emmett. "The last staff had left and it was only a matter of days before the builders moved in to begin preparing the site and convert it into a hotel."

"We had about five hours to photograph the prop storage areas, basement archives, radio desks and several of the big filming studios where so many classic BBC programmes were created. It was a very special experience and also very strange being in such a large iconic place almost totally devoid of people."

It's strange to think how even buildings that felt so familiar to Londoners so recently have now disappeared for good.

All images © Matt Emmett

For more photos check out Forgotten Heritage, the Forgotten Heritage Facebook page, and follow @mattemmett1 on Twitter. More of his images can be seen in this edition of f11.

Last Updated 08 March 2017