A lone be-hatted man ascending concrete stairs at the South Bank. Long-abandoned railway tracks in Shoreditch, suffocated in shrubbery. A narrow boat slowly sinking in the River Lea. There is a definite sadness to the photography of Berris Conolly.
Moving to London in 1966 aged 18, Conolly became an assistant to various photographers, including John Hedgecoe (who established the Photography Department at the Royal College of Art), and was fascinated with capturing everyday scenes of London — the kind of vignettes most people wouldn't consider pointing a camera at.
A collection of Conolly's shots appear in the book London 1977-1987 by Berris Conolly, a sombre but humane gallery of works which take us back to a London not all that far in the past, but which often appears somewhat under-appreciated, unloved or slightly gone to seed.
As Geoff Nicholson says in the book's foreword: "The London depicted is not glamorous, but neither is it a city of mean and miserable streets. There is however, I think, a muted overarching melancholy. It’s got something to do with the softness of the light, the general absence of harsh shadows and sharp contrasts."
That's not to say there aren't some images here to put a grin on your face: the posse of kids gathering on their BMXs at a Stoke Newington housing estate is a marvellous capture of childhood, as is the little boy seemingly transfixed by the bubble car parked up on his street.
As for that refuse collector with a pair of legs sticking out of his bin; we're not quite sure what to make of that.
But as Nicholson says: "Yes, these photographs speak for themselves, but sometimes they don’t tell you everything you'd like to know. Life's like that."
London 1977-1987 by Berris Conolly is published by Hoxton Mini Press, RRP £17.95