Photographer Nick Ballon is known for taking pictures of famous faces and odd pockets of society, but in his latest project he’s focusing on the empty office spaces of what was once BBC Television Centre in White City, London. Next month the building will be demolished, eradicating decades of history and Nick’s series depicts that odd limbo-like time, where the space sits there empty, awaiting its crumbled fate.
The project started when Nick was invited by White Noise, a live research project about urban change, to spend the day in the abandoned offices. “They wanted me to photograph the spaces at the BBC East Tower, home of CBBC and the Blue Peter offices. I grew up with CBBC and the broom cupboard was very much a part of my after school TV fun, so it was quite exciting to go and search through the cobwebs of their offices,” says Nick.
“I spent an afternoon alone in the tower with access to floors six to nine so I decided to methodically work my way up the building exploring each room,” he explains. “I soon noticed the floors followed a pattern so I always turned left at the top of the stairs and worked my around the floor in a clockwise direction making sure I didn’t miss anything.”
In between the blue carpets and polystyrene cups are glimmers of the space’s former life as BBC branded calendars are still tacked up on the wall and white boards scrawled with buzzwords like “performance” and “value” sit untouched. “The facilities and removal people did a very good job of removing its previous residents’ presence so I had to hunt very hard for markings and identifying features that made it known where I was,” the photographer says. With the knowledge the office was once BBC-inhabited, the objects and artefacts Nick’s uncovered gives this mundane and ordinary environment an odd faded glamour.
“The emptiness was very calming and with each discovery came a flurry of activity by me, followed by the quietness again. My favourite image was coming across a series of framed portraits of kids TV presenters, none of which I knew, and more than likely were from pilots of shows that never took off so were ready for demolition.”
With no human presence, Nick focused on the architectural elements found within office environments. “I was interested in giving the images a sculptural feel within the bounds of a traditional interior photograph,” explains Nick. “As the various assessments of the building like salvaging recyclable materials, testing for asbestos and other preparations to make it ready for demolition, there were these mini demolitions that had taken place. I became interested in these leftover objects and rubbish and how they related to the empty spaces.”
Since Nick visited the East Tower, the space is currently playing host to eight artists as they create work that also interacts with the building until it’s knocked down in August.