"I want the audience to really see them": Sukhy Hullait captures local community spirit in Peckham and East Dulwich
The photographer's ongoing project documents the residents of the South East London, a neighbourhood he's called home for over 20 years.
- Joey Levenson
- 13 February 2023
London can be a very big place. 1,572 km², to be exact. From north to south, east to west, there’s always something to discover in every corner of the city, and at times it borders on being complete sensory overload. Photographer Sukhy Hullait strips that all back in his recent project All the Rage, choosing to focus on one specific area of the big smoke: Peckham and East Dulwich. Located in the south of London, long below the river, the neighbourhood has been home to Sukhy for years. “I landed on the border of Peckham and East Dulwich in the 90s and initially I wasn't too keen,” Sukhy confesses to It’s Nice That. “But, slowly I made connections and met big hearted people who made me feel like I belonged.” The sense of heartfelt belonging in the neighbourhood community is something Sukhy transmutes into a visual cue for the project. A gentle and celebratory aesthetic frames different portraits of residents around the Peckham and East Dulwich area, complete with natural lighting and warm saturation to really elevate every image.
Cyclists, students, café workers, pensioners, and everyone in between is all captured in a moment of static intimacy in these photos. The actual work of the project was something Sukhy had been mulling over for a few years but, when it finally came down to it, the photographer opted to not plan anything too much. “As George R.R. Martin [American novelist] put it, there are two types of creators: architects or gardeners,” he explains. “The architect plans a project and then goes about making it. I’m more of a gardener, trying lots of things and then once something strikes a chord, the project grows from there.” It’s certainly an apt metaphor, for Sukhy’s series feels organic in every way. Real people in real places, in their actual comfort zones.
“I was mostly met with generosity and enthusiasm and, for a while, it helped me reconnect with the community after lockdown,” Sukhy says on the response to his work from the locals. But, it wasn’t just warm hospitality that Sukhy found in the feedback to his project. “The area had been undergoing rapid gentrification and a proportion of the people I met felt alienated by it,” he explains. “Their shops and pubs were vanishing before their eyes, while others found it easy to adapt and welcomed the change.”
One image which relates to the change of the neighbourhood is that of Charlie, the young skater who Sukhy captured outside a DIY skate park in the area. “When the pandemic hit, many skate parks closed, even though restrictions encouraged people to participate in outdoor sports,” Sukhy says. “Many young folk had time on their hands so they helped turn an abandoned pub car park into a DIY skate park.” From there, a community formed, and took on different roles to maintain upkeep of the park. “They named it the 'The Grove' and it became a beacon for skaters and a safe place for the youngsters to go.”
Overall, the community spirit is key to Sukhy’s project. Although he is the artist behind it, he places great emphasis on the subjects in front of his camera. “I guess I’m trying to show that a community spirit can remain while facing significant change,” he explains. “I want people to see that the people here are important. I want the audience to really see them.”
Sukhy Hullait: Beth (Copyright © Sukhy Hullait, 2023)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. He was part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.