Creekmouth – located in Barking, east London – is an area seeped in history. Known largely for its industrial buildings and estates, it’s also the many events that have unfolded here which give the area its renowned historical undercurrent. “Stories like the first death of a British fighter pilot in the Second World War happened over the creek,” explains Timi Akindele-Ajani, a photographer and filmmaker based in London. These stories – as well as those more personal and closely related to the artist – have now been sewn into a photography series named My Dead Ends.
In 2018, Timi moved back to Barking post-uni and began reacquainting himself with the area as he strolled and walked the pavements of his old hometown – a place where his family has lived for nearly 20 years. “Initially, there wasn’t much intention behind taking the pictures,” he shares, “but, with what I was seeing on these walks, I felt more and more motivated to capture what I was seeing.” It was a process that unearthed many past memories for Timi. For example, the area hosts one of the largest open-air markets in east London, where hundreds of people arrive in attendance every Sunday – a ritual occurring weekly since 2002. The market is particularly close to Timi’s home (a 15-minute walk, more or less), and his grandma used to visit while travelling over from Nigeria. “She passed away a few years ago, so I never got to go with her, but I truly wish I did,” he says. “The market is just so surreal and I would have really enjoyed experiencing that with her.”
There’s an unavoidable feeling of deja vu evoked throughout My Dead Ends – and I’m not just saying that from a London perspective, either. Besides the intentional sequencing, rhymes and clever edits, Brits from all over may recognise the oddly similar roads and structures; the lampposts, shops and graphics marked on cafe windows. Britishness is, in a way, quite familiar and identifiable, which is something that Timi aims to highlight in the work. “There was definitely an intentional effort towards presenting a very British interpretation of the landscape, but I also tried to be quite intentional about engaging with that Britishness from a distance,” he says. “As a Black Nigerian-Brit, my relationship with the country often at times feels like it’s from the outside looking in.” As a result, Timi turns towards documentary photography to present his findings and tell his narratives, yet he does so as an “observer”. He adds: “I think there is an inherent beauty in observational documentary photography.”
You’ll often see Timi flitting between the two mediums of film and photography, with previous projects swerving from a short about money struggles to a BBC film on expats. For this series, it arrives into welcomed arms having been in the making for two years. What’s more is that it was conceived as way of Timi rediscovering his surroundings during the various Covid-19 lockdowns: “I think that’s also why the work may resonate with people,” he says. So, it could be said that it’s his most personal and relatable work yet. And the news that the series is ongoing is an anticipated one at that. “Being able to adjust and iterate on the work is something I really enjoy,” he concludes. “The summer light is upon us and there are a few more parts of the area that I’m yet to fully explore.”
GalleryTimi Akindele-Ajani: My Dead Ends (Copyright © Timi Akindele-Ajani, 2022)
Timi Akindele-Ajani: My Dead Ends (Copyright © Timi Akindele-Ajani, 2022)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.