Along the Hackney Canal | Freya Najade

After quite a time immersed in the world of words and finally finishing my first draft dissertation (A4 CS), the wettest February on record is over and I’m feeling the call of the image. A fellow student kindly pointed me in the direction of Freya Najade’s work, Along the Hackney Canal.

The photographer shares some images from the book on her website (https://www.freyanajade.com) . On her LensCulture gallery, she provides information on the project:

Along the Hackney Canal is a long-term project, which I started to work on soon after moving to Hackney and falling in love with the canals and marshes. I am particularly drawn to this area for its beauty, which is different from the perfectly ordered English gardens and parks, or the wild, uncivilized nature of oceans, mountains and forests. The further one follows the canals to the east and north, the more indecisive the landscape seems to become, between civilization and wilderness, trimness and griminess, vital beauty and gloominess. The city appears and disappears trying to juxtapose nature and centuries of human urbanization

Freya Najade, source: https://www.lensculture.com/projects/375800-along-the-hackney-canal
By Freya Najade, source: theguardian.com

The images show ‘beauty’ – many have a painterly quality and the even litter in the canal appears otherworldly in its watery dance. I do not know this particular canal, nor I have seen the full work, but what is shown mostly has pastoral overtones. There is one photograph of an improvised keep-out wall with broken bottles concreted in along its top. This provides a forceful stop amongst the pastoral – it would be interesting to see in the context of the full book.

There is a marked contrast between this project and Debra Fabricius’s Urban Drift (https://www.debrafabricius.com/section532241.html), which focuses on decaying buildings along Regent’s Canal and shows photographs that are less well crafted – I don’t know whether for deliberate effect or unintentional. There are more words explaining this project (perhaps too many), which left me with an feeling that the concept may have been worked on more than the images.

When searching for this work, I wandered into a YouTube video with Martin Parr explaining to a student Skype meeting that everyone is a photographer so your photographs need to be different from everyone else’s to stand out – a difference he suggested by presenting a unique view and a strength of connection with the subject matter.

Whether I like Freya Najade’s photographs or not isn’t relevant; what I perceive is a strong sense of connection with her subject matter and a personal perspective on it . Which is why I’m inclined to give it attention and look a while. It feels genuine. It is the importance of this personal connection that I am reminded of by looking at this work.

2 thoughts on “Along the Hackney Canal | Freya Najade”

  1. You probably do know this bit of water, Fitz – it’s better known as the Lea Navigation and runs north-south from the M25 (and beyond) to the Thames, dividing Harringay, Clapton (and Hackney) from Walthamstow, Clapton and Stratford (where the Olympic park is. It’s a popular subject – it’s where Polly Braden and David Campany took the much-more-urban pictures for ‘Adventures in the Lea Valley’ and features in Tom Hunter’s ‘Unheralded Stories’, most obviously as the backdrop to ‘Anchor and Hope’. Both bodies are worth a look, from the point of view of your BoW…

    1. Ha, maybe heard of it but itโ€™s a long way from North Yorkshire. ๐Ÿ˜€

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