Image by Simon Wheatley

Simon Wheatley, known for his authentic and equally vivid photography, has been documenting inner city life through pictures for decades. The new exhibition ‘Silverlink’, dubbed after the London train line by the same name, showcases raw photos from his eponymous book and impressively captures coming-of-age, gentrification and (youth) culture in flux along the Silverlink in the years 1998-2010.

Streetwear heads might know Simon Wheatley from his recent Corteiz collab, which featured a shirt with an allover graphic of Wheatley’s iconic image of grime pioneer Crazy Titch walking his pitbull: It’s just one example of the London-based photographer’s deep connection with the city’s grime scene, which he has been documenting since the genre’s inception through pirate radio in the early 2000s via intimate photos of then-upcoming artists like Skepta, Wiley, Roll Deep and others from the city of BSTN’s very own UK flagship store.

The beginning of ‘Silverlink’ dates back even further: When Wheatley, at 28 years old, came back to London from extended global traveling in 1998, he began to explore parts of the city that he wasn’t fully familiar with yet. His train rides took him along the North London Line, which got renamed to ‘Silverlink’ after train privatization, and along inner suburbs as pre-gentrification Hackney, multicultural Newham and wealthy Richmond, amongst other parts of North London.

The photos Wheatley took during that era, inadvertently, document a generation of Londoners in the midst of industrial und cultural change, growing up und political turmoil. And while gentrification, the emptiness of the Blair years and juxtaposition of poor and rich are omnipresent throughout, the palpable diversity and simultaneous closeness make Wheatley’s ‘Silverlink’ photos a love letter to London. And a testament of pre-smartphone days: “If I tried to do a project like this today all I’d probably get is pictures of people staring into their devices.”

The “Simon Wheatley – Silverlink” exhibition is on display at the Leica Gallery London from May 17th-July 21th 2024.

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