January 22, 2021
Guest Blog by Daisy Tinker at @asouthlondonstyle
Two years ago I moved into my small south London flat, and started the interiors Instagram account A South London Style with my sister Liv, not only as a way to document the progress with our interiors but also to highlight the small businesses we discovered along the way. We also set up our own business, @asouthlondonmakersmarket, which is how I first came to know about photographer Richard Heeps. He took part in one of our markets, and I instantly fell in love with his work, not only because I really admired his aesthetic, but because I'd been finding it really hard to find affordable artwork!
The majority of things I came across were super generic, of the same few locations or objects; they didn't excite me at all. I wanted photography that really reflected my style and complemented my interiors, that also felt personal to me. Not just something nice to look at, but something with meaning. So when I discovered Richard I was so so excited, not only because his photographs are highly original, and limited edition, but because they're all hand-printed by Richard in his own dark room, which to me makes them all the more special.
Richard's incredible archive is expansive, with hundreds of shots dating from the current day back to the 1980s when his prolific career began. I had literally hours of fun flicking through every photograph; his raw, highly saturated photography captures the buzzy, busy and sometimes brutal character of the places he's travelled. My journey through Richard's work took me from the bustling streets of Hong Kong to a sun lounger in Palm Springs and a neon-lit shop window in New York, a whistle stop tour proving that beauty can be found anywhere if you look closely enough.
Although his photography studio and darkroom are based in Cambridge, which is where Richard hand prints each photo (how romantic and amazing is that? A rare and time-consuming skill I think really sets Richard's work apart) his family history in London dates back more than 100 years so he has strong ties to the capital. Richard’s extensive collection of London photography pays homage to the colourful characters, iconic architecture and sense of wonder you feel so strongly in London, with special attention given to our food outlets: the unsung heroes of any city! The iconic curve of a salt shaker, the colourful shop fronts, the bubble of a humble fried egg; Richard's 2004 collection "Fast" captures little moments of joy that are often overlooked in the chaos of everyday life.
I loved having the opportunity to travel back in time and experience my favourite city in the 80s, 90s and 00s through Richard's lens. Like delving into an exhibition in a gallery, but even better, because I can have a little slice of this rich history in my own home.
It was honestly difficult to choose, but here are my five favourites.
After looking through Richard’s extensive archive, this was the photograph I decided to buy for my office, which I've been trying to make more inviting and homely! I worked in a chippy for six years, so am a true advocate for all things battered! The fizzle of the oil in this photograph just felt so alive, and that iconic buttery yellow colour of the chips is absolute perfection. I’ve spent untold hours staring into a deep fat fryer waiting for chips to brown, so this photo felt like a little wink to those days. I bought it framed, saving me the hassle of measuring and ordering something separately, making it even more exciting when it arrived because I could hang it straight away. The box frame looks really smart; I was so impressed when I unboxed it, and even happier when I got it up on the wall. I absolutely love taking a moment to look at it as I work through the day, remembering how far I've come in my life from those chippy days.
Continuing the London theme, this striking image of the Barbican just spoke to me so strongly. Have you ever done the Barbican’s architecture tour? If you haven’t I’d so recommend it; there’s so much thought behind every element of the building which was so interesting to learn about! Did you know: the texture in the Barbican’s concrete was done BY HAND. I love the you can see those chiselled dimples in the shadows on this shot. I know it’s not original to say, but the Barbican really is one of my favourite places in London, and I think Richard has captured the Brutalist architecture so poignantly.
I. JUST. WANT. TO. DRINK. THIS. WHOLE. IMAGE. IN. I can feel the sun on my skin, I can smell the chlorine, I can hear the chinking of ice cubes. The angles, the colour combinations, the escapism! It would be like a sharp shot of juicy vitamin D for any room, and I think it would contrast beautifully against a chintzy wallpaper or super dark painted wall.
One of my ultimate dreams in life is to live in an apartment in Italy where they have one of these time-worn-but-still-beautiful foyers. I absolutely love their faded glamour, and that so much time and effort was taken to making these sometimes forgotten areas just as elegant as any other room. This image really captures the spirit of classic Milanese architecture; that chic combination of tiles, columns, chandeliers. Just think of all all the lives and memories they've been a backdrop to.
So many of Richard’s photographs celebrate cool signage. They really don’t make them like they used to! I love how he pays attention to these sometimes overlooked things; Richard is so good at finding beauty everywhere he goes. This retro pool sign reminds me of childhoods, fun, and endless summers. Every time I look at it, it makes me feel a little pang of happy nostalgia, that flippy feeling you get in your tummy when you slip down a slide and have absolutely zero cares in the world.
I feel really lucky to have discovered Richard's work, and actually own a small piece of it. I specifically wanted this photograph for my home office, as my new working from home situation means I'm spending a lot more time in this room. I've been trying to make it a more enjoyable space to work, think and create in, which for me means adding inspiring colours, textures and importantly, art! Richard's photograph has done just that: injecting some much needed life, movement and emotion into a previously plain space. It sits on the wall right next to my desk, keeping watch over on me as I work away.
Looking at my chippy photograph makes me feel so proud and happy; not only because I'm pleased to support the work of such a skilled and talented artist but because I bought it during a really poignant time in my life to represent how far I'd come from working in a chip shop, to running my own business! It's a thought provoking reminder, that I hope will always transport me back to this specific time in my life. And isn’t that what great photography is all about?
Check out my Richard Heeps photograph styled in my office over at @asouthlondonstyle.
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