As cities evolve faster and faster and gentrification changes areas (for better or worse), it’s increasingly fascinating to see neighborhoods documented over a specific period of time. South London’s Peckham, a former working class area that’s now best known for its growing art scene and creative studios (including the Peckham Print Studio that CH visited earlier this year) has just been given the documentary treatment in a beautiful new photo book, “Peckham Loves Me.”
The photos were taken by Steve Ball, who was born into a family of 15 children in the 1960s, during a period of social change and upheaval in London—and all over the UK. Ball documented his friends and family in Peckham in the 1980s and early ’90s, and the intimate images capture a world that seems both ancient and curiously recent, foreign yet familiar. With the surge in ’90s fashion still occurring, the club photos feel like they could have been taken last year, while the black and white pictures look older than they actually are. Ball played drums in the band The Psycho Daisies and used to hang out at The Grove pub in Peckham together with other budding musicians, including Pulp’s prolific frontman Jarvis Cocker. Cocker is featured in one of the best shots in the book, where he’s pictured setting the channels on a TV, cigarette in hand.
Released by local publishing house Jane & Jeremy, the book came about after Ball (who Jane & Jeremy co-founder Jane Kunze knows from studying together at the local Camberwell College of Art) put some of the photos up on Facebook. “We just thought they were brilliant and made an excellent series which captured a point in Steve’s life very well. As Steve said, they were “ad-hoc” snaps of his mates, his band and whatever was going on in front of him,” Kunze says. The pictures “were never planned or staged,” Ball says, and the people in it are caught off-guard, just going about their lives. This is what gives “Peckham Loves Me” such a charming, authentic feel. Ball still lives in Peckham, in the same house he’s been in for the last 32 years, so perhaps there will be a sequel to the tome in a later decade.
“Peckham Loves Me” is available online now from Jane & Jeremy for £35 plus shipping. The 68-page book also comes with a signed print. For those in London, the launch party is tonight, 31 July, at Copeland Book Market.
Images courtesy of Steve Ball and Jane & Jeremy