Have ever been out in Soho and wondered who on earth could possibly live in this area of London? Karl Marx, Dylan Thomas, Hogarth, Brian Jones and Eric Clapton have all been residents at some stage in their lives.
Soho is somewhat seedy for what can only be qualified as its “character” in the form of prostitution, bars, theatres, textiles shops, cafes and vintage emporiums cohabiting more or less harmoniously. Just walking down Broadwick street, it’s not too hard to imagine what it might have been like during the cholera epidemic in the 1850s. Yet, it is incredibly desirable to people who find a certain appeal in the history and the colourful mix of people. In fact, the area is home to more than 5000 people. As a result of this and because it is in the very centre of the city, so little residential space is available that a cupboard can be can be sold as a flat for what many people would consider to be half a lifetime of wages.
If you want to know who inhabits these gilded cupboards and how they decorate their humble abodes, I suggest you hotfoot it to 1 Berwick Street where the Photographers’ Gallery have temporary relocated until the 22nd of May for the exhibition Over the Threshold . It is the first part of the Soho Projects, a series of photographic commissions aimed at documenting this part of London. This is an interesting way for the gallery to maintain a public presence while their building in Ramillies Street is being redeveloped. The exhibition of new images is free but if you’re in a spending mood, there is a limited-edition book and postcards waiting to lighten your pockets.
This social experiment/exhibition results in colourful and busy photographs by the artistic duo FrenchMottershead, Rebecca French and Andrew Mottershead. They have been creating mostly site-specific art in London exploring the social realm in all its private/public, individuality/community, identity/anonymity tensions. In the context of the Soho Project, their images reveal aspects of Soho that might not have been suspected of existing: community gardens, generations of one family sharing a flat, all of them with an explanatory title such as Our challenge is to keep things growing and We’ve lived here our whole lives. Regardless of whether you feel you need the somewhat descriptive titles to make sense of the images or not, they are aesthetically pleasing as well as an interesting anthropological study of the habits of the Soho fauna.