Camden Architecture in 1972
On the 1st of August 1967 I came to England to study photography and from day one I was based in Camden. My friends initially helped set me up in a bedsit in Swiss Cottage and whilst I temporarily moved to Guildford for a three-year photography course at what was then known as Guildford School of Art, (now the West Surrey College of Art & Design), I spent every weekend and holiday in Camden. Upon graduating, I moved into a flat share in Belsize Park, and then a flat in West Hampstead that I would live in for 30 years, raising a family along the way.
Taking photographs of Camden came naturally as it was my local environment. I was interested in the varied architecture, particularly the contrast between the modern, new buildings, against the old. When taking photographs, the choices you make are based on lighting and composition. Architecture and the people around it lend themselves well to those choices, as well as B&W photography, with its possibility of increased dramatic contrast. Being a freelance photographer in those days, one had to sell oneself by going around to potential employers with your portfolio to show the quality of your work. For me it was obvious to approach local institutions like Camden Art Centre, for work, and indeed I got it.
My assignments were to photograph two different architectural styles for two separate exhibitions that they were planning. One was Hampstead in the Thirties and the other was the Aesthetic Movement in Hampstead. My work within Camden began to grow and soon Swiss Cottage Library and Enid Wistrich followed as clients, along with the London Museum. Later on I began teaching photography to architecture students at the Architectural Association in Bedford Square.
Visually Camden has changed a lot since then, there are so many new buildings and new environments; the Camden Lock photograph illustrates it perfectly. If I were to take photographs of Camden today, I would most probably choose to take them in colour and would likely concentrate on how central Camden is to London and its culture.
For more information about Varda's work and for contact details, take a look at her website.