Last month I went to photographer Claudia Janke’s latest exhibition ‘Packing Up Packington’. The Packington Estate used to be known as one of London’s most notorious council estates but has undergone a massive regeneration project over the last decade.
This wasn’t a typical gallery set up. The estate was used to show her work. I followed a thick red line on the floor that lead into peoples former homes. There were signs on the door that showed the name of the residents in the flat and how long they lived there. It felt incredibly intimate. As I walked around each flat and corridor had recordings of residents and workers of the estate playing. It was surreal to hear people talk about their life in the Estate while being in their home, I felt like I was intruding in sometimes.
When I entered I was greeted by two people who I simply thought were volunteering to help out Claudia but there was more to it. After I walked upstairs I released that they were former residents of this estate. There was a lovely photo collage on the wall with residents. Two kids were running around the exhibition, visiting their old friends homes and picking out their faces on the wall.
As I walked around I could hear some music playing from around the corner. It was UK rap but I didn’t know who the artist was. I followed the red line around to see this.
We’ve all seen this before. I loved that Claudia had chosen to include all residents of the estate, it made everything more authentic. I just wish there was interview with the young man too.
I came across a lovely house that was the first one that I saw where it felt like the family had made a real effort to have a nice home. It belonged to a beautiful Eritrean family (I’ll always have a soft spot for Eritreans since reading Meb Kezlefighi’s biography) and the corridor had a glow of the colour from each of the children’s rooms.
The youngest girl in the family had a snippet of her singing in her room, it brought a big smile to my face to hear the happiness in her voice while she was rocking out in her room. Their living room had this photo in there, it was hard to tell if it was from Claudia or the family themselves!
I kept on moving through flats of families that had lived int he estate for so long and then I came across one that stopped me in my tracks. It was George’s. He’s a pensioner that had been in Packington for an incredibly long time. His interview talked about his wife, what life was like after she passed and how the estate had changed over the years. It was a shame that all he could talk about now was the trouble that the kids had caused him and other residents over the years.
His home still felt lived in. He moved out just three months before the exhibition. His old light fittings were still in place and his carpet had imprints of old furniture. Again, I felt like I was intruding. Especially after hearing him talk about the kids on the estate, I would have been one of those troublemakers (according to him) if I lived there.
I left George’s flat and continued through the exhibition. Something that kept on striking me was that I could see the new parts of the estate while walking around in the last of the old blocks. It made me feel like I was a resident waiting to get my new flat.
Thank you Claudia for documenting the real people that live in London. We don’t see enough of it anymore.