Photos of the Last Remnants of One of Bristol’s Gentrifying Neighbourhoods
We all know about those parts of town. The ones where some buildings haven't seen a new paint job in years, where the city council seems to perpetually never have enough resources to spend. As swathes of Britain's cities are knocked down, dragged away by diggers and replaced with those flats with little glass-fronted balconies, we're quietly losing some of those slightly decrepit-looking areas. Our cities are turning into more of an architectural hodgepodge, where skyscrapers gleam next to crumbling edifices.
Then, you have somewhere like Bristol's East Street, a pedestrianised stretch of shops and benches and the types of people your uncle dubs "eccentric". Photographer Ibolya Feher started documenting the area five years ago. "I often find streets in Bristol rather boring," she says, "all people rushing up and down without much happening. East Street is different, perhaps because it is pedestrianised – people move at a slower pace and tend to 'linger' more. In other parts of Bristol I often find that people are visibly disturbed by cameras, but here in Bedminster they often ask to have their picture taken. They come up to you and are happy to chat."
That's just as well, since the photos she shot may not have worked out otherwise. Ibolya, who started her East Street Tales series as a student project, ended up building relationships with the people who spend their days out on the street. It wasn't all lovey-dovey, community blog sweetness. "There can be shouting, upset people. Poverty is prevalent and is not always pretty. But that's not what should define the area, or be seen as its only facet, there is a lot more to it; I've witnessed kindness, a lot of humour and beauty."
In the ten years or so that she's lived in Bristol, Ibolya's come to know the stories behind the faces she recognised in Bedminster. "I remember when I first photographed Devonn with his chickens [below]. I was concerned what people would think of him; I asked him if he was worried that people might not 'get him'. But soon he was a celebrity in the area – when one of the chickens disappeared the whole community was up in arms and tried to help finding her."
There were others, too. She was first drawn into photographing the area by Ken [below], an elderly man who'd peacock his way down the street. "He loves dressing up, particularly in military uniforms. Depending on the weather and his mood he's either a sailor, captain, sheriff or Russian soldier. He used to be a model and I think he loves the attention he gets from people." There was Iris, too, "an elderly lady who always wears a nice hat and is beautifully made up". She hasn't seen her for a while though. "I think she's now been re-housed and isn't in the area anymore – I miss her a lot."
Iris isn't the only one who may have moved on. East Street, and the general Bedminster area, are due to undergo a major regeneration effort over the next couple of years, in a multi-million pound effort announced in 2014. As ever with Britain's evolving cities, its landscape and character will start to transform.
Hundreds of luxury flats are planned to be built," Ibolya says, "which will bring a lot of new people and businesses into the area. How these changes will unfold and the impact of these changes on the local residents is something I will keep documenting."
East Street Tales will be exhibited along East Street in Bristol, from the 8th to the 22nd of October, with an opening celebration on the 8th of October from 3PM to 5PM, next to Asda, East Street at the iron gate. Postcode: BS3 4JY
- Vice Blog