Unfortunately, that place happens to be Chelsea. The monied neighbourhood was already known to Londoners as far back as the 17th century as a “village of palaces”, and not much has changed, barring a few more Pretty Ballerinas stores.
“I knew nothing about Chelsea,” Marco Sconocchia says. “Well, I knew it was a ghetto full of white, super rich people – until I started working in a pub situated in the centre of the area.”
The Italian photographer spent three years serving expensive beer and rosè to billionaires with black Amexes. “I kind of hated them, so I wanted to photograph them,” he explains.
He began taking pictures of them around pubs, on the streets and during one of Chelsea’s most famous events – the Chelsea Flower Show, the annual extravaganza of floristry and gardening held at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. (Confusingly, this is not an actual hospital – it’s a very posh retirement home for former army veterans.)
His photos – some taken in the height of London’s heatwave – are part of his long-running fascination with class in this country, including the annual series of posh people parties and social events that begins in spring and ends in autumn, known simply as the season.
“Rich drunk kids were the worst – pretending to rule the area,” Marco says, though he also remembers the pensioners “full of Guinness”, spending their sad twilight years in one of the richest enclaves in the city.
His pictures illustrate the surreal bubble of wealth and privilege, where a half-hour tube west is enough to land you in a postcode where cuff links are suddenly de rigueur for young men and voting for the Lib Dems like signing up for the Anarchist Federation and lobbing a Molotov cocktail through the window of your nearest Petit Bateau.
“Chelsea is definitely a strange place – a wonderful prison.”