Smoke & Mirrors
Images made in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy of June 14th 2017
In the early hours of 14th June 2017...
...I received a text message from my daughter in Leeds. She wanted to know if I was OK because there were reports of a large fire near me. I scrambled out of bed and made my way to the balcony outside, onto my bathroom patio. I could not see the tower – just a thick column of foul billowing smoke, shifting slowly side to side. I went instead to the front room and opened the window. What I saw will stay with me forever. The tower – three blocks down from where I am situated on Lancaster Road – seemed to have leapt forwards: alive, burning and pungent – I felt like I could reach out my hand and touch it. The air was full of distant sirens and the chugging of helicopters.
Everything had changed in a moment...
I am an artist who primarily uses photography and photographic materials to explore notions of community, neighbourhood and local identity. In doing so I hope to reflect the effect that infrastructural change, national policy and local activism has on the general ‘health’, capital, assets and resilience of (these) social structures and the populace. This project is concerned with photographing the aftermath and events surrounding the Grenfell Tower disaster of June 14th 2017, which happened a few hundred metres from where I live. As time passes and media attention waxes and wanes, I am attempting to use photographs as questions, reminders and challenges; to record and mark time; using the physical and metaphorical qualities of surface, exploiting analogue materials, alternative processes, graphic communication, time-based media and installation to chart the collective trauma and dignified activism among some of the most economically deprived people living in one of the wealthiest London Boroughs; people who are frustrated and angry that such a preventable tragedy could happen.
‘Steve Mepsted’s ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ series draws attention to a disaster which demands to be remembered, a massive fire that engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower public housing estate in 2017, killing 72 of its inhabitants. As a local resident constantly reminded of these events by the tower’s looming presence, Mepsted’s work feels both like an attempt to process a disaster symptomatic of London’s inequalities and directly aggravated by them, while calling on others to remember what happened.’
Lewis Bush – in ‘Capital Culture’ Essay for Unseen Magazine Issue No. 6
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