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I Am Here

by AdaptiveActions

created by. Lasse Johansson & Andrea Zimmerman
location. hackney east london

Photos by Angus Leadley-Brown

Hackney estate: the faces in the windows
Residents of flat blocks set for demolition are portrayed on their outside
Emine Saner
The Guardian, Monday 28 September 2009
The Haggerston estate . . . 67 huge portraits of residents have been put outside the flat blocks. Photograph: Peter Gettins
The bright orange boards started going up on the blocks that make up the Haggerston estate in Hackney, east London, in April 2007, bolted over the windows of the flats where families had been moved out to make way for eventual demolition. "When the boards went up, it underlined the dilapidation," says Lasse Johansson who lives there with his colleague Andrea Luka Zimmerman. With a friend, Tristan Fennell, they embarked on a photographic project (called I Am Here) featuring their neighbours; the result is 67 huge portraits of residents from all over the estate, put in place of those damning boards.
"This has been brilliant for our community," says Pam Davey, who has lived there for 10 years and who runs a fruit and vegetable co-op in the community centre. "It lifted all our spirits."
The community element of this piece of public art has been essential, says Zimmerman, and it seems to have invigorated the estate ? communal allotments and blank canvas walls for each resident to decorate are planned. Window boxes have appeared.
The derogatory comments of passersby were wounding. "I remember stopping people and asking who they thought lived here," she says. "Almost all said 'social cases'. That's the stereotype of places like this." But we stand outside the block and she points at photographs. "He's an engineering student, she's a theatre director. [These portraits] humanise a building that lots of people make negative assumptions about."

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