I feel like Sean is doing visually what I try doing through audio - capturing a community at a certain time during a transition. I am a big photography fan and came across Sean's photos on Instagram, I like both his urban landscapes and gentle portraits. What I always appreciate is nuance and Sean was really mindful when talking about capturing the changes around him. You can also really hear the joy about connecting with people on the street when he retells these stories.
And how he came through for the top tips!
Sean Insta: https://www.instagram.com/seanaaaanthony/
Sean website: https://www.seanaaaanthony.co.uk/
Vernon article: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/aug/28/fight-of-his-life-boxer-trapped-in-jamaica-for-13-years-allowed-back-to-uk
play article: https://parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/on-the-ropes
Ladies send Alma a DM for a chance to win a free spot: https://www.instagram.com/aw.wellnesstudios/
pod instagram: https://www.instagram.com/anybodyeverybodytottenham/
pod website : https://www.anybodyeverybodytottenham.com/
pod twitter: https://twitter.com/AnybodyBody
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Hi I'm Jamila and anybody, everybody Tottenham as a bimonthly podcast, introducing the good people of Tottenham to you. Hello. In today's episode, I'm talking to Sean, who is a documentary photographer and actually working on a project about Tottenham at the moment. Going out and taking photos of the area and of people is a very, very interesting episode. And, I mean, I like it when people come prepared, those top tips are top tier. And then at the very end, I also have to refer to two previous episodes. So I hope you enjoy this episode. So today on the pod, I've got Sean Anthony, thank you very much for joining me today.
Thank you, Jamila. Thanks for having me.
So Sean, tell us a little bit about your connection to Tottenham
Yeah, I grew up here, it's where I consider home, I was born in North Middlesex Hospital, I grew up on White Hart Lane, and I spent, you know, my childhood, playing around in the area, it's where I feel anchored. I mean, I've moved around a bit I've studied in different parts of the country. I moved abroad for a little bit to do some work, and then came back. And originally I was planning to move abroad again. But it was around the time that COVID hit. So I found myself back in Tottenham and sort of reestablishing connections with the area, you know, it's always felt like home. And I was always back and forth from Tottenham. But it really gave me that time when we were kind of locked down, it really gave me an opportunity to sort of reengage with the place. And it turned out to be a really good thing. I think.
So did you stay with your parents during that time?
Well, my mom still lives in Tottenham, she's lived here her whole life. So yeah, I came back home as an adult, which is a strange thing to do.
Not so much anymore is it? I think it's getting more and more common. No?
yeah, out of necessity. I imagine a lot of and particularly in London, with modern day London, where, you know, I mean, trying to navigate that private rental market is almost impossible. But yeah, it was still, despite, obviously, it becoming more normalized, moving home, it was still quite a strange experience, after years of being away from home, to come back and enter the family home again. But like I say, it gave me an opportunity to sort of re reconnect with the area and reconnecting in a different way. Because, you know, time doesn't stand still. And things do change. And I went out kind of looking for a type of Tottenham, probably one that I had in mind that I saw myself in or that, you know, reflected myself back at me. And realized that, you know, it wasn't completely gone. But it wasn't necessarily all there anymore,
I always find it interesting when people move out and move away, and come back because you get a different view on your own area. And on your own life- once you step away. when you grew up, were you aware of Tottenham having a certain reputation? Or was that just normal? And what was it like when you moved out of the area, and then
I don't know if you've experienced this, but obviously, London in general is a you get people who move in and out of London all the time. But there is also a lot of people in London who have always been in London, and oftentimes haven't actually experienced many other parts of the country. So London, it kind of is this kind of a country within a country, if you know, I mean, a lot of people, it's their only experience of the UK. And I think that when I was younger, I was lucky that you know, I had family in other parts of the country. So I could go - I was often up in Scotland, for example, but a lot of people I knew when they tried to talk to me about Scotland, they had these kind of wild ideas about you know, they thought I was living in a shed,
I thought a castle,
a castle or a shed, you know, some sort of Shepherd's hut you know, it was kind of this warped idea of what places outside of London were. So I I would go and visit family elsewhere. And I would hear conversations about like the reputation of Tottenham but it wasn't until I like properly moved out of the area and spoke to people they say where are you from I'd say Tottenham, and they would kind of recoil a little bit, which, you know, because they had this kind of idea that was kind of portrayed in the media, I suppose, and hearing about the recent history and things that happened, then that kind of began to shape my view. Because when I was there, when especially when you're a kid, you, you only know what you know. So it wasn't that I had an idea about Tottenham's reputation, I just had an idea of it as a place that I would go and play and play football. And, you know, the football team was there, and my mom lived there. And you know, that's how I saw it, just like anyone else sees the place that they grew up. But coming back was strange, because, of course, as a young person, I began to realize, as I moved away that there was a lot of things that was, I don't want to try and like paint, Tottenham, especially when we talk about this project later - I don't, I'm not trying to paint Tottenham, in some sort of idealized light, it's a place that has many problems. And I have very many positive memories of Tottenham as well as not so positive memories. But coming back as an adult, you don't have the same experiences as a teenager growing up in the area, for example, if there is a degree of separation,
okay. And what do you think like having been to different areas in the UK, and maybe even in London - what do you think is special about Tottenham?
Well, for me, obviously, it's a special to me, because it's home, I think there's probably a lot of similarities with Tottenham and other areas of the capital. But it's a sort of very multi faceted place I mean, on the one hand, is sort of affiliated with the or synonymous with premiership football. So you've got this huge stadium that sits in the middle of Tottenham. It's an area that has suffered hardships over decades, and been a site of like activism and resistance. And I think that has built a sort of sense of community like a sort of shared struggle. And a resilient people. You know, it's also been a point of arrival for many people. Traditionally, it would be an area that if you were moving to the UK from a different part of the world, you would highly likely end up in a place like Tottenham, and I think it is a truly multicultural, diverse society. In Tottenham, I mean, you will find people from everywhere, and that all of that kind of adds to the richness of the area. And it's, it's a large district as well. So even within Tottenham, you'll have, you know, semi industrial areas, you'll have sort of residential areas that are more, more feel like you're in the sort of North London, suburbia, even, you can find that kind of feeling as well. There's a lot of independent businesses, because a lot of immigrant communities have this entrepreneurial kind of spirit, which leads to these different independent businesses popping up. And now as well, you've got this kind of other side to it, which is like an increasingly modernized side of it. And probably the place that we kind of refer to when we talk about this is Tottenham Hale, which when I came back, I did not recognize as being Tottenham at all.
What are the changes that you have noticed apart from Tottenham Hale? Or have you have you noticed more subtle shifts or changes when you came back?
It's a difficult one because it's some things are far more - I don't know the word - quantifiable, perceptible, you can you know, like so of course the value of properties has skyrocketed. That's the same across the country, but I think particularly in London, but Tottenham was a very affordable area to live for a long time. So there's, there is that element. There's also the sort of the obvious, which is the stadium, which I've been told, I've seen reports that it's brought a lot of jobs to the area, you know, it's had a lot of positive impact, but it's also eaten up and swallowed a lot of independent business in the area. The landscape. Yeah, the landscape is changing. And I do think that there is a sort of change in the sort of socio demographic makeup of the area. I think there's a sort of new professional class of people moving in, which is, you know, again, Tottenham has always been a place of change where different cultures have intersected and influenced the identity of the area. The only thing I worry about is, if I'm being honest, I do have worries that the types of changes that are taking place right now are different from the sort of organic change to an area that enriches culture. And instead we're kind of moving in the direction of cultural homogenization or the eradicating of culture, the uprooting of communities. I do worry about that. I don't want to sound like a grumpy old man who's lamenting, you know,
the good old times?
the good old times. And I know that there's a very real risk of me looking at Tottenham and through a really nostalgic lens. But this type of change. I do worry is sort of uprooting communities.
Okay, so let's talk about a little bit your project, because that is kind of capturing some parts of this. How did you start?
So yeah, so it goes back to me returning and leaving the house with a camera in hand - I was actually, at that time, getting back into photography, I kind of put it to one side for a while life, it kind of got in the way, money got in the way. And a friend had given me a camera with a five millimeter camera film camera, with the - under the condition that I went out and used it. So I was like, right, I'm gonna go wander around, I'm going to take some photos. And I was like, this is quite nice, maybe I could just start a little project for myself kind of documenting home, like and go back and go find certain places that I remember from childhood and just take some pictures. And I was literally turning up to places and finding they weren't there anymore. And I had to kind of reconcile the idea that, you know, things had changed. In fact, I turned up to this what was formerly an industrial space with scrap metal, there was like piles of scrap cars piled up, when I was younger. And me, my friend would turn up to that when we were younger, and we, the guy on the gate would just let us in to ride around on our bikes in this massive scrap yard climbing in and out of cars. I don't I shouldn't be surprised, really, that it's not open anymore. It's probably closed down for health and safety. But I had to kind of realize that, you know, if I was starting this project on Tottenham, I couldn't look at it from the perspective of what I wanted it to be or how it was before I had to kind of represent what it was here and now. And actually, it was in this strange in between period, this period of transition, where it wasn't quite one thing. And it wasn't quite another thing. It was kind of morphing slightly from my perspective,
but it still is, isn't it?
I mean it still is and and probably always is. That's that's the thing, you know, I this, I come at this from a really limited perspective of someone who's lived here for a certain amount of time who has come back and is now trying to paint a picture of the area and its people. But it's just one viewpoint. And to me, what I'm seeing is a shift from what it was to what it's going to be. And just trying to capture that I suppose.
Did you mean to photograph people in the beginning? Because it sounded that you were more interested in, in the buildings or structures? And did you then shift into portrait? Or was that always something on your mind?
No, I think I think both were always on my mind when I started taking photos, it was mainly taking photos of people try taking street photos, I think it's the portrait thing is a bit of a strange one for me, because I often try and try and work out why I'm approaching a certain person, you know, I don't take pictures of everyone that I see. I stop when I see someone who interests me in some way. And I think that is different as I may appear on the surface to the people that are in the portraits sometimes I think there is something in the people that I see in myself, you know, they reflect something back in me and I'm trying to kind of pinpoint what that is. I'm not 100% sure at the moment, but I'm kind of instinctively drawn to certain people. And Tottenham is a great place for that because you do find so many different types of people so many interesting people with a really interesting story.
Have you have you had a background in portrait photography, because I feel I would be really shy to approach people. But did you have experience before and you were just like, alright, I just ask - do people generally say yes, because you don't do digital photography. So you couldn't even show them. Oh, look, this is what it was. They kind of have to trust you that you didn't over expose or I don't know,
the old cameras sometimes work in your favor because people are just kind of shocked to the equipment you're using. I've got this massive. medium format camera. Some people - I am not using large format but the cameras huge and it looks all mechanical and people kind of just sometimes interested in that. And actually, I think sometimes when you shoot on film it for some reason it gives - people perceive you with more legitimacy. Oh, that's a real photographer or something like that. I remember the first time I approached someone in Tottenham, and it was a man called Tom who was coming back from the shops, with a shopping bag, and I went up and asked you know it was the first time that I was going out to kind of do this, this kind of street portray. And, again, he was actually I was shooting on the old 35 millimeter camera, and he reacted really well to that he was like, I had something like that, you know, I used Pentax as well, when I was young, and it sparked a conversation really, organically really easily. And the whole process took no longer than, like 30 seconds, barring the conversation, and it was a really positive interaction. And I think that, generally, if you approach people, sincerely, if you're honest, and you explain what you see in them, and why you've chosen them, and why you'd love for them to be part of this project, people generally feel quite touched by that. You know, it's the type of connection that you make with someone, a stranger, that doesn't tend to happen a lot. In London, you don't usually get approached by someone who's saying, you know, I really see something in you that I really think reflects positive aspects of our community. And I think people like that, I'm not gonna say that I haven't had occasional bad interactions. I'm very often accused of being either a journalist when you know, you got to imagine that I stay out on the street hanging around on street corners, sometimes for - yesterday, it was two hours, didn't even get the photo. But people look at that, and sometimes go, who is that is he the police? (I was thinking yeah yeah) Is he a drug dealer, you know, you don't people don't know how to kind of take you. But generally people are very, very positive. They react really well. And I think people like the idea of Tottenham being represented in a positive way.
And would you say your photography has changed over the is it like two years now that you've been doing it, that you're drawn to a certain style? Or?
Yeah, I think when I first went out there, and it has been just the kind of way that I've approached projects in the past as well, is that I kind of go out with this very loose idea of what I'm trying to do. I don't try, don't think about it too much. And kind of lead by instinct, whether that's a place a person, a scene, whatever it might be, and I take the photos and after a certain amount of time, I go back and kind of look at the photos and say, I kind of reflect why what am I being drawn to here? What is it that instinctively is catching my attention? What does it mean? Why am I interested in those things, and then the project kind of tends to take shape based on those reflections. So I think if you looked at like the photos that I took maybe two or three years ago, you would see a kind of haphazard, unclear, inconsistent set of photographs. And as it's moved on, particularly in the last sort of year and a half, I think have a much clearer idea of what it is I'm trying to say or that at least the questions that I'm trying to ask, and I suppose that question is, how do you build community in a place that is constantly transitioning, you know, how do you feel a sense of rootedness? How do you feel at home? When a place is constantly in flux?
Do you have any plans what you're gonna do with this project?
Well, ideally, this will eventually, I mean, every documentary photographer wants they want to have a book. So that's what I would love to do. Collect this in a book, but I would also love to exhibit work in Tottenham, like somewhere free at the point of access somewhere where people in Tottenham can go and see the work that's, that's been done. Yeah, I want the book this is for my own personal sense of achievement and you know collate things in a nice, neat package. But I'm more interested in how the people that I have taken the photos or and the people who live in Tottenham feel about these images. I'm more interested in that. A little shout out to a guy that found out about recently, if you don't mind, a photographer that I came across very recently, and his name's Inzajeano Latif. And he has done a series of photographs in Tottenham called this is Tottenham and he started either he started in 2008 I'm not sure when he finished the project. But it's an amazing, amazing collection of photographs that I recognize more as the Tottenham that I grew up in. And I'm really thankful to him for making that that record and my reaction to his work. I hope that you know, people in Tottenham, in the future have to the stuff that I'm doing now. I really do hope that it's seen as a sort of record for the people who lived here. But yeah, please go and follow him on Instagram.
I was gonna ask you if there is a favorite photograph, are you not allowed to have favorites?
Oh, let me have a think. I think a portrait that took of Vernon is my favorite photograph. Not necessarily even for the aesthetics of the photo. I do like the photograph. But I've become quite close with Vernon over the last few months, and I think he's an incredible person. And so from a personal standpoint, I think I just really liked that photograph of him laughing.
How did you first come across Verlon?
The same way that I bump into most people - wandering. I was at the beehive pub, I'd met a friend. And I was going out to take photos after I'd met him. We'd been for breakfast. And he left he went off to the Seven Sisters. And just next to the beehive pub there's a William Hill. And Vernon was just walking past that - he had his hat on. He just looked interesting. And I said, Excuse me, I'm sorry to bother you, can I but I stopped him and asked him if I could take his photograph. And his response was immediately. He's got to kind of gruff voice. He was like it would be an honor. That's what he said it would be an honor. And I was just like, as soon as he said that I thought, You know whatever comes after this is going to be a positive interaction. He had such a good energy about him, you know? And he said, you may have heard of me I said, What's your name? And he said, they call me the entertainer. And that's what he said. And I was like thinking, right, okay, it's probably a musician or something. And he starts he gets very excited. He starts telling me about his career as a boxer and he was a professional boxer. He was managed by Terry lawless, who also managed Frank Bruno, he ranked number two in the lightweight division, he should have had a title shot, you know, but the nature of the time he was kind of overlooked. And he was kind - and him speaking out against the boxing I don't know industry I don't know, meant that he was kind of exiled. And he was telling me the story and he said they're going to make a play about my life. And look, I know Vernon now, right? I know, and I've had this all confirmed, but at the time, you can imagine I was yeah, here we go. This is what are we talking about here? And he's just at that moment. He gets a phone call. And he said, Oh, this is Dougie. This is the playwright. And he hands me the phone and wanders off. He goes, he just disappears. And so I'm talking to a guy called Dougie on the phone. And Dougie says to me, how do you know Vernon? I've just bumped into him two minutes ago. And he says, Do you do you know about Vernon's life? I said, yeah, he just told me he was a boxer. He was number two. And you know, he didn't get his title shot. And he said, so a lot more than that. So after his career kind of broke down, he kind of broke down. And he struggled with his mental health. He was sectioned. He struggled with addiction, really, you know, at this low point in his life. And he tried to kind of search for something, I suppose. He went to Jamaica and I think it was 2005. And when he tried to return, he was denied reentry by the British government. And he was left inJamaica with no access to health care that he needed, he had no sort of network and he became homeless for 13 years. But - Dougie tells me on the phone - Vernon took the British government to the High Court. He won. Because of him the Home Secretary resigned. Amber Rudd and anyone who has received justice from the Windrush scandal is likely due to this landmark case. And I just think that is that's an incredible story. The highs and lows. There's, by the way, it's only a fraction of his life. There is a lot more as you can imagine. But the man has lived a 1000 lives. And I met him because I just approached a stranger on Tottenham high road outside of William Hill. And that's what I mean, you know, people really surprise you with the stories they can tell you, you'd never believe it's almost beyond the realms of plausibility. But that's the story and that's why there's a play about his life. Another interesting inspiring thing about Vernon is one of the things that he did while he was a professional is he insisted that the prices of his tickets to his fights were significantly dropped, so that people of his community could come to - of Tottenham - could come and see him fight. He was known as the entertainer he had this kind of unorthodox style. He was also you know, very charismatic, he still is, you know, he's got this really like, larger than life kind of personality. And yeah, but to be you know, as he was at the time at the top of the game, almost, and to still be thinking about his own community and how he could make that sport more accessible to them. I think
where would people have watched boxing games back in the day?
I'm no expert. I'm learning about boxing as I talk to Vernon and we have kept in contact and we've kind of formed this friendship now we, we message often - he sends me reggae songs that I've added to a playlist on Spotify. I keep adding the songs thatVernon sent me I called it the entertainer, of course.
Alright, so are you ready for the top tips?
Yes. And I'm going to preface this with a little warning. As I've already mentioned, I no longer go out really, I don't tend to go and eat at restaurants and I don't tend to go out and drink but I did once. So I'll start off with this though I ask you Jamila to kind of describe my
I spotted a Tottenham shirt like it says Tottenham on it. So I don't know. Is it is it related to football or is it
It's not related to football, this is truly this is Tottenham produced from the area. Mr. T remix is my first tip. This guy I met him on Park lane - go and follow him on Instagram. If you ask him for a made in Tottenham embroidered t shirt. He will come to your house in a balaclava on a skateboard to deliver it. So that's my first (laughs).
Whoo what an experience? Not just a t shirt but an experience!
Exactly. That's a very Tottenham experience I've already mentioned inzajeano's work, I think everyone should go and have a look at that. The other thing that I want to mention is uptown cuisine on Park Lane is a family run restaurant. But it also operates as a food bank on Saturdays for the community. And throughout the week they're delivering to other food banks around Tottenham. So yeah, go and support them. If you can, if you do want to go and see football, but you can't afford to go and watch spurs lose every week. Which is most of us I think.
So. Are you a spurs fan because there are a lot of people who are not necessarily spurs fans in Tottenham.
That's true. So this would work for them. I am a spurs fan. Let's not talk about football this season. Yeah, if you want to go see some football. Haringey borough is a team that actually plays on White Hart Lane. They are at Cole's Park. And if you email them, you can get a free season ticket. So there you go. It's quite good. They've built up a bit of a following. You can stand in the rain with a cup of bovril - proper football. And that's kind of relates to the next one Cole's Park outside Haringey Borough play. There's a market every Saturday that's a bit chaotic. And you can go and find loads of weird things there. Yeah, it's just an interesting little market if you want to go to. I would have said go to the ship on Tottenham high road. That's a pub that was on Tottenham high road but that's unfortunately closed now. So my second in line will be Mannions you've probably heard that recommended before
once yeag from Conall he said about Karaoke in there on Friday.
Well, I've actually never been to the karaoke, but it has a pool table, which is why I like about it. So you know, it's a nice Irish Pub. Yeah, it's been there for years. So that'd be that's a niceTottenham pub to go to. The garden house on Tottenham high road for a Turkish breakfast. That's up near sort of Bruce Grove kind of area. Might seem a little a little obvious, but Bruce Castle Museum is an amazing resource for history of Tottenham it's free at the point of entry, you know, so when you go there, drop them a fiver try and support what they're doing in there- there's an amazing Wind Rush exhibition that is, I think, is currently they're doing work in that area. So you can't see it, but it's really good. But yeah, give them a fiver when you're there, what's that? half a pint? Now? I don't know something like that for nearly half a pint's worth ...
support local history. (Yeah), even though I think they got some money because I feel they're refurbishing the tower or something.
Yeah. Yeah, there's definitely some work going on in there. In fact, the last portrait that I took of Vernon was in Bruce Castle Museum - I had to find a kind of neutral location that wasn't too far from his house. And yeah, so we went in there, they were very nice and accommodating. So yeah, thank you to them. And the other piece, the other top tip, I'd say join Haringey, renters union - I think that what they're doing is amazing. I wish I'd sort of got more involved in what they're doing, because I think it's necessary at the moment. Everyone should.
But the other thing I was just wondering, do you feel Tottenham needs a gallery? Or would that then be the beginning of the end? You know, once the galleries move in? Is that the ultimate sign of gentrification?
It's funny, we've gone through this whole conversation without mentioning the word gentrification. And that's, I mean, it is such a buzzword, isn't it? And you know, I'd say is that this whole project isn't rallying against the idea of improving areas for people. It's about uprooting and it's rallying against the uprooting and displacement of people. I would love there to be a gallery, an art space in Tottenham, but I don't want that art space to be at the expense of the people. And it's, you know, that's the problem that we're having. We want to improve areas we want to give people more opportunities and things like that, but we don't want people being forced out - if we're being honest, people are being forced out. They are being out priced and we've probably had that discussion over and over again that those buildings in Tottenham hale, they're not for the people of Tottenham, you know, they are luxury apartment, you know, I think, yeah, I would love an art space in Tottenham. And so I mean, we've got like the Bernie Grant center and things like that. But yeah, , I recognize your wariness of the introduction of an art gallery on Tottenham high road.
Yeah, I remember in Berlin, like near where my parents live. I was like, oooh we've got a gallery you know, no, it's because I saw it. Like, I don't know, 10 years ago, I said to my parents, hmmmm maybe buy a property because it's coming. They were like, No, nobody's coming in this area and I was like okay.
I was your parents in the Tottenham in context, you know, I used to come back and visit sometimes. And I visit Hackney and I'd be like what Hackney and that's been going on for decades, right? So Hackney is completely different. But I used to say to people - I was like that it's not gonna happen in Tottenham, that won't happen. Now, I'm like trying to work out when it's going to happen in Edmonton,
Edmonton. Yeah, dodgy Edmonton. That's what you know, whenever people are like, Oh, Tottenham dodgy. But uhm Edmonton. alright, then. Thank you very much for this interview.
Thank you very much for having me.
I promised you top tier top tips. So keep an eye on the website where I write them all out with links, etc. I'm going to try and do it this weekend. So it's up there. I will also write an article about our conversation where I can link in more information about Vernon I will link in the show notes, one or two articles. I will also link Sean's Instagram and his website and I got back in touch with Conall to ask when the next London renters meeting is and he informed me today that it is on Saturday, the third of June. So no meeting in May because it's every six weeks. So that is the next meeting where you can all turn up, exchange ideas and activism. The other update is that Alma also messaged me yesterday that they are running a new workshop over four weeks, and she wants one of the ladies in the community to have the opportunity to join this workshop for free to win a spot in there. All you have to do is just message aw studios and express your interest and she will randomly pick a person to get that opportunity. Okay, so I hope you feel inspired again. I definitely do. So let's all continue to build our own little community and support different businesses and support different artists. So the sun has started to shine. I hope everyone's in a good mood and enjoys their long weekend. Alright, until next time. I hope you enjoy today's episode, learned something new and let that Tottenham love grow. Take care and until next time bye
Transcribed by https://otter.ai