Elements of the modern urban environment can seem alienating: Unfriendly ‘modern’ post-war city architecture with its prioritisation of motor vehicles over pedestrians and faceless office buildings; empty premises and security fencing; over-large advertising hoardings and so on. Older, residential, areas might have more ‘character’ but can seem unsuited for ‘modern living’ with little space for residents’ cars or the ubiquitous ‘wheelie bins’ required for disposing of today’s household rubbish and recycling.
On top of this, inner urban areas, particularly in a university city, may often have a more transitory population with student housing and other rental sectors providing less of a traditional sense of community. This is reflected in the streets, with litter, graffiti, homelessness. The culture shock for a new arrival can be considerable, particularly as one has contact with very few local people, perhaps only transactional relationships with B&B hosts, café and shop workers, etc.
These images seek to communicate something of these first impressions of place, which are largely of the built and street environment. Whilst the pictures show a clearly identifiable place, this is not about Plymouth per se: The environment depicted could almost be ‘any town, anywhere’. In addition, it seems representative of a time as much as a place: The streets seem to suggest how in 2016 we saw the culmination of a variety of feelings of alienation and powerlessness through the UK’s Brexit vote (not to mention Trump in the US), reduced budgets for public services, the rise of the ‘gig economy’, and so on. Britain today feels like a very different place to that of 20 or 30 years ago, but also quite similar, too, in some ways.