EVERY PHONE BOX ON THE EDGWARE ROAD

EVERY PHONE BOX ON THE EDGWARE ROAD

EVERY PHONE BOX ON THE EDGWARE ROAD

by Peter Evans

 

I’m not exactly sure when it began, and I wouldn’t even describe it as an obsession as such. It was more a case of recognition.

In 2012 I moved in to the flat my then girlfriend (and now wife) was sharing with two friends. It was in one of those geographical areas of London that could pass as being in three different places at that same time; the postcode had us down as being in St.John’s Wood. Most people in the area described it as Maida Vale but to me it was always Little Venice. The flat was situated on the main Maida Vale Road which ran directly into the Edgware Road if you headed South towards the centre of town. I would sometimes walk to work from the flat, the length of the Edgware Road until it reached Hyde Park, passing in between the rich colours and smells of the myriad of Persian restaurants, cafes and shops that have made that stretch of road their home. It was on this journey that I noticed the number of phone boxes there were. Some stretches had three or four separate boxes in the space of ten or so meters. It was the same in other parts of the city, in most parts of the city – they were all around, and, seemingly, very rarely used to make phone calls. I started photographing them (yes, using my phone) and until very recently I didn’t see anyone inside a box using the phone. But why would I? I can safely say I don’t know anyone without a mobile phone. Even my 97 year old Nan had one before she passed away (although she did give hers to my Mum to use so my Mum could call her at home with it, which still makes me smile). The phone box is surely not providing the required service it once was?

So I guess this was the start of the recognition.

The fact is, not everyone has access to a phone. We aren’t all lucky enough to be the zombie, head down staring at the smart phone in our palm. So they are still providing the service they were designed for. Like guardians of an analogue era, the phone box stands tall, protecting and providing a place to make a call. But they also provide a lot more; they are a place for big business to sell us their stuff, a street level billboard for plastering advertisements onto. They are occasional libraries, some religious (and non- religious) groups leaving books inside for people. Sex workers advertise in them. People use them to take drugs in, as shelter to sleep in, as a place to throw rubbish, a territorial place to scrawl a tag, a place to leave a lost item, as a toilet. They can be dirty and not smell very nice at times, but, since I recognized the phone box in all its glory, they became a thing of beauty to me. They remain in the digital age, rarely used but solidly there, passed-by thousands of times every day without any acknowledgement. The iconic red phone box, designed by George Gilbert-Scott (who was also the architect behind the now Tate modern and Battersea Power Station buildings among others) is the backdrop to countless snap shots, which, in itself, is another purpose. I often think how much actual space they take up in London, although I’m far too lazy to calculate it.

In short, I can’t now pass a phone box without taking it in; what poster has been pasted on the back, is the glass smashed in, the detail in the tags, what’s going on there? They are changing too, many now providing Wi-Fi and new phone boxes are not actually boxes at all. I wanted to document them somehow. I’d been taking shots of them with my phone for a while and I wanted to make a work to almost just bring them to people’s attention.  I started photographing them all on film, in black & white, a medium that also has it’s digital equivalent but still remains relevant today.

The resulting book, given the Spiralbound twist, is Every Phonebox on the Edgware Road a homage to the humble telephone box and to the books of Ed Rushca.

 

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