Magazine article Geographical

Unreal City: Urban Photography Marries Themes and Passages from TS Eliot in a Striking Look at London

Magazine article Geographical

Unreal City: Urban Photography Marries Themes and Passages from TS Eliot in a Striking Look at London

Article excerpt

Adriaan van Heerden's new photographic collection weaves together two types of 'wasteland'. According to Bernard O'Donoghue - Irish poet and Oxford University lecturer - Unreal City 'illuminates our contemporary wasteland with cold and understated ferocity, through the prism of TS Eliot's masterpiece, The Waste Land.'

Eliot wrote The Waste Land in the immediate aftermath of the Great War, with civilisation apparently in ruins. 'As we approach the centenary of the first publication of this literary work (in 2022), one does not have to look far for evidence of our current wasteland; says Van Heerden. 'A decade of austerity has resulted in 130,000 unnecessary deaths and 320,000 homeless people living on the UK's streets, as wealth inequality keeps growing and property becomes more and more unaffordable, especially in London.'

Property development has brought uneven benefits, with tens of thousands of poorer families displaced and struggling to cope as a result of welfare cuts. In O'Donoghue's assessment, Van Heerden posits that we now live in the future of Eliot's Waste Land, and that much of what is traumatic in our world is anticipated or described with great urgency in this century-old document.

'In Eliot's work, London is the Unreal City, the background against which many of the characters have their entrances and exits: says Van Heerden, who switches the focus to contemporary London, marrying the harsh everyday realities of its most vulnerable inhabitants with the poem's lyrical descriptions. …

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