The New Londoners - an introduction by Chris Steele-Perkins
The most significant change taking place in Britain right now is immigration. It represents a seismic shift in what it means to be British, which for so long has meant white British. I am recording this change to leave a record behind of this phenomena at the start of the 21st century, and to do this I am in the process of photographing and interviewing families (with their myriad meanings of family) from every country in the world, that are now living in London. The New Londoners. This series of photographs are made in people’s homes to give consistency and a greater degree of intimacy, and are about families rather than individuals to give a greater sense of rootedness in London.
London is unique in that it is home to peoples from every nation on the planet, that is around 200 nations listed by the UN and is the most ethnically diverse city in the world. It is an extraordinary change that has taken place over the last 30 or 40 years with the triumph of globalization. It is a complicated mosaic and a unique one. London is leading the world as a multi ethnic, multi cultural city. Most importantly, despite the rhetoric and fear of some that society will break down under the pressure and strain the new population inevitably creates, the evidence before us is that London works! This great city has not collapsed, it is not running with blood and you do not need rose tinted glasses to see that it thrives.
Sometimes the great tides of history are determined by violent events, or dramatic changes, but others happen by osmosis, quietly, and then it is done. That is what has happened with immigration and there is no point to complain and rail at the heavens. Make the most of it, celebrate it, that is who we are now, and my project is a record of that fact.
I intend to make an exhibition, and a book, and to make the series of photographs part of a national collection. I am currently in conversation with the British Library and with the Museum of London so that it will remain as a reference and a testament to who we are now. I am also a part of it, I was born in Burma of a Burmese mother and a British father. I am British, married to a Japanese person and I am proud to say that I am a Londoner.
This project will take me another year to finish as so far I have photographed families from over 150 countries and I am still looking for about 50 remaining families to take part.
This website will continue to add new family photographs and interviews as the project progresses. Keep checking back for updates. If you want to help us find more families, see here.