Brian David Stevens
Festival Exhibition : 9th – 21st October
Brian David Stevens: Grenfell Tower
Map Location 5:
5 Penrhyn Road LL29 8LA
The Grenfell Tower fire occurred on 14 June 2017 at the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block of public housing flats in North Kensington, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, West London. It caused at least 80 deaths and over 70 injuries. A definitive death toll is not expected until at least 2018.
As of the time of writing (25 July 2017) 41 victims had been formally identified by the Metropolitan Police and Coroner, including a stillborn baby. Authorities were unable to trace any surviving occupants for 23 of the 129 flats and they are thought to have died in the fire. About 255 people survived.
The fire started in a fridge-freezer on the fourth floor. The growth of the fire is believed to have been accelerated by the building’s exterior cladding.
Emergency services received the first report of the fire at 00:54 local time. It burned for about 60 hours until finally extinguished. More than 250 firefighters and 70 fire engines from stations all over London were involved in efforts to control the fire.
Many firefighters continued to fight pockets of fire on the higher floors after most of the rest of the building had been gutted. Residents of surrounding buildings were evacuated due to concerns that the tower could collapse, but the building was later determined to be structurally sound.
Firefighters rescued 65 people. Seventy-four people were confirmed to be in six hospitals across London, and 17 of them were in a critical condition.
For four weeks after the fire London based photographer Brian David Stevens photographed the streets around the Grenfell Tower on a daily basis observing the aftermath of the fire that destroyed the West London Tower block.
The images are best described in Brian’s own words below:
“The faces look out at you from the street, posters for the missing and the dead are everywhere in the area. They were a constant when I was photographing. It was vital to record these before the posters faded and disappeared and the victims became just numbers and statistics. The faded images were important.
I started to photograph Grenfell Tower the day after the fire. I took these pictures as a member of the public.
I was in the same state of shock as everybody was as I walked around the block. I didn’t want to use privileged viewpoints, I wanted the same view as everybody else. I used a camera with a fixed lens that gives a similar viewpoint to your eyes, you are seeing what I’m seeing and hopefully nothing is getting in the way of that vision.
I photographed the area every day for a month after the disaster, circling the tower. You have to immerse yourself in the subject, but no matter how many times I went back, each time I saw the burnt out husk of Grenfell Tower it utterly floored me. It never became ‘normalised’, it was still utterly shocking. Every day I just walked round the site making pictures, but mainly just looking.
The tube station (Latimer Road) is next to Grenfell Tower and still, weeks later, the tube goes quiet as it passes; the streets are quiet. There’s a huge amount of anger there under the surface. The presence of the burnt out block casts a black shadow over the area. It’s been described to me as a vast tomb in the sky. It must be incredibly difficult to get on with life seeing it there every day.
I’ve seen the story being exploited by all sides of the debate, without much thought for the actual victims of the fire. It’s a complex situation and it helps nobody to describe it in soundbites. The BBC has been doing a very good job there. People are angry though and people are in pain, this must be realised.
I knew I had to try to make honest, respectful work, and I hope I have.”
Brian’s work documenting the Grenfell Tower is available to view in the town between 9th-21st October and forms an important part of the free content available to all.
At the festival end, all prints will be auctioned to raise money for survivors and victims families.
100% of any money raised will be passed directly to the Red Cross Grenfell appeal.