Gram Hilleard’s Developers Up Yours mourns the loss of historic London to overdevelopment.
The image a city projects through its promotional materials is one vastly different from the realities its citizens experience within its borders. You won’t find postcards of Detroit’s abandoned car factories at the airport gift shop, or travel brochures of Sao Pãulo’s favelas in the hotel lobby. So, when it comes to the ways in which places market themselves to lure in outsiders, what you don’t see—the objects not pictured or displayed—is as important as what you do see. This is partly what artist and photographer Gram Hilleard is attempting to relate in his project Developers Up Yours, a collection of postcards from London which protray the city as a place struggling against the forces of urban overdevelopment and gentrification.
“Under the reign of the peroxide clown,” Hilleard explains in his artist statement, “London has been redeveloped like never before. The poor are moved out, whilst councils drop their planning regulations for developers to build what they like. Hipsters are encouraged to gentrify, before they’re replaced with overseas buyers. Eventually swathes of the city become uninhabited ghost areas with no people. Why and for who?”
Hilleard’s postcards reveal the changing landscape of London’s streets: long-standing neighborhood shops closed up forever, looming double-decker tourism buses with broken windows, flat-bed trucks hauling away those historic red phone booths, and gleaming sky-scrapers and luxury apartment buildings towering over the city. In Hilleard’s photographs, London appears in transition. The once distinctive skyline has given way to a panaroma of shiny, generic architecture rising to meet the clouds. Construction scaffolding swallows up street-level structures. “The Historic City of London,” announces one postcard. But the photos that accompany it—of gray facades and barren streets—could have been taken in any other city of the world.
Hilleard’s project is currently on display at the Offsite Gallery in London and will run through the first week of June.