Friday, July 18, 2014

Anarchy in the UK... or just in Camden.


             Camden: where do I even start. Probably my favourite place we have visited in London so far. And in my opinion, there’s no place where examples of visual culture are more prominent that in this area in inner London. As soon as one steps out of the Camden Town tube station, a more laid-back and -as we say in California- chill atmosphere is present. This is probably due to visual elements found throughout the area, such as the architectural style, street art, and the strong presence of alternative culture.
            First, let me start talking about the architecture style and how it influences the atmosphere in Camden. One of the first things I noticed while touring Camden with local resident Hazel was how colourful the homes and little shops were. Pastel colours are a prominent motif in the area (Image 1), which reflect on the nature of the local residents of Camden. Take for example our kind guide, Hazel, who took some of her own time to show us through the streets and talk to us about a brief history of the city.

Image 1
In addition, the people at the Camden Lock market were very friendly too. Most were willing to offer food samples and talk about their food to us. A lady from the Malaysian Cuisine stall offered me and my friend a sample of each variety of the curry that she had displayed, without making us feel obligated to buy. Another guy let my friend take a picture of his stall and gave her a free soda. I think these examples show how friendly and easy-going the people of Camden are, which ties with the soft colours that are found throughout the city. The people, together with the design of the area, create a very welcoming and harmonious environment with a laid-back feel in Camden.

Image 2 : The fact that the Camden Lock market is located by a small Venice also
creates a more relaxed environment

A second aspect that I thought was very unique to Camden compared to other areas in London –such as Westminster or Kensington- was the prominent street art.  I think this component of visual culture ties in with the more relaxed atmosphere in Camden. Although some people might say that street art like graffiti makes them feel unsafe because of its association to gangs and street violence, I have to say that I didn’t feel unsafe when I walked through Camden and appreciated this style of art. In fact, the graffiti felt like it was a component of the city that matched with itself. We previously visited another area of London, Brick Lane, where graffiti was prominent as well. However, I have to admit that I did feel a little more insecure exploring this other area. I was probably predisposed with this attitude because Professor Makey mentioned gangs and Skinheads as part of his lecture on Brick Lane. However, I would also like to mention that I thought the street art in Camden matched perfectly with the more easy-going atmosphere in the city. In my opinion, it helped embrace the alternative cultures that the area is known for. Overall, the street art was neat and it was a way to convey a better understanding of the city and add to its colourful environment.
            Last but not least, my favourite part about Camden –and probably why I’m coming back- was the presence of diverse alternative cultures, mainly the punk subculture. Being in an anthropology class like this, I thought it would make sense to observe the people in Camden in order to gain a better understanding of the area. It was interesting to observe punk teenagers and young adults gathered in groups, who were easily recognized by their big spiky hairstyles and alternative fashion sense. I also noticed that this subculture was embraced by the city in the way that many stores sold music and fashion relevant to the punk movement –for example, the Doc Martens shops (Image 3 & 4).
Image 3 & 4

More so, although punks appear to be the most prominent in Camden from what I’ve seen, it’s valid to mention that they are widely recognized as a subculture that originated in England. This made me imply that Londoners take a lot of pride on what constitutes their culture and they try to preserve as much of it as they can even today.

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