This article is printed in the latest issue of British Journal of Photography magazine, Activism & Protest, delivered direct to you with an 1854 Subscription.
One decade since the Tottenham riots that shook the city, the London-based photographer captures the marginalised groups that call it home, finding parallels between his experiences and theirs
“This project was [initially] a revolt against Tottenham,” says British-Pakistani photographer Inzajeano Latif of his ongoing series, This is Tottenham. “There was a period of time when I hated it, and I was really struggling mentally.” Latif, who was born in Bradford, moved to the north London borough of Haringey with his mother when he was a child. Growing up in Tottenham in the late 1980s and 90s – shortly after the Broadwater Farm riots – Latif was subject to the kinds of formative, life-altering experiences that are commonplace for inner-city youth: muggings, violence and – for children belonging to ethnic minority communities – racism in abundance.
But there was also positivity to be found: a creative buzz, and the growing influence of music genres such as jungle, resonated with Latif as a teenager. “The creative vibe in Tottenham was strong, and me and my bro had a show on Rude FM and then on Kool FM,” he says. “Eventually, I found my footing and found myself. Now that I’m older I understand that what seemed dark back then was important in making me who I am, and has helped shape the way I approach life and my passion for photography.”
This is Tottenham is Latif’s attempt to present the area as a place of both hardship and resilience. “I used the camera to open up to Tottenham and hoped this would open Tottenham up to me,” he explains. He visited places from his childhood, and spoke to the people he met there, drawing parallels between their stories and his. The process brought many of the issues – such as gentrification, class struggle, systemic racism and cuts to youth services – that have long plagued Tottenham and other similarly neglected places, into sharp focus.
Latif was confronted by the resentment of the locals and their understandable and continued distrust of the government. This year marks a decade since the 2011 England riots, sparked by the death of Mark Duggan, who was shot and killed by the police. But Latif was also touched by the community’s strength. “The hunger of people to keep going, no matter their age, was beautiful and sad. Some take their dreams to their graves – and that hurts,” he says.
His photographs are a nod to Tottenham’s past and present, showing the area in its true light before it is swallowed by “regeneration” – a change that residents fear could erase its history. The images are a tribute to the people who have fought to stay afloat in a city with daily challenges, reminding them that the fight is worth it. “As long as we keep striving, learning and educating ourselves, we can burn down Babylon and see better days for future generations,” says Latif. “I want to send my love to all those in the struggle – This is Tottenham will always be a testament to that struggle.”
Daniel Milroy Maher is a London-based writer and editor specialising in photographic journalism. His work has been published by The New York Times, Magnum Photos, Paper Journal, GUP Magazine, and VICE, among others. He also co-founded SWIM Magazine, an annual art and photography publication.