The U.K.’s history of immigration has been thrust even further into the international spotlight as Europe’s migrant crisis has propelled the U.K. and the European Union to further address its policy toward refugees. The U.K. announced that it would agree to accept 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years.
Photographer Erica Canepa wanted to further explore the immigrant communities already existing across London, focusing primarily in East London, which has experienced a wave of immigration ever since the 1600s when the Huguenot refugees arrived, followed by the Irish, Ashkenazi Jews and more recently a rising Bangladeshi community. Though tensions existed between natives and immigrants, particularly during the 16th and 18th centuries when riots broke out, relations and cohabitation between both groups has been peaceful in recent years.
Canepa’s series “East End” focuses on the boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Hackney, as they cover much of London’s traditional east end. This area has one of the smallest indigenous populations of all the boroughs in Great Britain. It’s home to more than 40 mosques and Islamic centers, and its population is more than 50 percent Muslim. And yet years of gentrification have not erased the significant contrasts or cultural communities that still exist across the boroughs.
“The aim of this project is to see how immigration changed this area through a long time,” Canepa tells In Sight. “The images explore how the various ethnic minorities mix together as well as how they mix with British population, creating a new identity that strongly characterizes the area. This new identity can also be emblematic of the contemporary London.”