The morning after the night before was truly a shocking moment for a lot of people in West London, particularly the residents of The Grenfell Tower block that caught fire around midnight.
Imagine going to bed and being woken up to evacuate because the building is on fire?
Imagine in this moment, that this experience is the start of a whole new relationship to life, simply because your home has been destroyed, gutted by an out of control fire?
For some of the residents, this moment to imagine was a gift - they survived, albeit in a state of shock and disbelief.
Some of the residents probably died in their sleep.
I woke up to the news of this event and had to orientate myself to where this happened - it took place 20 minutes from my home, in fact, a stones throw away from my friend Richard’s house, who I regularly visit. I took a walk down to Ladbroke Grove to see what on earth was going on.
Let me tell you, it was chaos.
The News People where there, Lancaster Road was cordoned off - the local community were ALREADY engaged in providing relief for the people who lived in this TOWERING INFERNO. I was astounded by the activity, like I said, I saw the chaotic assemble of people trying to bring order and structure to this.
They were MAGNIFICENT.
I was in two minds about taking Photographs but I thought DAM IT, I AM A PHOTOJOURNALIST.
This tragedy needs to be documented and shared.
Photographs tell a story about the human condition, the human potential, our humanity, without a Photograph, how will you know what happened? I put my uncertainty to one side and acted in the best force of my values and conscience. I focused on supporting people, shifting boxes. We formed a human chain, playing the pass the parcel, filling up vans, mucking in best we could.
I took some Photographs along the way.
This was a real time visceral experience for me.
This is a hard core relief effort from The West London Community because, DAM IT, I certainly did not see a single person from EMERGENCY SERVICES. My friend Richard told me he saw ONE person from The Red Cross.
These images that I caught tell a story about a community of people mucking in and bringing their humanity to the table when it mattered most.
I went back to the scene today to get a sense of things. Richard told me that he had arrived by 10:00 am and there were about 100 people, within a short space of time he estimated about 200 people had turned up to support. By the time I arrived, things had slowed down, people were dispersing going about their business. I was left with the sense that the people still around appeared lost, I felt they were looking for guidance, direction, not knowing what to do next.
Right now as I type this, I have no idea how many people survived other than what we have been told by the BBC NEWS.
How the fire started remains a mystery.
Someone will be held accountable and it appears to be directed to whoever designed the building.
My images today reveal to me the presence of anger, frustration and uncertainty from the people in this community. If every Photograph I create is a self portrait then right now, I am angry, frustrated and uncertain about a lot of things. This tragedy has highlighted how uncertain times have become for us as a global community who share this planet.
What are we left with?
The world is now wobbling with uncertainty.
If this can happen, what next?
All I can say is, be grateful for your warm bed, a good meal, the clothes on your back and in your wardrobe, family, friends, it can all be snuffed out in a heart beat.
Right now, what do you feel most certain about given the emotional state of our world?
For the people who have lost everything in the last 48 hours, their context for life is now shattered. With the help of this amazing community, we have started the process of building a new context which will have a greater sense of purpose and meaning.
Already, I can see a deep meaning coming from this - WE ARE MUCH MORE TOGETHER THAN APART
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude”.