When Andrew Stanney discovered a disused pedestrian tunnel at a London railway station the layer upon layer of peeling posters that still lined its walls intrigued him, and it inspired a remarkable project.
Not many of us have had the opportunity to step back in time, but when Andrew Stanney discovered a long abandoned pedestrian tunnel running underneath London’s Euston Station it was as though the past fifty years had never happened.
“I moved to London in 2009 at a time when the capital’s underground system was being extensively upgraded in preparation for the 2012 Olympics,” he says. “Because everything was in a state of upheaval the advertising sites along the tunnel walls had been allowed to degrade, revealing layers of advertisements. I loved the contrast between a modern international city and what appeared to be semi dereliction, and the thought remained with me.
“Shortly afterwards I discovered a passenger tunnel beneath Euston station that had been closed in the 1960s when the mainline station was being redeveloped. This was an amazing time capsule: it contained hundreds of posters from that period, and layer beneath layer the posters went back into time. There were posters for old movies, London theatres, galleries and even the original advert for Hitchcock’s Psycho. It was amazing to find all this stuff still in place and to see these forgotten caverns that people don’t realise are sometimes just a few feet beneath them.”
It was with an artist’s eye that Andrew saw the potential of the peeling posters, and he realised that to do his subject justice he needed to be producing pictures of the upmost quality, where all the graphic detail and texture of the decay would become an integral and inseparable part of the overall vision. He made his mind up early on that he needed to work with medium format and at that point he approached Hasselblad to seek support for the project he had in mind. The response was an offer to provide the loan of an H4D-50 along with a selection of wide primes and macro lenses.
“My task then was to obtain a permit from London Underground to gain access and the right to publish images,” says Andrew. “This wasn’t easy, especially since the first response was that no such place existed! Once permission was granted the project, which I called ‘In Passing,’ took two months to complete, and I visited the tunnel as often as I could, working round the part time NHS job I had at the time.”
With the subterranean world now the subject of so much interest Andrew’s images were ahead of their time, and the project helped him to make the shortlist of the 2011 Hasselblad Masters competition. Shots from the series also found their way into high profile London landmarks such as the Gridiron Building and into a selection of prestigious art galleries. It all helped to open doors and ultimately it was a major factor in helping to set Andrew on the road to his successful fine art career.