Jonathan Goldberg / The Runway Stops Here
Adjacent to the nation’s busiest airport is a community living entirely off-grid. Flanked one side by a runway and on the other by a Holiday Inn, this is not the most obvious location for an ecologically minded project to thrive.
But Grow Heathrow is more than an eco-village. Established eight years ago, it was set up as a direct protest against airport expansion. Since then it has evolved into a beacon for sustainable living, housing around 25 residents who live in a series of homes made from reclaimed materials. Compost toilets, hot showers and a shared meeting space have all been built in that time.
When Goldberg first visited the site in 2011 he felt as though he had stumbled upon a utopia, and was immediately moved to take pictures. His sensitive images depict the everyday comings and goings and personalities of the residents, some of whom have stayed weeks, and others, years. But life isn’t always rosy: the threat of eviction is never far away and winters can be cold and bleak.
Goldberg’s photos highlight the intrinsic qualities of a community of people that have chosen a sustainable way of life based on shared values, away from conventional infrastructures. We see inside cosy abodes made from materials sourced predominately from the land, lush green pastures, and carefree children residing in yurts. A timelessness and intimacy pervades his images, but The Runway Stop Here asks if the charming ‘dream’ that is sustainable living is really as idyllic as it seems.
Meanwhile the runway debate continues to rumble on. As residents of Grow Heathrow accept that they will eventually be evicted, preparations are underway for a loud show of defiance not just to save their homes, but also to highlight the far wider-reaching ramifications concerned with aviation and climate change.
Jonathan Goldberg is a London-based photographer and filmmaker, whose personal work explores how we are responding to the global threat of climate change on a local level.
His recently completed project The Runway Stops Here was exhibited as part of a two person show at Oriel Colwyn in Wales, in 2017. Prior to that, Jonathan spent several years photographing Transition Towns, a growing movement that seeks to promote living more sustainably. He was shortlisted for the Environmental Photographer of the Year Award at the Royal Geographic Society in 2013 and 2016, and won the Best Short Film accolade at the 2013 competition for a documentary about a local fruit harvesters group. In 2014 Goldberg won a commission highlighting Brighton’s credential’s as a One Planet Living city, culminating in a high profile exhibition exhibited at the city’s railway station.