From next week, the existing Ultra Low Emission Zone will expand further in London, forcing many local owners of old petrol and diesel cars to pay £12.50 a day if they want to continue to drive them there. Whilst it's wonderful news for helping to reduce pollution, it means the end of the road for many classic vehicles.
For London-based photographer Ray Knox, this is something of a fascination, as he spotted many of these classic cars and campervans during his nightly walks under lockdown. "They were parked under the eerie glare of streetlights," he says. "With the new rules soon kicking in, I knew many of them would undoubtedly get forced off the road. I felt I had to document them before they finally disappear from the capital's streets and part of our motoring heritage is lost."
Some might disagree, but cars aren't what they used to be. They might be more efficient and better for the planet, but their designs have become indistinguishable in recent decades. There just doesn't seem to be the same magic or character as the old VW Beetles, Ford Capris, or Minis. "These older vehicles are captivating, radiating a charm I feel very few modern cars possess," agrees Ray.
Photographing at night, Ray prefers to use a tripod and work with ambient light from street lamps or lights from passing cars. "Artificial light transforms the mundane space inducing an eerie, dreamlike quality to the images and creating an air of mystery," he explains. "Where possible I tried to capture solitary, isolated vehicles in deserted streets, and devoid of people. This was to convey a feeling of quiet solitude."
Right now, four out of five vehicles in the city are already compliant with the Ultra Low Emission Zone, but it's believed thousands are not. In fact, Transport for London estimates there are 138,000 non-compliant vehicles registered within the expanded area, which comes into force on Monday 25 October 2021.
The scheme hopes to clean up London's air and is part of the Mayor of London's wider transport strategy to get more people walking, cycling and using public transport by 2040. Whilst this approach is obviously hugely welcome, there is definitely an element of nostalgia behind Ray's documentary series, aptly titled End of the Road. "I can't help but think back to the early '80s and the first car I owned, a Mini Cooper," Ray reminisces. "London has always been a fantastic place to spot these older classic vehicles and it is sad to see them disappear."
After studying Graphic Design at the University of Ulster, Ray moved to London to start his career as an art director. Working as a creative in various advertising agencies, Ray believes he's been fortunate to have collaborated with, and learned from, some inspirational photographers. "Encouraged by those photographers, I began making documentary projects and I now divide my time between photographing my personal projects and my advertising creative work," he says. You can see more of that work at rayknoxphotography.com.
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