Caught by the River

Crocus Valley

29th July 2023

Soon to be published by RRB Platform, Crocus Valley is photographer Ameena Rojee’s love letter to her hometown of Croydon.

The name ‘Croydon’ is thought to derive from the Anglo-Saxon for ‘Crocus Valley’, and yet the wilder and more romantic side of the borough — lying just 15 km south of London’s Charing Cross — is rarely depicted. Rojee’s photographs show large pink skies, rolling hills, and the cattle who co-exist alongside the urban infrastructure of the borough. ‘It’s a purposefully unexpected glimpse and romantic view of this cultural and generational patchwork quilt of a place that’s supposedly empty of such romance…’ she writes; ‘The abundant nature and the not-so-hidden beauty doesn’t mean the very serious issues the borough faces don’t exist; however, like they do in all London boroughs, these extremes exist side-by-side. This is simply another side to Croydon’s truth.’

Rojee’s photographs were taken over a period of six years across the borough, whose place names evidence of the rural history of the district; Thornton Heath, Broad Green, Waddon (“the hill where woad grows”) and the crocus’s association with Croydon itself – referring to a possible history of cultivation of the Saffron flower.

Cattle grazing in the winter fog at Roundshaw Downs, December 2021 © Ameena Rojee

Rojee’s photographs are accompanied by text and poetry by Croydon Poet Laureate Shaniqua Benjamin and a cover illustration by artist Bev Jones.

‘South of the river is real-life Narnia in urban green, fulfilling atmospheric stories of every day and its everyday people; this is a world beyond structured things. A place of lamp posts in forests and singing fires anywhere, contained so they don’t burn the place alive. Animals at random – side by side with their human friends – feeding or being fed. Winter lurks in every season and mist persists, reminding you that nothing is regular here, like the trees that talk and the butterflies finding love.’ — Shaniqua Benjamin

Two garden butterflies, July 2020 © Ameena Rojee

Crocus Valley is the second title published by RRB Platform, a new publishing project supporting emerging voices in British documentary photography. The book will coincide with an outdoor exhibition of the work as part of Croydon’s 2023 London Borough of Culture programme. London Borough of Culture is a Mayor of London initiative, with support from Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund. The This is Croydon programme is being delivered through a unique collaboration between the cultural organisations and people of the borough in partnership with Croydon Council.

Ameena Rojee is a London-based photographer and writer. Her most recent solo exhibition ‘Rural Croydon’, was commissioned by This is Croydon, London Borough of Culture, in partnership with the National Gallery as part of the Constable Visits programme. Her work has been included in numerous exhibitions and she has been commissioned by The London Library, Hyphen, The Telegraph Saturday Magazine and Why Now amongst others.

View from across the border to the Beddington incinerator, November 2020 © Ameena Rojee

Crocus Valley is published by RRB Platform in August 2023, in both standard and special editions. Both editions are available at discounted pre-order prices (£24 / £65). Bag yours here.

Information about events including the book’s launch, outdoor exhibition, and photo walks can be found here.