CNN Photos

The unseen side of London

From the London Eye to Buckingham Palace, the British capital is a dichotomy of bright colors and historic landmarks.

But even more light and energy can be found on the foggy city’s untouched outskirts, says German photographer Philipp Ebeling.

Over the past two years, Ebeling traversed the outskirts of London, documenting a 250-kilometer (155-mile) loop that connects these “forgotten edges” of the city. He visited boroughs that haven’t been heavily developed.

“Even though on the face of it these areas often look quite run-down and deprived, I am drawn to the energy of those places,” Ebeling said of London’s periphery, a place he has called home for more than 15 years. “They feel alive and changing.”

Ebeling initially began shooting his own neighborhoods of Whitechapel and Aldgate East — or what he called the “original immigrant areas of London” — for pleasure.

London immigrants are notable outliers, not because of their different nationalities and cultures, but because of their location to the city center. Many transplants end up living on the fringes of the city in eclectic, yet often neglected communities.

Six years later, Ebeling managed to photograph all of the London “hinterland” to show the parts that “no tourist ever sees and that hardly a Londoner knows of,” he said. For Ebeling, it was more a journey than a job.

This gallery shies away from one subject, theme or landscape. It fluctuates between feelings of loneliness and liveliness, of dark and light. In its lack of focus, these photos portray a place that is incredibly diverse, multilayered and very hard to grasp.

In both population and size, London is huge, sprawling and endlessly fascinating.

Many describe London in its central, historic light, known for its world-famous sites, royal estates, unique monuments and architecture. But to Ebeling, that is only one side of London, a side that largely misses the point.

“That is not what keeps me here, why I believe in the city,” he said. “It's messy and dirty and the weather could be better, but I cannot think of a better place to live. Why? Well it has an incredible potential in its people. The people make the place, and that is what I am trying to capture.”

That potential is what makes these places so interesting — and also constitutes their biggest problem, according to Ebeling.

“Because they are places of arrival and departure, people tend to leave them as soon as they move up the social ladder,” he said.

Ebeling, digging a little bit deeper into the outer layer of London - and the outer layer of Earth's crust - also found subjects in a set of caves some 22 miles long in the southeast suburb of Chislehurst. The caves, originally mined for chalk, became an air raid shelter during World War II, morphing into an underground city that housed up to 15,000 people. Then in the 1960s, it became a music venue, hosting big names like The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix.

“To me the mines are a perfect little microcosm that describe the city,” Ebeling said. “Incongruous and unexpected. Just like London is.”

- Michelle Cohan, CNN