Having made the case for London as the perfect canvas for color and monochrome photography, I’d like to share a final set for this year.
London has been an important part of my life this year as both my children have now moved there (more or less) permanently. As I look back to my photographic year, London makes up a huge chunk of it. Most of you reading this wouldn’t really consider it photography. More like jogging with a camera in your hand really, chasing after wife and kids in between rushed shots.
Still, whatever works, right ? Photons were captured, after all.
So here is a final set from London, displaying once more all that variety.
This may be the city’s outstanding feature. The more or less subtle blend of old and modern is quite the playground for photographers and the short winter days at Northern latitudes yield quite a lot of interesting light.
Most of the city center is like two different jigsaw puzzles got accidentally mixed and it all worked out okay.
But I do wonder, though, whether the architectural permissiveness of the Boris years is not overpowering the older city now. The great blend of old, recent and impermanent (the glass buildings that refuse to age) is now being threatened by corporate hubris (what isn’t ?) and it’s becoming difficult to frame a shot that doesn’t show a shiny tower dwarfing an older stone dwelling. Could that be a visual illustration of a political loss of values ? Just askin’ …
All of which is impressive. For a capital that should be bracing for the financial impact of the nation’s recent secessionist vote, London does seem to be powering on with an energy I’ve never seen outside Asia. History will tell whether the head was stronger than the wall, but it’s all very spectacular to watch and photograph.
For some reason, Barcelona has a reputation for street life that, to me at least, seems very overrated compared to other places, particularly those where the climate is less clement. No doubt the Ramblas can fill your year’s needs for bars, pickpockets and food platters but more Northerly destinations such Turin, Berlin and London feel more vibrant to me. Personal choices, I guess, but co-author Paul’s depictions of Edinburgh, Oslo and other cities located where meridians converge seem to corroborate that impression.
At any rate, London is a nice place for people’s photography. The laws surrounding that activity are more easygoing than in France and the opportunities are legion. Even for someone as people-photography challenged as me, there’s a lot to be done.
Aahhh, it’s difficult not to be repetitive with car photography, but I can’t resist. The risk is to be swayed by the beauty of the object and to forget you’re a photographer, an interpreter of things, leading to very literal photographs. Guilty as charged on a couple of occasions, but here again is a great opportunity for creative juice flowing. And since most of the city center is so obscenely rich, there will be no shortage of exoticas to frame.
Does that count as architecture ? I don’t think so. Instead of focusing on one or a small number of buildings, these images are more interested in a (low flying) bird’s-eye view. The whole picture, how individual elements work together. Once again, good light really helps …
Gardens and festivals
Lantern festivals, to be exact. Most major gardens host them in the festive period. Kew Gardens and Chiswick House to name the more famousest. But multiple others also. Needless to say they mean trouble for your memory card. Come prepared (warm clothes, spare batteries).
Art is everywhere. In numerous galleries and museums. But, also, on the streets.
And all the rest …
The odd, the abstract, the … yes, the rest.
So, that’s it from me for 2017. Talk soon (next Monday). If you plan to be there, I have a little holiday homework for you to do. Think back on the photographic good times and photographic bad times of 2017 (comments on this welcome). We’ll have a pow wow.
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WOW – for once, I’m speechless! Have to go away & collect my thoughts, before I attempt to comment on this posting, Pascal.
Oh, drat! I hope that’s a good thing 😀 Cheers, look forward to chatting later.
As to your introductory lines,
I believe photo situations you stumble over, or find when not searching, often result in stronger photos than when you go out to photograph.
The proof is in the pudding, i.e. your selection here.
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Concerning the London architecture – judging from your photos (I only visited London once 10 years old some 60 years ago) – I think your diagnosis on the development balancing on the edge of hubris is right.
Come to think of a writer who said about London, that when you come there you realize what a large city it is and then after some time it seems much smaller, but later you realize it is much larger than you ever thought…
magnificent yes, but beautiful cars are rare, that Porsche is one.
There was the Porsche 356, a ~1950-60 Alfa Romeo and the Peugeaut 305, but not much more among standard cars…)
Of course the Peugeot 403.
Thanks Kristian 🙂
I suppose a capital city mayor doesn’t craft building plans for the beauty of the skyline but it is true that it is easy for a town with as much charm as London to lose all its interest if it is left to the whims of private institutions who only care about their own glory. That would be a great shame as I’ve yet to visit a place with so many nooks and crannies, hidden courtyards, secret passages, gardens tucked away, derelict abbeys …
Modern cars : you’ve got to give the Jag F-Type a pass ! 😉 It is a classic in the making. Like the V1 countach before Lamborghini added arches and other warps, the F-Type is clean, tight and (in my mind) right up there with the gems of past generations. It makes Astons look flabby and over-indulgent, any German car seem depressively uninspired, I love it. Hopefully, prices will plummet before climbing like the daddy e-type 🙂
Well – collecting my thoughts. Pascal, I see the hubris only too clearly. Individually, these are great photos. But collectively they show a city in danger of losing its way. Or has it lost it already?
London is famous for something people don’t seem to mention very often – as a metropolis, it is apparently rated as being number one – for something I can’t even find in any of these photos. It has over 14,000 hectares of green space – what’s become of it?
And another thing for which London used to be famous – town planning. The London I remember had iconic buildings clearly visible on the city skyline – St Paul’s Cathedral, for example. The London I am seeing here is spewing modern architecture all over the place on a seemingly random basis, with a complete disregard for the “city scape” for which this city was once so famous. I’m not knocking the work of these great architects and builders – or the developers who commissioned them. Just the lack of a sense of place. It happens all over. It seems to be worse in London than in other great cities.
Not that that has a thing to do with any of your photos, Pascal. There are so many really great shots here, that it would take forever to comment on them all. The ritual bicycle shot is a “must” – the various shots of Bentleys and Porsches suggest a secret love affair, but does it come at a price too high? – wouldn’t an A7RIII be more affordable?
Speaking of which, I now have to eat crow (that’s an Australian expression – not sure what it means – maybe it’s like the English eating humble pie, maybe it just means eating your own words). Why so? – because my friend Belinda, who is a complete amateur and just takes photos for fun, has just sent me a macro shot of a cricket (insect) which is STUNNING. And she took it by available light (in virtual darkness) with her cellphone! I’ve seen macro shots of insects that aren’t as good as her photo, that were shot with “proper” cameras sporting a serious macro lens, a circular flash designed for close up macro work, a tripod and a remote shutter release!
My sole remaining excuse is that I am a Luddite, and will not abandon my DSLRs for a cellphone. Anyway, she has a better cellphone – mine’s an ancient Nokia, only fit for phone calls, SMS’s and as a travelling alarm clock. I’ve only ever used it to take one photo, and that was purely to prevent someone from trying to get out of their obligations by lying.
Pete, you are quite right and, err, this is a bit … embarassing. You see, this visit was a Christmas shopping spree. Our previous trip in November had been devoted only to galleries and museums and there’s a karmic price to pay for that 😉 So, Oxford street and Regent street pretty much made up 90% of my site seeing, with the rest largely consumed by Winter Wonderland (a large funfair / Christmas market set up in Hyde Park). But you’re right there are parks everywhere. Now that you mention it, I’ll make that the subject of a coming visit. Possibly not just now, as the trees must look quite bleak, but in the spring ?
The skyline seen from the South Bank is now dominated by the modern glass giants. Which is OK if there’s enough variety at their foot. The mix & match is what has always made London more attractive (to me) than more formal Paris. But going too far in the direction of sterile fused silicon skyscrapers would really damage that delicate balance. Not that anyone at the helm really cares about such things.
Hmm, macro with a phone ? I suppose the small size of the sensor helps with depth of field in these conditions and gives the phone an advantage over the more traditional camera. Not sure mine focuses close enough for that. Plus, AF being AF (ie evil crap), most of my close-up phone shots are ruined by the infinity focus. Case in point :
Time for an upgrade, mebbe ?
Oh, and my relationship with expensive cars is purely photonic 😉
Thanks for the kind comments. Have a wonderful NY 🙂
Hmm – “delicate balance”? – with PROPERTY DEVELOPERS calling the shots? – and nobody giving a damn about the big picture?
When I landed in Perth – a city you know well enough – there was a “grand plan” for all future development; both in the centre of the city and for the whole metropolitan area. The one for the metro area has proven to be a complete disaster, leading to development in four corridors which, as the population grew, have simply gotten longer & longer to the point of utter absurdity, causing traffic probs beyond belief for a relatively small city and all sorts of other problems.
But the one for the city centre – that one shone. Till 20 years later, when we were dumped on by an unholy alliance between big business & politics. It became known as “WA Inc”. It was totally corrupt. And under its aegis, all those wonderful ideas like drawing a horizon line above the city skyline and telling – not asking – developers that they MUST conform to the horizon line drawn above the city to preserve some sense of aesthetics in all future developments. Gone – ripped up. What we have now I leave to others to judge – I simply find it all stupid, badly thought out, unsuitable, and visually repugnant. There’s an area in front of the city which was all parkland (except for a couple of ground level carparks), with the river running past in front of it – the view of the city from the other side of the river was special. Now, it’s a train wreck.
If London does that to itself, “attractive” and “delicate balance” will fly out the window. And regrettably, so will the tourists, and the shoppers – they’ll go somewhere less insensitive and more attractive – such places do exist – in fact, you can find them all over the world. Being “big” or “old” or “famous” or “historic” is no longer enough. Becoming “repulsive” on the other hand is altogether too much. I’ve seen it elsewhere, and it would be a sad day for London, eventually, if they continue to allow more & more of what I’m seeing now.
Great variety of subjects your photographs, for me the one with the blue net and the set in the middle of stairs are the one I appreciate the most. Happy new year!
Thanks a lot, Joakim. Happy new year to you too. Hope we get together in 2018 🙂
Too many spectacular shots to pick a favorite, Pascal, although I keep coming back to the photo of the hats and gloves. It’s just perfect! Your final shot with the wisp of the person in motion is also high on my list. The perspectives and contrasting elements are brilliant. I must confess that as a result of this DS post I’m having “London Envy”–I live just a few hours from NYC and love going down there to photograph, but London is something else! Thank you!
Thank you Steve, I am very flattered. I will try to put together a guide of London for photographers in the coming weeks. All the best.