In the summer of 2012, I was on the far side of Tower Bridge, about to cross it and walk back home along the South Bank, and my photo-archive tells me exactly what I was seeing, and thinking about it.
I started noticing how the sun was catching the pigeon scaring spikes:
And then came the kill shot, the artistic climax, the one where it was all effect and no context. Don’t bother clicking on any of the other photos in this posting if you’re not inclined, but at least feast your eyes for a few seconds on this:
It’s not regular sculpture, but it is sculpture, I think. I also photoed the nearby girl and dolphin, which is regular sculpture. I prefer the anti-pigeon spikes.
Because I knew that this could actually use a bit of context, here are three more of the photos I photoed, after that best in show shot above:
I also photoed a couple of pigeons, that had apparently not been scared, but you all know what pigeons look like. It’s those spikes that were so photoable.
These spikes are now a feature of London life. They’ve put spikes on top of my block of flats.
In January 2018, I see that I did a blog posting, in which I expressed interest in this camera, the Nikon Coolpix B700, including that link in that earlier posting. Late last year, I bought one of these cameras. This was partly for its x60 optical zoom, but also because the camera is red, and a red camera that looks like it should be black is, I think, cool. Also, it is easy to tell at a glance which of the two cameras I now use is which. It helped that it was going cheap, on Amazon, as I recall.
It proved ever so slightly disappointing, impressive though the zoom proved to be, sometimes. Here are three photos I photoed with it soon after getting it, that show just how powerful that zoom is:
These photos were taken last November, from the top of the steps outside Tate Ancient.
On the left, note the dark building made of three bits, of varying heights, looking a bit like a rude gesture made with the middle finger. In the middle photo, we observe the top of the middle and tallest bit of this building. And on the right, with the zoom going full blast, we see the cleaning crane at the top of the tower.
Technically, I was impressed. But, did I really need to be taking long distance photos of things which I could surely photo just as well by just getting a bit nearer. After all, much of the point of my photoing is to get me out of my home and taking some exercise. x25 would mean rather more exercise, so, the new x60 camera was that most unwelcome of phenomena, the solution to circumstances that were not a problem.
Until a few days ago, when I went out with my x25 black camera and my x60 red camera, and I photoed this photo, with the latter:
That was taken of John Everett Millais, at maximum x60 zoom, from quite a lont way away.
With the result that I was not photoing the underneath of his chin, but photoing him something more like from his level. I was still below him, but the angle I was coming up at him was much smaller. Basically, I wasn’t photoing his adam’s apple.
Compare that with this, which, with apologies for the repetition, I had earlier photoed (and earlier shown here) of JEM with the x24 black camera:
I actually think that the black x25 photo is pretty good also, but given the choice for photoing the faces of statues, I now prefer the notion of using the red x60 camera, or at the very least having that option. There could be statues when its better angle will make quite a difference.
I like human faces, but there are problems with just photoing interesting faces and then shoving them up on a blog. Privacy, etc. I respect that.
I could show lots of photos of my own face, but I fear looking like a narcissist. (I also fear that one of the symptoms of narcissism the fear of being thought a narcissist, but I’ll set that aside.) But there are no issues with photoing statues, and you can go in as close as you like on their faces. Also, most statues are of very interesting people. So, I like to photo them.
And now, I have photoing equipment that is that little bit better for doing that.
Here we go. Colourful Modernism is on the up-and-up:
Design education “brainwashes” students into rejecting colour, pattern and ornament, according to Adam Nathaniel Furman, who said a group of London designers is finally overcoming bias against their use.
Furman named the movement “New London Fabulous” and described it as “design and architecture as a visual and cultural pursuit, which is highly aesthetic, sensual and celebratory of mixed cultures”.
The thing you have to understand about “architecture” (as opposed to just shoving up machines for living and/or working in) is that famous architects do most of it, and you have to work long and hard to become one of these people. What designers and architects aged around 35-40 are fantasising is not what gets done, except on a very small scale.
Architecture is not like Art. Art, you can actually do, now, whoever you are. You don’t need a room full of old people to all agree to spend a huge amount of money on it. (It helps that in addition to costing nothing, Art doesn’t have to “work”, as in: not collapse and not leak, and so forth.) But “architecture” needs just this sort of tedious functionality. So, you need to have spent a life-time impressing the clusters of old people who matter, persuading them that you are a safe enough pair of hands as well as a genius, blah blah. Your contemporaries with proper jobs, basically. So, you spend your life doing architectural propaganda and publicity. You do manifestos, books, essays, and little design jobs that attract disproportionate attention, given their often humiliating size (i.e. lack of it). Like Adam Nathaniel Furman is doing. Then, when you’re about sixty, the old men may pick you from the ranks of all the propagandists and visionaries, and let you build a bank headquarters building or an apartment tower or a museum, and that’s your chance. If that stays up, doesn’t leak, and attracts tourists and sells in miniature form in tourist shops and on postcards – if it is declared to be “iconic”, you then have the rest of your life to go on doing “architecture”. You become, as we now say, a Starchitect. Main rule to follow then: stay alive as long as you can.
Notice how Furman is both turning his back on “Modernism” and yet not doing this. His stuff, if and when he ever builds much of it, will still look “modern”. It is merely that he is utterly rejecting one of the founding principles of Modernism. He embraces colour, and also “pattern and ornament”. As he points out, “Modernism” as originally proclaimed, was often quite colourful. But the colours were just painted on. Colour was not stuck on, in an obviously colourful way. “Applied ornament” was an object of hatred and contempt for the original Modernists, and in practise, as we know, they and their followers mostly shunned bright colours also. Furman intends to apply ornament with colourful abandon.
But, not the old sort of ornament that the Victorians liked to do, and against whom the original Modernists reaction with such disgust. Furman is proposing enough of a change to enable architecture fans like me to see something big happening. What he is not saying, merely because Ancientists also like “pattern and ornament”, is that he actually wants to be an Ancientist himself. Perish the thought. He wants to “celebrate all cultures”, rather than just ours as it used to be.
Personally, I find Furman’s “fabulous” designs more than somewhat garish and over-the-top. But then, I almost always dislike strikingly new architecture, until I see it and get used to it. And whether I personally end up liking whatever Furman builds or not, in London it will fit right in. Why shouldn’t it? Everything else does.
A little clutch of photos of a decaying jetty, photoed just beyond Tilbury on the north side of the Estuary, in September 2013:
From this spot I could also see, in the far distance, the first few cranes of London Gateway. I made several trips to inspect these, around then:
There is nothing else as big as these cranes to be seen anywhere near them, and in their visual impact on their surroundings they remind me of nothing so much as one of those medieval cathedrals, in a town than never got much bigger. (Like Ely.)
According to Wikipedia, there are now twelve cranes up and running. There’ll eventually be twenty four.
One more such expedition to those parts probably wouldn’t kill me. Or then again it might. In London, everything is close together, and there are buses and trains everywhere. Not out there.
Any tree avenue is reminiscent of a cathedral nave …
Especially a tree avenue where the distances between trees and tree sizes have been so precisely contrived, and where failure to achieve identical size is just that: failure. If Wait hadn’t said that, the rest of us would still have thought it.
Anyway, my point is: I seem to recall quite often seeing effects similar to Waite’s, while being driven around France by GodDaughter2’s parents, over the years. I’m pretty sure I have photos in my archives to prove and illustrate that observation, although nothing as dramatic as Waite’s wonderful photo, a classic Real Photographer achievement, and surely the product of lots of preparation, exact timing, weather watching (daily and seasonal), and general photo-expertise. (Or maybe just high class opportunism. Whatever. I think it’s very good.)
In England, on the other hand, avenues seldom have this architectural precision about them, or not as often. Yes the trees are sometimes evenly spaced, and approximately the same size, but there isn’t the utter determination to keep them the exact same shape. Having planted them, the tree carers follow a set of rules about how to care for them, for instance by pollarding them, but the outcome is whatever it is. Variations on a theme, rather than bang: theme!
It is tempting to see this as an expression of the French delight in obedience to official rules, while the more anarchic English way is more expressive of English anarchy, and English resistance to official rules. A temptation I think I choose to give way to and indulge in. It seems improbable that there are any “practical” reasons for the difference, like the French trying to contrive a particular sort of timber, in the one best way.
Sharpe would appear to have a very similar photo-relationship with Ely Cathedral to the one that this guy has with Salisbury Cathedral. Both photo the same cathedral, lots of times, with the cathedral looking different every time. (A bit like my photoing of London taxis-with-adverts.)
In 1612 a man named Robert Baker built a mansion house just to the north of Piccadilly Circus.
He became wealthy from selling Picadils, stiff collars worn by the fashionable gents in court.
He called his mansion Picadil Hall, and the name Piccadilly stuck.
She should surely have said “north of what is now” Piccadilly Circus. But pedantry aside, good to know. And no wonder we’re all confused about how the hell to spell Pic(c)dil(l)y. The name got started at a time when they never knew things like that in the first place.
This is from one of those Twitter “threads” that ought to be a blog posting, but isn’t, because it doesn’t make sense to stop using Twitter just because you feel an essay coming on. (I think very short blog postings work fine, whereas great piles of tweets are often a dismembered mess. This one’s okay, though, because each tweet is a distinct bit of information.)
When she said “mansion house” I thought it was going to be Mansion House she was explaining, even though that’s not, I now realise, where Mansion House (Tube) is.
So this blog has now done Piccadilly Circus, and before that, Horseferry Road. I’m not now going to start looking for these explanations of funny London names. But when I bump into another, I’ll try to remember to notice it here.
I bumped into this one because a bloke whose photos I like retweeted the thread in his feed.
For me, January 17th 2019 began wonderfully, with scaffolding.
I was on my way to meet up with occasional commenter here Alastair James, in Docklands, and it was a great day. Meeting him in Docklands was great, and what I saw afterwards was great too. Highlight: the Optic Cloak, one of my favourite pieces of London public sculpture.
In among those highlights, I also got to see the architectural state of affairs in Docklands. It helped that it was January so the trees helped rather than getting in the way.
I was especially impressed by One Park Drive, which has a real Chicago vibe to it. Right down to “Park Drive”, which sounds very Chicago to me. Definitely USA.
On the left, below, is how One Park Drive was looking in January 2019:
And on the right there is how it is looking now, in a Mick Hartley photo posted on his blog yesterday. He calls Docklands:
A ghost town waiting for the world to start up again.
Which sounds about right. Except that ghosts don’t like hot and sunny weather, do they? (Good news: nor does the Coronavirus.)
I hadn’t realised, when I saw it, how much taller One Park Drive was eventually going to be. Like so many buildings these days, it maybe looked more fun when being constructed than it looks now it’s finished. All those ziggy-zaggy bits of concrete, somewhat smoothed out in the finished Thing.
This afternoon, I ventured out of doors. What with the weather being so nice:
Because public transport has recently been something that Non-essential Workers (apparently the world can do without personal blogs if it has to) have been discouraged from using, so for the last few weeks, I couldn’t just go somewhere by tube or bus, then walk where I wanted to for as far as I wanted too, and then grab the nearest tube or bus back home. It no longer works like that. The further I now walk, the further I have to be willing to walk back.
So, me and my camera are focusing in a whole new way on places within easy walking distance of home.
Today, I walked through the back alleys of Millbank, past pollarded trees just beginning to assert themselves with leaves, but not so much as to become boring. I went past the statue of John Everett Millais (I took photo-notes), who stands at the back of Tate Ancient, and was then beside the River, looking at Things on the other side, and at Lambeth Bridge, which I had in mind to cross. This time, the tide was higher
What is that Ancient Tower that looks like someone stole it from Tower Bridge? The one in Photo 5 above, in the middle. I’m too tired to track it down. I was out walking in London today, and I am too knackered to care, for now. Anyone?
I did cross Lambeth Bridge, St Mary’s Gardens being just on the other side of it, next to a church, St Mary’s Church presumably.
And then I wandered in the general direction of Waterloo, and made a strange discovery, which I’ll tell you all about some other time, maybe, I promise nothing.
This is a little patch of nearby London that I have very seldom explored. I know what I will see on the other side of Vauxhall Bridge, because I often go to Vauxhall Station, or beyond to the Oval, to say nothing of being intrigued by that weird Bus Thing. And I used constantly to cross Westminster Bridge, photoing photoers, and in search of classical CDs in Lower Marsh, and of much else, like closer-up views of how the City of London’s Big Things have been progressing. I still do, quite often. But the little patch of London life beyond Lambeth Bridge, along Lambeth Road and nearby roads, is far less well known to me. I know it a bit better now.
And then when my wanderings were done and I was knackered, I tried, for the first time since Lockdown started, to take a bus back home. And I succeeded! The bus was three quarters empty. The driver made no attempt to persuade me to continue walking, and nor did anyone else. Plus, the driver was taped off, like he was a crime scene, which was a sufficiently strange circumstance for me to reckon it worth photoing, and again, nobody thought to interrupt me while I did this:
All of which meant that I got back home sooner than I feared I would, and far less knackered than I feared I would be.