Jeppe Hein’s red seat sculptures outside the Royal Festival Hall

There are seven of them, and they are bright red. Here are fourteen photos (two of each) that I photoed in November 2018. The weather was grim, making everything else look decidedly monochrome by comparison:

Which I think worked rather well to show how these bright red objects brighten up a part of London still ruled by orthodox Modernists and their monochromatic prejudice against “imposed ornament”. They prefer imposed boredom. This is called “structural honesty”. And honestly, this can get very boring.

Here are some more photos, photoed on that same November day, of these sculpturised bits of furniture, concentrating more on the Royal Festival Hall context, and making it clear that the point of these things is that they can be sat on. When they can be sat on, that is. The final one above, for instance, is very bum-hostile. Number three is not much better, but as you will see below, a group of people did manage to perch themselves upon it:

These red Things are the work of the Danish sculptor Jeppe Hein, who looks like this.

He calls them Modified Social Benches. The above red London ones were installed in 2016. And he did similar ones for New York, around the same time:

And a more complicated one, not red, in 2019, in Venice:

And various others in various other places.

This guy would appear to be a lot like Antony Gormley in how he operates. Once he has found a formula for a particular family, so to speak, of sculptures, he deploys the formula in various different spots around the world. With Gormley, it was those Gormley Men, lots or just a few of them. With this guy, benches all in the same style with local variations and complications to suit the budget and the location.

Like Gormley, Hein has devised other formulae, which strike me as a lot less appealing than this modified social bench formula.

Also like Gormley, Hein emits the usual dreary ideological orthodoxies of his time concerning such things as climate change, and as soon as he opens his mouth to explain what he reckons he is doing with this or that piece of his work, I switch off. I just like the red benches he did for London, for my reasons rather than for his. If my reasons overlap in any way with his reasons, fine. If not, also fine.

Jeppe Hein has been a very busy man.

Abney Park

Recently I was in the general vicinity of Lambeth, Stoke Newington, that sort of part of London, seeing things like a lion statue. But that lion was nothing to what came later.

Which was this:

This being a truly amazing place called Abney Park.

There are plenty of forests in London. And God knows (because invariably He becomes involved in all such arrangements), there are plenty of graveyards.

But, have you ever seen an honest-to-God graveyard, in an honest-to-God forest? Well, now I have, in the shape of Abney Park. The photos above all emphasise this weird and wonderful combined fact.

The roots of the trees have yanked a lot of the graves way out of the vertical. And we’re not talking about modest little graves. A lot of these are guy-with-biggest-grave-wins graves, erected in honour of seriously rich people, including lots of celebs and luvvies. There’s one with a big lion on it, and what’s more a far more impressive lion than that statue I photoed earlier. There’s even a big old statue, of this guy.

When I and the friend who showed me this amazing place were there, the weather was that particularly perfect sort of perfect that consist of perfection which had been preceded by rain. My photos (with the possible exception of photo 0 (or photo 2.4 if you prefer) don’t really show that, but trust me, it was weather to die for.

More about Abney Park in this. Turns out the guy buried under the lion was a lion tamer.

I love London.

It turned out nice in Stoke Newington

The way I see it, I can do an elaborate photo-expedition, which I did today. Or, I can do an elaborate description of some of the things I saw during my photo-expedition. But don’t ask me to do both on the same day. (See this category.)

So instead of an elaborate description of anything, here are two contrastingly lit and contrastingly backgrounded buildings, which I photoed at the very beginning of my wanderings, in the Stoke Newington area:

On the left, well, I don’t know what they call it, but I like it, because I like any building that is brightly lit, with a dark cloud background behind it, and lots of excellent roof clutter on top of it.

And on the left, the building that is now the Castle Climbing Centre. This time, the background is blue. The dark cloud was the bad weather of the morning and early afternoon, which was departing. The blue sky was the good weather that had just arrived, perfectly in time to illuminate my subsequent wanderings.

Which were fascinating, but exhausting. Sleep well, when the time comes for you to do that. I will, very soon.

Millais statue close up

Yesterday, I had another go, since I was passing that way, at photoing the Millais statue behind Tate Ancient, following an earlier effort last week (number 2 of these).

The light was the same as then, unhelpfully perfect. But this time I knew to try photoing the great man in close up, as well as from a distance with the whole statue visible. The distance ones were pretty much silhouettes, but one of the close-ups was quite good:

I tried to find a picture (for instance by googling Millais self portrait, or for that matter a photo, of Sir John, to put next to the photo above, to see how much they agreed. But nobody does regular pictures from the angle I photoed that statue photo from, so there didn’t seem any point.

I intend to go back there when the weather’s less good. The great thing about statues, from the photographic point of view, is that, like buildings, they don’t change from one day to the next and they stay where they are.

A shortcut to a Blockbuster photo

I’ve been a bit of a latecomer to the use of shortcuts to favourite photos. Now I find them essential, simply to keep track of where my most favourite photos from long ago times are to be found on my hard disc.

For a long time, what I would do is copy the file of the entire photo to a new directory. But that has a big drawback, which is that when posting photos here I like to be able to talk intelligently about these photos. When they were taken, where, and above all, simply, what they are of, that often needing to be explained. That can be hard to see when the photo had been snatched away from the directory where all the photos on that particularly expedition are to be found, especially including those taken just before and just after the one I want to talk about.

Shortcuts deal with this problem by leaving a favourite photo where it is, yet at the same time giving me big clumps of favourite photos to stir my blogging juices, and happy and/or interesting memories generally. They also direct me to whole collections of photos that I remember with special pleasure and which illustrate some particular point, or tell of some particular photo-expedition.

This photo, of a car, in snow, outside my local Blockbuster Video in Warwick Way, just off of Vauxhall Bridge Road (I can see that much at a glance), was not especially interesting when I photoed it:

But it is now, because Blockbuster is not just an enterprise that no longer exists. Blockbuster is now famous for being an enterprise that no longer exists. That makes my ancient photo of interest. So, when I come across it in the archives, four years ago, I created a shortcut to it, and put that shortcut in a new shortcut directory.

Where I came upon it recently, having forgotten about that shortcut directory. But at least when I found that directory I found a couple of dozen photos of interest, rather than just one, because I had chanced upon it in its original home. I’m old. It has taken me a while to realise that I need to get my use of shortcuts much more organised, which I have actually started to do, that early shortcut directory being an early symptom of this effort. Maybe collected into annual directories? We’ll see. By which I mean, I’ll see, and maybe you’ll see also, as in see also some further interesting ancient photos, if you keep coming here.

More importantly, from your point of view, I can tell you that the above photo was photoed in January of 2004. Since Blockbuster vacated this spot, it became an exercise parlour, crammed with exercise equipment, but never ever, whenever I looked, containing anyone taking any exercise. (Not one. Ever. Weird.)

It is now a Waitrose, and looks like it will remain that for a while.

People were also saying, way back when they said such things, that snow would become a thing of the past, which may be why I photoed this photo originally, along with all the others I photoed that evening. Turns out it was Blockbuster that melted away for ever.

Out east – one year ago today

I looked at what I was doing a year ago today, and came across these photos, of a great little expedition I had out east:

My wanderings began at West Silvertown DLR, from which there is a great view of the Tate & Lyle factory or refinery or whatever it is, the one with the giant can of Golden Syrup attached to it. Other local landmarks included: that cruise ship next to the footbridge, which is actually a hotel; a superb crane cluster off to the north; the Dome; that skilift Thing that goes across the River; and the Optic Cloak. (Where the Eastern God (Buddha?) was, I don’t recall, but I like him a lot.)

This is the area I was exploring:

It’s a place that is palpably in transition. Go back today, and it’ll be different. A year from now, it’ll be different again. In ten years, unrecognisably different. The landmarks in the distance will still be there, but the foreground will be transformed.

The weather that day (unlike the weather today) was a bit grim and grey, but I remember really enjoying this expedition.

I also, that day, photoed nesting birds, cranes, and a book of the week. That last posting having been done as soon as I got home.

By the way, behind the cruise ship is the ExCel Centre, now in the news because it was turned into a hospital. A hospital which had remained mostly empty, and now seems like it will soon shut. Which is good.

Low tide

April 26th was too sunny to be photoing statues (see below) but it was great for being down by the River, and midday was a time when you could get further down by the River (see above) than usual:

Maybe you see the River looking like this all the time, but I don’t recall seeing it like this before. I probably have though. I just didn’t notice.

Statues in Parliament Square

Being unable to use public transport, but still allowed to venture out of doors on foot, I have been concentrating my photographic attention on nearby places. And I have become especially fixated on the statues in Parliament Square.

Here are a couple of photos of one of these statues, a recently installed one, of Millicent Garrett Fawcett:

I show you the one on the left because it shows when not to try photoing some of these statues, namely those on the opposite side of Parliament Square from Parliament itself. I photoed that one on April 6th, in the quite late afternoon. Don’t try to photo these statues late in the afternoon, when the light is behind them to the west, unless all you want is silhouettes.

On the right is a photo I took this morning, when the light was coming from the east.

But the light coming from the east needed to be of a particular sort, which at first I got rather wrong, as the next two photos illustrate:

That’s Nelson Mandela, as I am sure you realise. The one on the left is a photo I took on the morning of April 26th, a morning I chose because it was so sunny. However, it was too sunny. By then, there were leaves (I constantly find leaves to be the enemy of successful photoing) casting random shadows over everything, and making it hard to discern the patterns on the surface of the statue,and totally messing up his face.

So, when I returned today, in the morning, I had chosen a less sunny morning, to see if that made things better. It did. Instead of the light crashing like a searchlight upon everything, and remembering all the things that had got in its way on the way to its destination, the light this morning wasn’t crashing anywhere. It was merely flowing gently, everywhere, in all directions, like a set of blurry lamps instead of one brutal searchlight. Hence the relative success of the photo on the right.

Until now, I have not tried very hard to photo statues. I have tried, but not very hard. I just photoed and hoped for the best, without wondering why it worked sometimes rather than at other times. But, I had begun to think that the sort of light I normally most enjoy for photoing, bright sunshine, might not be the best sort of light for statues. This morning, I paid attention to this notion, and it seemed to work very well.

So, here are several more photos that I took this morning, this next lot showing facial details of a sort I have never managed to get before, from these particular statues. These ones are close-ups of six of the statues that are at the west end of the square – Mandela (again), Disraeli, Gandhi, Fawcett (again), Lincoln, and Canning:

I forgot Peel and Derby, this morning. Or I think I did. I got in a bit of a muddle, forgetting that “Lord Beaconsfield” was really Disraeli. Maybe I have photos of Peel and Derby from earlier expeditions. If not, I might go back and do them too. Easy to do, what with all these Things being a walk away. (Photo rule: try to photo-obsess only about things within easy reach.)

Anyway, I’ll end this with three more photos I photoed this morning, two of them of one of my favourite statues in this square, Jan Smuts. I don’t know much about the man himself, but I really like this statue of him. I like that it’s green. And leaning forwards, like he’s skating:

I have photoed Smuts a lot, because he doesn’t always look like a mere silhouette in the afternoon. In these photos he has scaffolding behind him, and regulars here know how I feel about scaffolding. Also behind Smuts in the left hand photo of him there are the statues of Lloyd George and Churchill, which are properly photoed in the middle photo, again with scaffolding in the mix. Again, favourite subjects of mine, even though I don’t much like the statue of Lloyd George. To be exact, I don’t like his coat, which doesn’t look like a coat at all. More like metal. Which might be because it is metal.

Shame about all the birdshit.

Cycling out of Lockdown

Last Sunday, the gloriously sunny day when I photoed this reflection photo, I also photoed many other photos, as I walked to and around Parliament Square, and then along the River to Lambeth Bridge and across, and then to Vauxhall. My aim was to photo the statues in Parliament Square and the two pronged Vauxhall Bus Thing in friendlier light than I had so far managed.

But while engaged in this project, I couldn’t avoid noticing something else that was happening. See if you can spot what these twenty eight photos have in common:

Yes. Well spotted. Cyclists. Lots and lots of cyclists. Cyclists on their own. Cyclists in pairs. Families of cyclists. Great squadrons of cyclists. On otherwise almost entirely empty roads.

Quite what this “means”, I’m not entirely sure. But a major point of this blog is to feature things that seem interesting, without it being entirely clear to me why they are interesting. “Interesting” being the lowest form of interestingness that there is, because it’s the sort that you haven’t yet explained to yourself.

The only titbit of interpretation I can offer is that I caught a Daily Telegraph article about how the Lockdown was beginning to fray at the edges, and illustrated at the top with a photo like one of the ones above, featuring a great cluster of cyclists. I can’t now find this piece, but I swear I saw it. I didn’t read it, because the DT hides most of its stuff behind a paywall these days, and paying my way past paywalls is a habit I don’t want to start catching. But, I did see it. It was something along these lines, but with a cyclists photo at the top instead of a short video about people sunbathing en masses on the beach.

Also, there was me, creeping about photoing these cyclists. I too am fraying the Lockdown at its edges.

Because, another interesting thing about Lockdown London, at any rate the bit I live in, is that the Plod are almost nowhere to be seen. Parliament Square on Sunday contained many cyclists and creepers about like me, but no coppers whatsoever. You’d think Parliament Square would still be a worry to them, yet the only cops I saw that day were charging about in vans, attending to some other matter of far greater importance to them than me creeping about photoing, or than lots of cyclists. Who knows? Maybe they were actually having a go at some crimes.

Now, I know, had any policemen tried interrogating any of these cyclists, their answer would have been: “This is excercise, and exercise is allowed.” That would have been my answer also. But in practise, the rule that the police seem to have been applying during all this History has been more like: “You can go out, but you are not allowed to enjoy it.” It was the way these cyclists were so obviously having a good time taking their exercise that made it feel like defiance of the official line. And my worry was pleasure (because photoing) is what I would have been accused of also. So, I agree with the implication of that DT piece. It’s starting to crumble. If the government is wise, it will now relax things.

At the risk of boring you, another thought occurs to me about these cyclists, which is that slowly but surely the Lockdown is being politicised. Lefties don’t mind the economy tanking quite so much, because they have a government that they hate that they can then blame it all on. They have elections to win that they’ve lately been losing, rather badly. Righties, on the other hand, want the Lockdown to end, so that they can get back to being right about everything.

But cyclists of the sort I was photoing are a classic lefty demographic. If they are making a nonsense of the Lockdown, then the Lockdown is in trouble and needs to be wound down rather fast.

Also, the very fact that Lockdown is being politicised is further evidence that people are no longer taking it that seriously, the Righties in particular. When you start thinking how the crisis du jour will help or hinder your political tribe, then it’s no longer a proper crisis. It’s a mere circumstance.

Please don’t mistake the above for my considered opinions. This is me having made some observations, and then me thinking aloud about those observations.

Reflection

Not the sort you do inside your brain; the sort you can see:

My photo walks tend to happen in the afternoon and early evening, after I have done morningy things at home. But today I took a quite long walk, quite early in the morning by my getting old standards, in order for the light to be coming from a different direction and thus to photo certain Things better. And of course everything looked a bit different, including the River, because light was bouncing into it and off of it in unfamiliar ways from Things that didn’t usually look like that. It helped that there was hardly a cloud to be seen anywhere in the sky.

When I first got a digital camera I couldn’t photo The Wheel enough. What a great Thing. But soon I realised that just photoing the Thing itself wasn’t good enough. You had to play photo-games with it in some way. Line it up with other Things, seen through it. Or reflect it, in a window for instance. Or water.

I like how the foreground foliage blots out any direct view of the Thing itself.

The above photo was just one of my favourites so far from today’s expedition. There were other nice photos also, but the above will suffice for now.

Anyone know what those two little golden crosses are, in the River? Image googling for “golden cross”, got me nowhere helpful.