30 Nov 2018

nocturne

I've eased the transition to post-season by going to some talks by photographers about their practice. Being me there's a London angle to them of course. 

I welcomed the opportunity to revisit the London Nights show at the Museum of London. Both it and the talk gave me such inspiration I was propelled into the streets outside. There's a tension in my relationship with the City. I love the diversity of the West End versus the homogeneity of the street life of the square mile however I can't deny a fascination with its historical context. To that end it was inevitable I was drawn to an icon of the show, St Paul's Cathedral.
It's hard not to look at the image of St Paul's featured in the show in the midst of the Blitz by Herbert Mason in the context of today's debate about Britain's role in the world. It's suffused with a sense of standing alone against European tyranny and it's propaganda value is just as powerful today as in 1940. So it was with fascination I found in its grounds a funfair that had been installed for the Lord Mayor's Show that weekend contrarily, or perhaps not, shared with the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.
St Paul's photograph
The carousel's seats, occupied by cut-out figures swaying lifeless in the wind and rain presented too easy a metaphor for the current political climate. However the role of the night was the dominant feeling for me. The darkness accentuated the spot-lit dome like a surreal inverse of a wartime blackout. The only sound was of the wind through the carefully placed trees. The amusements observed their own embarrassed silence, knowing it wasn't the time or the place to hook a frog, prize every time.  
All these sensations were in stark contrast to my daytime experience of London and they were brought to the surface again thanks to another night-time talk, this time on the other side of the City in Aldgate. 
After hearing Tom Hunter passionately give London Independent Photography's annual talk (reminding me of another Hackney advocate) I was drawn to wander the streets outside around Petticoat Lane in the shadows of the office blocks and converted warehouses of Bishopsgate. 
Petticoat Lane photograph
Despite the encroachment on all sides those streets still bear some testimony to another London. One well documented by some of my favourite photographers so there was undeniably a feeling of nostalgia but also one of embracing the future. As much as these new buildings represent life for the few not the many London, indeed any city, is constantly in flux.
Like months to a flame people are drawn here.

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