London is a good place for me — the city makes me happy and it’s easy to navigate and enjoy. But the ease of it makes it a little harder to get my engine running with photography. There was no obvious place to be and nothing that demanded my particular eye on things, it seemed. What image of London, after all, haven’t you already seen? Enticing to simply grab a pint and settle in to the flow of things. While my tendency on travel is to uncover something, arriving in London put me face-to-face with what it feels like to have no purpose at all.
The longstanding tradition of London Taxicabs is one of the most fascinating aspects of the city to me, and entirely unique. Becoming a taxicab driver in London is no easy task and requires a deep level of understanding (referred to as “The Knowledge”) before becoming qualified. And the vehicles are specially made for the task. Everything about it feels forward-leaning and opinionated, which is such a stark contrast to cabs in every other part of the world, which wander around like me here, with far less purpose.
I found myself taking lots of pictures of the hackney carriages in an attempt to capture it in a way that felt as intentional as the practice itself. In the end, I liked this one, as the understated background helped to create a heroic shot of the vehicle, seemingly in command of its world — leading and out in front. And I liked the new shiny silver and subtle signage references that let you know you’re in contemporary London, without needing to have it tower over you.
I happened upon the Tate and found this shape to be seductive and even other-worldly for its perfect proportions and the way the textured surface captures and reflects light so elegantly, through so many shades of grey.
In almost stark contrast, there’s this building which is colorful, eccentric, light and cheery. Like a meal of jellybeans directly after an appetizer of pate.
In the end, I took over 1,500 shots in under 5 days. They are all over the place: color, black and white, serious stuff, funny stuff, a few portraits, I shot Big Ben, Tower Bridge, but also some out of the way locations, like Barbican, shown above. Orwellian and cramped, it excited me despite a significant amount of “what even is this?”
In the middle of the labyrinth is a giant, near-empty courtyard where the sun sparkles off the carefully laid bricks as residents and visitors pass by, casting long and interesting shadows. I watched children play there, people walk hand-in-hand, families go off to dinner. A lot of movement, but always with direction.
I took shots like this for five days — random, interesting, seemingly unrelated. I wanted to cull down to just a handful and see what came of it. Maybe even to figure out if some kind of meaning might bubble up amidst all this hodgepodge. In looking at it now what seems revealed is that my lack of purpose only served to highlight how purposeful London is. Only a city with an extreme sense of itself would demand such knowledge from its cab drivers. And it’s this purposeful undercurrent to London that appears to drive it to keep exact time, bend concrete, dapple with color so charmingly and let shadows stretch so longly into the night.
Maybe that’s what makes it such a joy to come. A relaxing release of tension to simply get in, sit down and let someone else drive for a while.
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