The Ultimate Photographers’ Meet-Up

Trafalgar’ — a year-long, single-point survey of London’s famous square — reveals Britain’s peculiar fancy for public gatherings

Trafalgar Square is a public space and tourist attraction in central London, built around the area formerly known as Charing Cross.

The square’s name commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar of 1805, a British naval victory of the Napoleonic Wars over France and Spain. The square’s centrepiece is Nelson’s Column, a huge totemic monument to one of the British Empire’s most famous sons. The column, and Sir Charles Barry’s design, create a defining sense of symmetry wholly unique to the square.

A carefully ordered space frequently disordered by restive forces, Trafalgar Square is what Pierre Nora identified as lieux de memoire: a site of memory. With its symmetrical construction and imperial origins, it is inextricably connected to Empire and postcolonial British, and indeed global, identity.

Trafalgar Square’s contemporary incarnation as a site of pilgrimage and orientation within the capital arguably make the plaza a microcosm of global consumer-capitalist behaviour. Property of the Crown, protected by its heritage status, the square is often used for quasi-anarchic political demonstrations and minority community gatherings.

The photo series Trafalgar is an attempt to explore the tension between those competing forces: history’s grand narratives, and the role of the individual within them. It also effects a detailed investigation into the behaviour of crowds, and the exchange between the openness of this public space and the private space of the individual’s inner life, their unreadable thoughts as they cross the square.

Shot every day over the course of twelve-months, Trafalgar invites the viewer to look at an instantly recognisable place in an entirely new way.

Trafalgar is exhibited at the Westminster Reference Library, 35 St Martin’s Street, WC2H 7HP, London, WC2H 7HP, from 15–27 Feb 2016.

Alexander Williamson is a photographer, journalist and PhD candidate in Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck College, London. Follow him on Twitter, Linked In, Instagram and on his blog.