We have recently spent a nice 10 days of holiday in London and its surroundings. It was quite an interesting experience from both personal and photographic point of view. A dive into the life of maybe the fastest and crowdiest city I have ever seen; and I have seen quite a few so far including New York, Paris or Beijing.
The city itself is one of the most beautiful European cities, with tons of history, lovely architecture, plenty of art, culture and good restaurants; however I would not see myself living here for various reasons. The most unpleasant thing, that annoyed me so much, were the CCTVs and the huge amount of the security agents. The surveillance cameras are literally everywhere. Buildings, streets, parkings, stations, elevators, toilets. 4 people are monitoring them in a train station for example. That's insane. I had a very horrible big brother feeling. Like every step I took was watched by somebody else. I had nothing to hide, but is there no more intimacy in this world anymore?Maybe I like to be behind a camera rather then in front of it.
And the security people are so many that you would think that a quarter of the London's population is one of them. They seem to have a problem with photographers and they have the impression that a guy, with his camera pointed to the sky is a real danger. So each time I was mounting my tripod next to an office building, they were invariably sticking their faces to the window, carefully watching what we were doing. I was always feeling a pair of eyes (or more) burning my neck. What is the reason for such a paranoia? Does this really work? Are the threaten and danger removed totally from London's life because of these surveillance cameras and cerberuses? Are people more willing to obey the rules knowing that they are watched 24 hours? Or is it jet a scarecrow, an excuse to dive into people privacy into their everyday life, while the real dangerous people can really workaround this?
Another thing that I noticed is a tendency of over protecting people from accidents: mind your step! mind the gap! take care its wet! exercise care at the window! They are just few of the things you can read or listen very often. Is it supposed to be followed by : Inhale! Exhale! Chew your food! ? Isn't it the society behaving just like people are getting dumber and need instructions for the very basic things? Is the generation of people that use advanced smartphones, tablets and laptops so unable to guide their steps in and out of a train?Or is just another paranoia, the one against stupid trials where some people squeezing money for pretended negligence reasons. I have read that a policeman sued the victim of a robbery just because he had an accident trying to answer an emergency call. And many people are suing transport companies for minor accidents moving in and out of trains and buses. Maybe we are too busy to play Angry Birds on phone or posting our latest place we have been on Facebook and we do not pay attention around us. I think it went to far. There is an obvious rush for the money and this is way beyond the normal.
Ode to Tamesas - 1
Now thats enough with my personal experiences in London. Lets talk about the photographic ones. The weather was far from perfect, with heavy clouds, rain and grey sky most of the days. We manage to get very few long exposure architecture shots. Instead we tried to capture the mood of the city in a series of long exposure cityscapes, involving Thames. It is called : Ode to Tamesas (Tamesas is the old celtic name of the Thames). We tried to find the low tide moments to climb down the banks of Thames and get more intimate with the river. When low, the Thames was revealing muddy beaches and all kinds of objects. Thames is definitely a crucial element in the life of the city and why not maybe its symbol. Thats why we decided that this long exposure series will be dedicated to the river; Thames will be a central point in all images.
About long exposure architecture images, the one that I liked the most, hence I processed it early was the famous Y, formed by three buildings in More London (PWC, Ernst&Young and 37 Degrees). The sky was good enough so managed to do it as long exposure, with some fluid clouds and beautiful light and shadows on the buildings. For other architectural shots, you have to wait a bit more because they will require some more work in post processing (actually while writing this, St Mary Axe shot is ready too). London is such a perfect location for photographers, but is extremely inpredictable in terms of weather. You can go there for one day and get the most superb light that you can think about or you can stay there 10 days and get rain and dull sky most of the time. Its all about luck. But nobody can deny that
London has its own soul and so many opportunities to capture with your camera.
Ball of truth