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.
A while back I was walking along by the River, just upstream from Lambeth Bridge, and photoed this photo (number 5 of these) of the China Works Tower (thank you commenter Alastair for identifying it):
Also a while ago now, I went back there, yes, to photo stuff like all the signs at the other end of that link, but basically to check out this China Works building from close-up:
In an earlier posting here about would-be applier of architectural decoration Adam Nathaniel Furman, I said:
Furman intends to apply ornament with colourful abandon.
But, not the old sort of ornament that the Victorians liked to do, and against whom the original Modernists reacted with such disgust. …
Well, the above photos are of just this old sort of ornament, the sort that Furman doesn’t want to do. But, technologically, he intends to use very similar techniques. Ceramics. Also known as: China. (Odd that, naming a material after the big old country where they got the idea from. Are there any strange things called, in foreign parts, Britain or England? So, how’s your meat? Okay, but it could use a dash of Britain. Your skirt’s falling down, try using an England.)
This China Works Tower is surrounded and jostled aggressively by modern buildings, designed by the sort of people who grew up believing all the old sort of ornament to be an aesthetic abomination, or at the very least an aesthetic dead-end.
The most aggressive architectural jostler is a fire station, immediately the other side of a very narrow road. Which happens to be the start of Lambeth High Street, which is odd but there you go. Here are photos I took of all that jostling, with the fire station in the middle photo here:
You can see the white roof of the fire station in the photo at the top of this posting.
Luckily, the China Works Tower is not entirely isolated, and is hence not totally smothered by later buildings. It was once only a small part of a bigger collection of buildings, and a decent chunk of those earlier buildings remains, attached to the Tower and keeping it company:
There was a lot of sunshine and shade colliding on the facade of the Tower, so that doesn’t look so good there. But the blander, less decorated and bigger stretch of the old building was easier to photo, as you can see.
I shouldn’t grumble too much. At least the Tower survived, along with a chunk of the earlier buildings it presided over. The Tower was the architectural advert, so to speak, for a real business, one that survived longer than most Victorian-era enterprises, way past World War 2. And then the Tower was saved by an early manifestation of the Conservation Movement, in the form of two rich fogeys, aesthetically speaking. The link above, in paragraph one of this, concerning the history of this place and what they’re now doing with it is well worth a follow, so here is that link again.
I wouldn’t want London to consist only of such ornamented antiquities, but I am glad that quite a lot of such oddities still survive, and that they now look like having a decent future, to follow their distinguished past. And I am glad to have lived long enough to have experienced a time when this past can be easily learned about. During the last century, I would see such a building, wonder about it for about one minute, and then forget it and move on to the next equally baffling oddity.
This afternoon, I ventured out of doors. What with the weather being so nice:
Because public transport has recently been something that Non-essential Workers (apparently the world can do without personal blogs if it has to) have been discouraged from using, so for the last few weeks, I couldn’t just go somewhere by tube or bus, then walk where I wanted to for as far as I wanted too, and then grab the nearest tube or bus back home. It no longer works like that. The further I now walk, the further I have to be willing to walk back.
So, me and my camera are focusing in a whole new way on places within easy walking distance of home.
Today, I walked through the back alleys of Millbank, past pollarded trees just beginning to assert themselves with leaves, but not so much as to become boring. I went past the statue of John Everett Millais (I took photo-notes), who stands at the back of Tate Ancient, and was then beside the River, looking at Things on the other side, and at Lambeth Bridge, which I had in mind to cross. This time, the tide was higher
What is that Ancient Tower that looks like someone stole it from Tower Bridge? The one in Photo 5 above, in the middle. I’m too tired to track it down. I was out walking in London today, and I am too knackered to care, for now. Anyone?
I did cross Lambeth Bridge, St Mary’s Gardens being just on the other side of it, next to a church, St Mary’s Church presumably.
And then I wandered in the general direction of Waterloo, and made a strange discovery, which I’ll tell you all about some other time, maybe, I promise nothing.
This is a little patch of nearby London that I have very seldom explored. I know what I will see on the other side of Vauxhall Bridge, because I often go to Vauxhall Station, or beyond to the Oval, to say nothing of being intrigued by that weird Bus Thing. And I used constantly to cross Westminster Bridge, photoing photoers, and in search of classical CDs in Lower Marsh, and of much else, like closer-up views of how the City of London’s Big Things have been progressing. I still do, quite often. But the little patch of London life beyond Lambeth Bridge, along Lambeth Road and nearby roads, is far less well known to me. I know it a bit better now.
And then when my wanderings were done and I was knackered, I tried, for the first time since Lockdown started, to take a bus back home. And I succeeded! The bus was three quarters empty. The driver made no attempt to persuade me to continue walking, and nor did anyone else. Plus, the driver was taped off, like he was a crime scene, which was a sufficiently strange circumstance for me to reckon it worth photoing, and again, nobody thought to interrupt me while I did this:
All of which meant that I got back home sooner than I feared I would, and far less knackered than I feared I would be.
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.
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.
Photoed by Michael Jennings at Madras Municipal Airport, and posted on Facebook on August 21st 2017.
Said Michael, next to the photo:
All accommodation in this town has been sold out for three years. It doesn’t matter if you arrive in your own jet – you are still sleeping in a tent.
What Michael didn’t say was what the circumstances of this accommodation shortage were. Was something in particular happening at that particular time, or is accommodation in Madras always something you have to book three years in advance? Michael?
Ever since I got it clear in my head that Michael allows all photos he posts on Facebook to be re-posted here, provided there is a little globe logo above them (which means that the whole world is welcome to read and share what he has put), and provided I give him the credit for having photoed them, I have been trawling through the photos he has posted. The above photo is now one of my favourites of his that I have encountered so far.
This link works for me, because I am “on” Facebook (although I have yet to put anything there myself). Does it work for you? Do you have to be a Facebooker for it to work? Or will that link get you to Michael’s Facebook posting anyway? Questions questions.
I like that Michael’s shadow is present, bottom left.
“Architecture” is in the category list for this not so much because of the very forgettable airport building, but because of the tent. Are tents architecture? I think so, and a highly significant form of architecture. A form of architecture that has transformed the nature of “homelessness” by providing homeless people with … homes! When I was a kid, we had to “pitch” a tend by banging wooded pegs into the ground, which consequently had to be soft. Try doing that at an airport. Or on a city pavement. These new tends that you merely have keep weighted down have changed the world.
Whenever I encounter such tents on the streets of London I have been photoing them, ever since the above thoughts first crossed my mind. Real Soon Now (although I promise nothing) I should dig up all my tent photos and do a posting about this.
There’s a lot I could say, by way of a photo-essay, about these photoer photos. But, do you know what the best thing about them is, in my opinion? How good they are. Oh, technically, they’re a bit rubbish, but I don’t care about that. I just really like them. Even the one of me. But especially the one of the bloke lying face down on the ground playing a guitar behind his head.
Yes they do. Here are some I photoed on my recent trip to their country:
And here is a particularly interesting motorbike specimen, which I spotted inside a shop in Perpignan:
You see what they did there? They put a classic motorbike next to one of the great design classics of the twentieth century, the Barcelona Chair. What this says to me is: This motorbike is a work of art also. My photos are not works of art, on account of unwanted reflections, but they make the point I’m making well enough.
The best motorbike I encountered, and photoed with its owner’s proud permissions, was this one, photoed right at the end of my stay, while being driven back to Carcassone Airport:
The nearest thing to this bike I could find on the www was this. Not a perfect match, but an exact match on the colour scheme front.
I like to think that the French see something philosophical, Sartrian, existentialist, in their bikes. What with you riding a motorbike, today could be your last day alive! So climb on your bike and find your true self! Or something. I put this or something like it to a friend earlier this evening, and she said maybe they like bikes because unlike us lot here, they have roads where you can really ride motorbike on properly. Sadly, I think that makes more sense.
The last photo, with the tree shadow, is of the outside of the Tate Gallery itself.
Shadows are interesting for many reasons, one being that the camera registers them so much more clearly than the eye does. When a human looks at a scene, he/she makes a model of it inside his/her head. Eyes move about restlessly to build the model. Shadows are irrelevant for most purposes, so get screened out, so to speak. But when a camera looks at a shadow, it sees it and registers it. It’s eye stays in one place and looks just the once. If there is a shadow, the shadow remains. When the human looks at the photo, he/she can’t then look past it, to the scene itself. There is only the photo to be seen`dxz9
One of the skills of photography is learning to see things as a camera does, so that you can see photos worth photoing, which you would not see if you were merely looking the way a human does.