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My 2017 in London photos

This posting may not see the light of day until tomorrow, or worse, because this evening I have a date at Chateau Samizdata to see in the New Year. But, I will now try to get it posted before the end of the year that it is retrospectively about. And yes, it’s one of those month-by-month photo-postings, one photo for each month.

Unlike, say, Michael Jennings, I not only live in London but spend almost all of my time in London, and I spend a lot of that time wandering about in London, taking photos of London’s architecture, of its adverts, of its other photographers, and of its many other oddities, such as this one:

I love to discover out of the way spots in London, spots that others don’t know about, but which, if they did, they might enjoy greatly, almost as much as I do. That strange and rather funny sculpture (be patient with this link (to my personal blog) – I do believe it worth the wait), which I photoed in January of 2017, is to be found beside the River Lea, just before it does a kink on its way south. It’s a hard place to describe, because if you look on Google Maps there is little of note in the area. The best I can do is to say that to get to this place, I went to Bromley-by-Bow tube station, went east across the River Lea and then went south, past big warehouses, of the sort that have become so important in this age of computerised shopping. There’s a big Amazon shed there, for instance.

The above sculpture concerns itself with the more regular sort of shopping, and what with it being the work of an artist, she thinks that it criticises such shopping. Materialism, the badness of capitalism, consumerism, blah blah. But to me it looks more like a celebration of shopping. Whatever it “is”, I like it.

Next up, a photo which notes the fact that exactly a hundred years ago from this year, there was that Revolution, in Russia. I didn’t visit the exhibition that this poster advertises, because I feared that too many of the exhibits would be celebrations of that disastrously destructive event, and would hence annoy me. But I did photo the advert:

Thank goodness for the movie The Death of Stalin, which came out later this year, and which I did see. That is very comical, but it is anything but a celebration of Soviet communism. The horrors are not wallowed in photographically, but they are portrayed, in the form of the terror felt by all those who had anything to do with Stalin, and in the form of all the absurd events that Stalin’s most casual instructions were liable to set in motion. Although I promise nothing, I hope to be writing more here about that movie.

March, and more politics, this time in the form of a big anti-Brexit demo that I chanced upon, in Parliament Square:

It’s tempting to mock this demo as a complete farce. It happened, after all, several months after the Brexit referendum had yielded its result. But although a demo like this attracts little public notice, given that the vote it denounced was, you know, a vote, such demos do still accomplish quite a lot. There is more to politics than mere voters merely voting. Demos, much like indoor meetings (of the sort I continue to hold every month in my own home), strengthen the personal relationships which add up to a political movement, and draw more adherents to the cause, whatever it is. Thanks to this effort, and many other less photogenic efforts, the anti-Brexiteers have been able to put all sorts of political barriers in the way of Brexit, to spread all sorts of doubts in the minds of waverers. I still don’t think they will accomplish their central goal, but they are putting up quite a fight.

My April photo is one that I took through my living room window, of a delivery van that was parked just across the road from the front door of my block of flats:

What that photo says to me is that any notion that the “surveillance state” can be successfully rolled back is, sadly, delusion. The attitude of most people, at any rate in Britain, is that surveillance is a thoroughly good thing, and that the dangers of it are trivial compared to the good it does. Hence the willingness of this particular enterprise to turn such surveillance into a joke. There’s a lot more I could say about that subject, but I’ll leave it to commenters to expand, if any are inclined to.

May, and here is another piece of public sculpture, this time in the form of the statue of Beau Brummell that is to be found just north of Piccadilly:

I like how I included some modern dudes in that photo. I wonder what Brummell would have thought about the mobile phone.

This statue is in a part of London which I don’t often visit. I tend to prefer big new modern buildings and walks beside London’s various waterways (see January above), and in general, areas which are busy changing into something else, unlike Mayfair or such places. But I have a GodDaughter who is now progressing quite rapidly towards being a classical solo singer of some renown, i.e. the sort of classical solo singer who is constantly at work, singing. These are the sorts of place she often likes to wander about in, and I like wandering about with her. Photos like the one above remind me of her and of the pleasure of her company. (Concerning the GodDaughter, see also, the December bit of this similar sort of posting.)

June. And this may seem like a rather odd choice of photo:

First things first, I like the actress Julia Stiles, and that’s her, on the side of that London taxi. I also like to photo adverts (see also February above). Adverts, unlike such objects of photographic devotion as Big Ben or St Paul’s Cathedral or the Shard, come and go. Photos recording them can be very evocative of particular moments in … not history exactly, but you surely know what I mean. Time passing.

Advertising on the sides of vehicles has got a lot easier in recent years, and a lot cheaper, and a lot more photographically expert. So much so, that elaborate adverts like that one which appear and then disappear, part of a very temporary campaign in honour of a product that has come but will very soon be gone, now make very good business sense.

July, and we are in Victoria Street, observing another kind of temporariness:

What we see there is what used to be New Scotland Yard being turned into a clutch of residential mini-skyscrapers (sky-reachers-up?). I find those large expanses of fabric or whatever, stretched out across vast arrays of scaffolding to be constant sources of photo-fun. Light strikes these expanses both from in front, as here in the form of the shadow of that crane (I love cranes), and also in the form of light that sometimes bursts through from behind. And once again, all these effects, like the effects created by adverts, can be relied upon to be gone soon, and hence to be worth remembering photographically.

My August photo records a trip made with that same GodDaughter to the top of the Shard. The views from the Shard are every bit as stunning as is claimed, but I particularly liked this view, to be seen by looking almost directly downwards, upon London Bridge railway station:

As with my July photo, we see more temporariness, captured for eternity. Look to the top left of the above photo, and you observe that this too was a work in progress. And indeed, London Bridge railway station is in a state of turmoil.

I tend not to admire Modern Art. It takes itself far too seriously for my liking. But I love it when real stuff resembles Modern Art. Explain that to me, somebody?

My September photo was taken inside Peter Jones, a department store in Sloane Square:

There is much angst being expressed by movie people these days about why cinema attendances seem to be in free fall. There are many reasons for this, I think, but one reason seems to me to get rather less attention that it deserves, which is that in recent years, domestic televisions have got spectacularly better. It began when they became flat, and it continued when these flat TVs got rapidly bigger, year on year, for the same money. A decade ago, giant TVs like these would cost the better part of ten grand. Now, they cost a tenth of that. And that’s a big change. Technology doesn’t just have its impact when a few showy billionaires first get it, to show off how billionairey they are. It impacts a bit later when you don’t have to be a billionaire for it to make sense for you to get one too. Add all the small TV screens that have recently been proliferating, and it spells something pretty much like the death of the cinema, as we know it. Because, now, we can all have our own cinemas, and pause it whenever we want, and not have to listen to any conversation and noise other than what we make ourselves. Hurrah for shopping (see above). Again, discuss. If you want to.

October, and yet more sculpture:

That’s probably my favourite sculpture in all of London. It’s Anna Pavlova, and she is to be seen dancing atop the Victoria Palace Theatre, at the top end of Victoria Street. I have loved photoing this statue over the years, in front of a constantly changing backdrop of construction work (lots of cranes!), as vast new buildings rise up all around her. Just recently Pavlova has been under wraps, and Pavlovians like me have had to make do with photoing pictures of the statue, painted on the rectangular wraps. Well, in October, the wraps came off.

In my photo above, we don’t see construction work. But, I am very proud of that airplane, which I remember deliberately including in the shot.

November: and another of those out-of-the-way spots involving water, this time in the form of something which now describes itself as the Walthamstow Wetlands:

What this is is a bunch of disused (I think) reservoirs. Used or not, the water levels seem very low.

For me, the great thing about this place is that reservoirs offer footpaths beside them which have been raised above the ground, quite a lot. From these footpaths, I am able to indulge another photo-hobby of mine, which is photoing the big new buildings of the City of London, from quite far away. These too have been in a state of permanent transformation in recent years and decades.

You also get a very fine view from this spot of the new Tottenham Hotspur football stadium. Still under construction. (Cranes.)

These Walthamstow Wetlands are part of a most agreeable London habit, which consists of expanding the number of public parks, as London itself expands. They also illustrate another fact about new “eco-friendly” places, with lots of bird life in particular, which is that these often have their origins in at first rather eco-hostile industrial endeavours. (See in particular, the Norfolk Broads, which began life as open-cast mining.) There is a certain sort of trouble maker who loves nature, but who refused to regard humans as part of nature. This kind of project keeps such people busy, and hence renders them less obtrusive and obstructive.

December, and oh dear, it’s The Ashes:

I’ll leave Michael Jennings (our resident Aussie who fails the cricket test) to comment on the mere cricket.

My point here is rather different, aside from the fact that I like the photo, and that I like to photo, in particular, adverts.

This particular advert is one I encountered in the tunnel that goes from South Kensington tube northwards, towards the Royal College of Music, where GodDaughter (see above) is doing her studying. And what it advertises is not the Ashes cricket itself, but rather a computer game, based on the mere Ashes. And there we see another reason why fewer people are going to the cinema. Is it true that more money is now changing hands in the computer game business than for movies? I read that somewhere. It’s not just that in the cinema they are liable to tell you lies about such things as communism.

This posting has been done in a great rush, and it surely reeks of first-draft-itis. I hereby assert my right to clean it up, some time tomorrow afternoon. But, assuming that the adding of the actual photos and of the more necessary links goes okay, it should be ready before I set off for my New Year’s Eve jollifications. I hope your jollifications are similarly jolly, and that your 2018, like my 2018, goes well.

10 comments to My 2017 in London photos

  • Robert the Biker

    Very nice and thanks. Small point, the statue of Beau Brumel is in fact on Jermyn st., up from Piccadilly as you say and just west of Fortnum and Masons.

  • I tend not to admire Modern Art. It takes itself far too seriously for my liking. But I love it when real stuff resembles Modern Art. Explain that to me, somebody?

    It’s the same as laughing at a genuine “You’ve Been Framed” clip but not if you suspect it was staged. When reality constructs strange visuals, that can be beautiful. When someone puts the same thing together not for some natural reason but to say, “Look at me, modern artist”, then it’s talentless junk.

    This posting has been done in a great rush, and it surely reeks of first-draft-iris.

    After coming across ‘https’ in the text, I found myself agreeing – and encourage you to fix that link. 🙂

  • Alisa

    Thank you Brian, I enjoyed reading and looking. Happy 2018!

  • Mr Ed

    Just a point of information, is this Ashes series the most disastrous series in all Test history, or does the old record still stand?

    I find our sporting disasters a reassuring indication that we are not yet in East Germany Mk II.

  • Laird

    Thanks, Brian, I always enjoy your photos. Have a nice evening at Chateau Samizdata, and I wish everyone here a Hippo Gnu Year!

  • Julie near Chicago

    And I add my thanks, Brian. I enjoy your photos, and the accompanying descriptions. :>))

    And a Happy 2018 to all!

    . . .

    Laird! she said, rapping his knuckles with her ruler. (She kept her head bowed, however, as her grin would spoil the effect.)

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    Niall Kilmartin

    Thanks for identifying that broken link. Fixed, along with several other grammatical blemishes. This is the small hours of Jan 1. I’ll give it one more check tomorrow.

    And thanks, in general, for all the kind comments.

  • Michael Jennings

    Modern art does indeed take itself seriously, and probably too seriously. Is this different from art of any other era, though? I doubt taking yourself too seriously is a new human trait.

  • Paul Marks

    Happy New Year.

  • Happy New Year, Brian.
    It’s been a(nother) pleasure reading your thoughts here (and there) this year.