Project #1: The City of London at Its Quietest – continuation

timer-32 ( 4 MIN READ)

As stated in the previous post that actually kick-started this urban photography project blog, ‘The City of London at its Quietest’, I furhter my impressions as to why this may be an interesting project to endevour into after all. Specially if you take into consideration the blatant fact that London’s own financial district can definitely be, during business hours, a daunting place, to say the least, for photographing less busy scenes. I mean, scenes devoid of all the hustle and bustle one typically finds taking place in that area during business hours. Not that us street photographers mind busy pavements and thoroughfares. It has notoriously been quite the opposite actually; as we usually have, for a century and a half – when film became fast enought to (kind of) freeze movement – tried, whenever possible, to include in our shots, as many people going by their business in public as possible – either for context or to help us tell a story.

But, (a sound ‘but’ here) sometimes, all we want to include in our shots is the odd single passer-by (or a small group of them, moslty) ‘interacting’, so as to speak, with their surroundings, or “no person at all”, as renowed street photographer James Maher rightly puts it on his ‘The Essentials of Street Photography‘.

In this post’s particular case, I couldn’t agree more with that assessment!

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Fleet Square, with an oddly-shaped sculpture whose colours, in my opinion, complement beautifully those of the flower bed’s – colours which were obviously maximized by the marvelous Kodak EBX positive emulsion I used to take this picture. Copyright (C) 2005 – Nilson Bazana

So my point is, for the sole purpose of “staying in” in The City, when most have gone away temporarily, is a great way to look at The Square Mile under an wholly different perspective.

That is, “The City”, as Londoners usually refer to it, under a much less crowded point of view than the one we are usually used to look at it from. This may proves, as it has to me, to be a great source of photographic opportunities, where that, weren’t for well-known landmarks (by Londoners, at least), might as well not being recognized as belonging into the Square Mile, at all – even by a cab driver!

Out of hours, The City’s dwellers play hide N’ seek – it’s up to us to search them!

The Wikipedia entry for The City, informs us its population shrinks, by the time the last desk lamps are switched off, or office cubicles’s real estate start to be taken over by the armies of dutiful cleaners, from hefty 300,000 inhabitants (actually commuters) to a much humbler 7,000-resident figure! (a recent documentary presented by Stephen Fry claims those numbers to be 400,000 and 8,000 -a more up-to-date figure, perhaps?

Statistical differences apart, it’s obvious this abysmal shift deficit of its inhabitants’  tally, does account for the quietness, solitude (even eeriness, sometimes!) you might feel, by literally losing yourself in irs umpteen roads, alleyways and narrow passages.

Coming Across a True Phenomenom

I personally came to think more of this phenomenon in particular, when I was freelancing, in the mid noughties, not as a photographer, but as a chef for the freelancing division of world-wide catering giant Sodexo. (I still make no secret that I’ve always been a proud amateur snapper – with the odd weekend assignment – without ever becoming a full pro).

As that job took me everywhere in London (one week I’d be in the London Underground’s head office  – which unbeknownst to even seasoned Londoners, is underneath St. James’s Park station – to popping into to the massive kitchen in the UK branch of PricewaterhouseCoopers in The Embankment, or the to Fleet Street, in a much smaller kitchen for the cafeteria for a law firm – I’ve seem them all!

So, I recall leaving my job mid afternoon (start early, finish early, that’s one of the few perks of being a chef) on Fridays usually, and, after dealing with one or another personal engagement, strolling eastwards –  camera loaded with some 36-exposure transparency or B&W film ready to fire hanging from my neck – thinking: “I’m gonna walk at my heart’s content till the lights get too dim.”
Thinking in retrospect, security guards in those days were definitely more lenient on those pre-July 7 Bombings days, than it is the case nowadays, as I walked freely in and out of said buildings during working hours, without even a single eyebrow being risen as to the contents of my rucksack!

So, what really struck me was how different the district in question looked as the afternoon advanced towards its end: private owned sandwich shops, unlike the likes of  Subway, were, by 4 pm, all shut; there were less buses, taxis… and, above all, much less people on the streets. Cleaners and other contractors – whom you usually saw during the week mostly through thick glass windows, and only after dusk had settled in – were now outside, washing the pavement, putting the rubbish out (trash, for you lot across the pond) or having a fag. In summary: both quietness itself and contractors had, by late afternoon, almost totally taken over a large chunk of the Square Mile!

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Only a stone’s throw from Fleet Place, short, crescent-shaped Limeburner Lane starts up just off Old Bailey criminal court – only to end up, a few hundred yards ahead, on Ludgate Hill, opposite the City Thameslink station. As this was taken during the same photographic stroll of the photo above, the film is the same Kodak EBX. Thought not a great photograph, and this scanning in particular not making justice to the emulsion’s dynamic range, one can easily tell the lonely figure is all but a blue-collar city broker. Copyright (C) 2005 – Nilson Bazana

And so I proceeded to shoot, as you can see by the diversity of places and different times of the day  the shots illustrating this and the previous post show, and on on my website on www.nilsonbazana.com or Instagram feed.

So, what are your own experiences in this charming place? Do you concur with what I’ve just said or had a totally different experience there? Feel free to drop us a few lines and let us all know it, if you like.

On the other hand, if this somehow inspired you to make incursions into the City of London with the sole purpose of photographing its inherently-quiet weekends’ and holiday’s loneliness, I couldn’t recommend this enough, as great photography project.

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