London 1980 (11)

Continuing the series of post about the black and white pictures I made in 1980, with the pictures and the comments I posted more recently daily on Facebook.


Man walking on Riverside wall, Greenwich. 1980
24n-63: man, woman, children, power station

http://londonphotographs.co.uk/london/1980/24n-63.htm

A man was walking on the riverside wall, to his right perhaps a 20 ft drop, probably not into water but into thick mud. The lifebelt which should have been below him was missing, but it probably would have been of little use.

I’m not sure if he was having some kind of mental health problem, or was drunk, or possibly both, but didn’t feel there was much I could do to help – and trying to do anything might even have made him fall. So I took a picture and walked on. I did keep an eye on him and by the time I was leaving the area he had come down safely.


Child posing on riverside fence, Greenwich. 1980
24n-66: child, river, power station, cranes,

http://londonphotographs.co.uk/london/1980/24n-66.htm

Another picture of a girl standing beside the railings but with rather different framing from those in my previous post, with the river visible below the fence, the bottom rail of I’ve carefully aligned along the riverbank.

This was actually taken a few seconds before the previously shown picture of her. My filing and numbering system is based on contact sheets and films were not always developed and filed exactly in the order they were taken. I was using two cameras to take black and white images, an Olympus OM1 with a 35mm shift lens for carefully composed images such as this and most of the urban landscape work, and a Leica M2 with which I was trying to develop a more intuitive approach, reacting without conscious deliberation.

I based my numbering system on a sheet number for each sheet (here 24n) and then a number based on the position on the contact sheet rather than frame numbers. Because I was loading film from 100ft rolls into cassettes of roughly 36 exposures the first frame on the film might be any number from 0 to around 38 and the sequence usually jumps from 38 to 0 somewhere in the middle of the film. And sometimes I would load a strip of film, cut to appropriate length in total darkness, measured between two nails on my darkroom door so that the frame numbers actually went in the opposite direction.

I cut my developed black and white films into strips of 6 frames to put into filing sheets, giving 6 strips and often a shorter length of 2 or 3 frames. The filing sheets I used had 7 pockets so could accomodate a single film, and it was just possible to expose all 6 or 7 strips on a single 8×10″ sheet of photographic paper to produce a contact sheet. But frame numbers were not always visible on these, so I used a simple system to give a unique number to every frame. This negative, 24n-66, is on contact sheet 24n, on the sixth strip of negatives (numbered 1-6 or 0-6 when there was something worth keeping on the film end) and the 6th negative on that strip.

In 1986 I moved to a slightly different system of naming the contact sheets that included the year and month in their name, making it rather easier to find things.


Scrap metal merchants, Commercial St, Shoreditch, Tower Hamlets. 1980
24x-44: street, scrap metal, structure

http://londonphotographs.co.uk/london/1980/24x-44.htm

Surprisingly this corner is still easily recognisable, though the advert has changed, with a taller hoarding; the gates, no longer for a scrap metal merchant, are now firmly closed by two iron bars and the skeletal structure behind has disappeared completely. This is on the corner of Quaker St and Commercial St, and the building at the left is still there on the corner of Shoreditch High St and Great Eastern St.


Govette Metal & Glass Works, Park Hill, Clapham, Lambeth. 1980
24y-53: children, swings, dog,

http://londonphotographs.co.uk/london/1980/24y-53.htm

Govette is originally a French name, and a couple of them came over with William the Conqueror back in 1066 and were given land in Somerset. The name was often spelt without the final ‘e’.

Govette Metal & Glass Works, a family firm and was established in 1956 in Clapham, and in the 1970s split up into several divisions, with Govette’s remaining in Clapham. They closed the factory there in the mid-nineties and specialised in the supply, installation and glazing of steel windows and doors, establishing Govette Windows Ltd in 1996, and are now based in Whyteleafe. They also now have a factory in South Godstone.


Albany (rear entrance), Burlington Gardens, Westminster. 1980
24z-63: club, shops,

http://londonphotographs.co.uk/london/1980/24z-63.htm

Albany or ‘The Albany’ is a mansion in Mayfair that was extended and converted in 1802 into 69 bachelor flats, with the addition of two long ranges of buildings which ended at the back gate shown in the picture. The flats are rather like the rooms in an Oxbridge college, which are known as ‘sets’. Apparently you no longer have to be a bachelor to live there, though children below 14 are not allowed.

The flats generally have an entrance hall, two main rooms, and a smaller room and are owned freehold but subject to a whole number of rules. In 2007 one sold for around £2m. Around half of them belong to Peterhouse College Cambridge. Most are rented with an annual rent (according to Wikipedia) of up to £50,000. Many famous people have spent some time as tenants here, including someone of particular interest to photographers, W H F Talbot.


‘Eros’ and Piccadilly Circus, Westminster. 1980
24z-64: men, women, sculpture, monument, hoarding

http://londonphotographs.co.uk/london/1980/24z-64.htm

I’ve never understood why people come to sit at Piccadilly Circus. It isn’t a place where there is much to see or much to do, but every tourist has to visit it.

And as most Londoners probably know, the statue on top of its slightly more interesting plinth, put there as a memorial 1892–1893 to commemorate the philanthropic works of Lord Shaftesbury is not Eros but his brother, the Greek god Anteros. Made of aluminium, then a relatively new (and expensive) metal, was called ‘The Angel of Christian Charity’ and the memorial was originally on a roundabout in the centre of the circus where it is now on one side.

‘Eros’ has actually got around quite a bit. Originally in the centre of a mini-roundabout at the centre of the circus, in 1925 he went to Embankment Gardens so they could build an enlarged Underground station, coming back in 1931 to a slightly moved roundabout. During WW2 he took a trip out to Coopers Hill above Egham, while the fountain below (it never really worked as a fountain, and after a single day the drinking cups had been vandalised) was covered up. Eros came back with a great fanfare in 1947, but I think shortly after was moved aside to where he still stands on one leg, though he gets covered up every year for a month or so for Christmas celebrations, as people find him attractive to climb up to or hang things on.

‘Eros’ is not unique as years later several more casts were made from the mould. There are a couple up in Lancashire, one now in storage which used to be in Sefton Park, and another corroding by the seaside at Fleetwood. The most recent, made in the 1980s, in the art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide.


Little Britain, City of London. 1980
25e-42: doors

http://londonphotographs.co.uk/london/1980/25e-42.htm

Little Britain is now simply the street these doors are on, running between Aldersgate and King Edward St, but was earlier the name of the whole area to the north up to St Bartholomew’s Hospital and Smithfield, which was once the residence of the Dukes of Brittany. In the distant past it was the centre of the book trade, which later moved south to Paternoster Row, which was destroyed by bombing in the Second World War.

Parts of the crowded warren of streets and alleys still remained when I took these pictures, though it was difficult to find a way into them, with alleys leading from Little Britain and Aldersgate to what remained of Cross Key Square, Montague Place and Albion Buildings.


More to follow…

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