Brixton Feb 1987

August 3rd, 2020
Celestial Church of Christ, Coldharbour Lane, Loughborough Junction, Lambeth, 1987 87-2p-11-positive_2400
Celestial Church of Christ, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987

Friends and others I showed pictures to at the time or talked about my work with often expressed surprise at some of the areas of London I went to when taking photographs. They saw places like Brixton as crime-ridden and dangerous and wondered that I felt safe, particularly as I was walking around the streets carrying a bag with expensive equipment worth thousands of pounds on my shoulder.

Beds, Coldharbour Lane, Loughborough Junction, Lambeth, 1987 87-2p-23-positive_2400
Beds, Coldharbour Lane, Loughborough Junction, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987

I did think a little about it myself and even once attended a training session – the only man in a group of women – about keeping safe on city streets. But the only times I ever really felt threatened were not in the kind of areas that some reacted with horror to, but in lonelier parts of the plusher suburbs.

Furniture, Coldharbour Lane, Loughborough Junction, Lambeth, 1987 87-2p-25-positive_2400
Furniture, Coldharbour Lane, Loughborough Junction, Brixton Lambeth, 1987

I felt more at home in the many working-class areas of London than in the West End or City, and certainly dressed in a way that fitted in more there. I tried hard to be aware of my surroundings and not to behave in ways that drew attention to myself. And I think I was reasonably street-wise, keeping calm and confident, looking as if I knew what I was doing and where I was going and being aware of others. There were a few times when I decided against going down a particular street or alley, or crossed the street to avoid possible trouble. Because I needed the light I always worked during the day time, when all areas are safer.

White goods, Coldharbour Lane, Loughborough Junction, Lambeth, 1987 87-2p-36-positive_2400
White goods, Coldharbour Lane, Loughborough Junction, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987

Of course taking photographs does make you stand out, but mostly people just ignored me. A few would stop and talk, and I tried to explain why I was taking a picture, though I think they mostly thought I was mad but harmless. Some people thought I must be from the council – or the newspapers, and occasionally people – particularly children – would insist I took there picture. Of course I did.

Flats, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987 87-2p-41-positive_2400
Flats, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987
Burroughs, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987 87-2p-64-positive_2400
Burroughs, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987

‘Burroughs’ closed as an Eel and Pie shop in the 1990s, but remains as a restaurant. Its shop-front had been replaced by something flat and bland but was recreated a few years ago, and it now serves Japanese soul food rather than cockney.

There are a few more pictures from this area in February 1987 in the album 1987 London Photos.

1987: More Soho

August 2nd, 2020
Dance shop, Charing Cross Rd, Soho, 1987 787-2k-41-positive_2400
Dance shop, Charing Cross Rd, Soho, 1987

It’s always difficult to know where London’s districts begin and end, and sometimes it is rather a matter of personal opinion. There are some definite boundaries – postal districts and borough boundaries – though these seldom coincide with our perception of place, and most people – unless they actually live there are unaware that in central London you may be in Camden or Westminster etc. The City is a little more obvious, with its borders on some main streets clearly marked, but who would know when crossing the Charing Cross Road you might move from Westminster into Camden.

Poland St,  Soho, Westminster, 1987 87-2j-64-positive_2400
Poland St, Soho, Westminster, 1987

Names too change with the years. Fitzrovia for example only began to be used in the late 1930s, and other older area names are now seldom used. Building tube stations led to many of their names being used for areas which previously went under other names, and estate agents are notorious for promoting properties into nearby more salubrious areas – or inventing new area names, often by adding the word “village” to an existing name.

Never Park Here, Falconberg Mews, Soho, Westminster, 1987 87-2j-23-positive_2400
Never Park Here, Falconberg Mews, Soho, Westminster, 1987

Soho is perhaps one of the more clearly defined of all London areas, though some might quibble slightly at Googles definition, clearly bounded by major roads – Oxford St, Regent St, Shaftesbury Ave and Charing Cross Road. Many of us would also include Chinatown in its ambit, perhaps going south down Haymarket as far as Orange St to include Leicester Square. And perhaps some of the fringes just across Oxford St might qualify…

Carnaby St, Soho, Westminster, 1987 87-2i-21-positive_2400
Carnaby St, Soho, Westminster, 1987

On the streets themselves, the more modern street names – since the mid 1960s – include the borough name, but many London streets have proudly retained their older signs, sometimes with a postal district (though sometimes the earlier version.)

Taylors Buttons, Silver Place, Soho, Westminster, 1987 87-2h-35-positive_2400
Taylors Buttons, Silver Place, Soho, Westminster, 1987

Like all things, Soho is defined by what it isn’t. It isn’t Mayfair or Fizrovia or Bloomsbury or St Giles or Covent Garden or Westminster (the area not the Borough – which all or almost all of it is inside) or St James. And it’s not just a matter of geography, but also of character.

Walker's Court, Soho, Westminster, 1987 87-2h-25-positive_2400
Walker’s Court, Soho, Westminster, 1987

And it was that character which was uppermost in my mind as I made these pictures.

You can see more of them on page 2 of my Flickr album 1987 London Photos.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


1987 Holborn

August 1st, 2020
Star Yard, Holborn, Camden, 1987 87-2m-46-positive_2400
Star Yard, Holborn, Camden, 1987

After Bedford Park I turned my attention to Holborn, including the area around the Royal Courts of Justice where there are shops catering for legal necessities as well as premises meeting more general needs.

Urinal, Star Yard, Holborn, Camden, 1987 87-2m-32-positive_2400
Urinal, Star Yard, Holborn, Camden, 1987

The urinal is still in-situ but I think is permanently closed. Just along the street is a Wetherspoons which serves the same purpose. It’s actually one of their more pleasant locations and I’ve several times enjoyed a quick lunch there. The food may only be so-so, (though there are a few things they do quite well) but the service is fast and the price very reasonable for London. Of course they treat the staff badly, but so do most pubs, and if things get back to anything like normal I’ll follow the union advice and not boycott them but refuse to cross any picket line.

Lincolns Inn Fields, Holborn, Camden, 198787-2m-26-positive_2400
Lincolns Inn Fields, Holborn, Camden, 1987

Lincolns Inn fields has plenty of fine architecture and also London’s most intriguing museum, founded by Sir John Soane. Currently closed it hopes to open on October 1st, but with pre-booked timed tickets only. If you’ve never visited I’d advise you to book as soon as you can. You can get some idea of the museum through yhe amazing digital online https://www.soane.org/explore Explore Soane, but the real thing is rather more satisfying. Because of the space limitations in the museum bags have to be left at the door.

Connock & Lockie, New Oxford St, Camden, 1987 87-2l-63-positive_2400
Connock & Lockie, New Oxford St, Camden, 1987

I can do no better than quote from the company’s web site:

A centenarian business

Connock and Lockie was established by cousins William Henry Connock and John Lockie in 1902 on 60 New Oxford Street. Over the years, we have relocated several times and settled at our current address, 33 Lamb’s Conduit Street, in 2004. Throughout our 110 years of trading, we have proudly catered to the bespoke tailoring needs of discerning ladies and gentlemen.

http://connockandlockie.com
Warwick House,Great Russell St, Holborn, Camden, 1987 87-2l-43-positive_2400
107-110 Great Russell Street,

‘Luxury hotel development, Completion 1987’ it states on the notice on the front of this building, and although in February 1987 when I made this picture it seemed unlikely, this is now the Cheshire Hotel, in London terms a budget hotel, with rooms around £70 per night. Quite why it changed its name from the Warwick Hotel to the Cheshire I don’t know, and the plain entrance has changed to a more pretentious one with four columns.

Space House, CAA House, Kemble St, WIld St, Holborn, Camden, 1987 Space House, CAA House, Kemble St, WIld St, Holborn, Camden, 198787-2l-15-positive_2400
Space House, CAA House, Kemble St, WIld St, Holborn, Camden, 1987

Grade II listed Space House was a speculative office development built 1964-8 by George Marsh of Richard Seifert & Partners for the developer Harry Hyams. It was technically innovative, using a precast concrete grid for rapid construction without the use of scaffolding, and remains visually arresting. As the listing text says, it’s assertive styling reflects “the confidence and dynamism associated with the period.”

This building and the connected building on Kingsway were to be vacated at the end of last year and ‘revamped’ for commercial letting.

Flitcroft St, St Giles, Camden, 1987 87-2k-66-positive_2400
Flitcroft St, St Giles, Camden, 1987

This bas-relief is above the old entrance gateway to St. Giles’s Church Yard where a bas-relief of The Resurrection was placed in 1687. It is a plaster copy of the original which is inside the church. The gateway was originally around the corner in the St Giles High St, but rebuilt in 1800 incorporating the old bas-relief and then moved to Flitcroft St in 1865. Flitcroft St gets its name from Henry Flitcroft who was the architect of the church, built in 1733.

The carving was originally in oak, and the carver, a man called Love was paid £27 for his work. The 1800 gate included a stone recreation of the work, now in plaster.

I occasionally used a photographic lab in Flitcroft St, which produced remarkable Cibachrome prints using a laser scanning technique on the transparencies which gave them an unbeatable contrast and clarity. They were also rather expensive!

You can find more from Holborn in my album 1987 London Photos.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Cycling and health

July 31st, 2020
M3 from Sheep Walk, Shepperton

Every weekday for the past few months I’ve been having breakfast, washing and then getting on my bike for some exercise, riding around ten miles. I take a camera with me and sometimes stop a few times to take pictures which does slow me down a little. I don’t have Lycra and the roads around here are in pretty poor condition, and I sometimes ride on some rough paths, so my progress isn’t that fast, and the rides generally take me 40-50 minutes – an overall speed of 15-12 mph. The pictures here were taken on my rides in the first week of July.

At the start I of these rides was very short of breath, and thankful that this part of South-West Middlesex is extremely flat – one reason for siting Heathrow here. Even now, 4 months after I was ill in March, hills are still a problem if I ride across the river into neighbouring Surrey, though I’m now having to stop and rest fewer times on the way up. But I can now ride up the slopes to cross the motorways or railways without much difficulty.

Cottage, Moor Lane, Yeoveney

At the start the empty roads (apart from the many potholes and cracks) were bliss, but I arrived home exhausted. Now traffic even on the relatively quiet roads I mainly ride is something of a pain but I’ve got fitter and while I’m a little tired when I get home I’m not on my last legs. Cycling has definitely improved my fitness, but I haven’t lost a single pound.

So while I’m pleased that the government is encouraging cycling, and I’m sure it will improve people’s fitness I don’t know that it will actually do much to reduce obesity. Nor am I sure that they are going about getting more people on their bikes in the right way with gimmicks like the repair vouchers and prescriptions. They need to divert much more of the money going into roads into making roads safer so more people feel able to ride on them. As well as providing separate cycle paths where possible this also needs special attention to the edges of roads, the roughly 2m in which cyclists normally ride and which currently are usually in even worse condition than the rest of the roads.

River Thames, Shepperton

It also needs the kind of changes currently being proposed to the Highway Code, which prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable on our roads, pedestrians, then cyclists and then the various other categories of road users. You can contribute to the consultation on this until 11.59pm on 27th October 2020.

I don’t think cycling has a great deal to offer in combating obesity. Cycling is such an efficient process that it uses relatively little energy, and isn’t a very good way to lose weight. Jogging would be better though I find it far too boring.

Lord Knyvett’s Schoolhouse, Stanwell

Obesity is now of course not to do with actually being obese but defined by the WHO for adults as having a BMI of 30 or greater. BMI is a useful but very crude measure, which only takes body mass and height into consideration.

I think I am as fit or fitter than my wife, but in terms of BMI I come out slightly overweight and she appears slightly underweight, a difference of around 9 or 10 in BMI. We eat more or less the same diet and roughly similar quantities. I think the difference in BMI is at least partly if not largely accounted for by the width of our frames. This is reflected in the width across the shoulders – mine being roughly 1.3 times wider., much greater than the 1.09 difference in our heights.

River Colne, Stanwell Moor

The BMI formula, BMI = weight(kg)/height(m)^2 seemed conceptually wrong to the Belgian scientist Quetelet, who first put it forward around 1840, as mass is essentially a three-dimensional property, and so we might expect it to correspond to the third power of height, but that doesn’t give sensible results. The square was adopted for fully grown adults and in order to give roughly acceptable results for the population as a whole, but Quetelet actually pointed out it should not be applied to individuals.

Seven years ago Professor L N Trefethen FRS, Professor of Numerical Analysis, University of Oxford, proposed a revised BMI to make a “better approximation to the actual sizes and shapes of healthy bodies” and it does cut down the difference between Linda and me slightly, bringing her just into the normal range. The differences it makes are rather small, but given the blind reliance we sometimes see on BMI important. Trefethen suggested using instead of the square the power 2.5 of height and points out that Quetelet had found that “during development the squares of the weight at different ages are as the fifth powers of the height” while suggesting the use of the square for fully grown adults. At the time it was certainly much easier to calculate a square, though now calculators and computers make fractional powers easy to use.

Duke of Northumberland’s River and Heathrow

It probably doesn’t matter if we regard BMI as a very rough measure, but does when it comes to setting out charts and and applying them to individuals. If your BMI is 26, you may actually be normal, while if it is 25 you could be overweight whatever the chart says, but it would be too inconvenient to give, for example, a BMI of 26 +/- 3 which would probably be rather more accurate a reflection. It would be more useful for individuals if we could find a more sophisticated formula that gave a clearer indication.

There is of course another equally simplistic but probably more reliable measure that can be applied to individuals to determine obesity. It’s called a tape measure. If you are a man with a waist of over 40 inches (102cm) then you are almost certainly obese.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


1987 Bedford Park

July 30th, 2020
Blenheim Rd, Woodstock Rd, , Bedford Park, Turnham Green, Ealing,  Hounslow, 1987 87-2n-45-positive_2400
Blenheim Rd, Woodstock Rd, Bedford Park, Turnham Green, Ealing, Hounslow, 1987
Bedford Rd, Bedford Park, Turnham Green, Ealing, 1987 87-2n-53-positive_2400
Bedford Rd, Bedford Park, Turnham Green, Ealing, 1987

The Bedford Park Society has an informative History of the garden suburb about this development close to Turnham Green station now on the borders of the London Boroughs of Ealing and Hounslow. Widely seen as the first garden suburb, it was the brainchild of Jonathan Thomas Carr (1845-1915), a man subject of a “record 342 bankruptcy petitions” who, inspired by Ruskin, William Morris and the Aesthetic Movement, “created an ideal suburb for the artistically inclined middle classes who could no longer afford Chelsea.” The station offering half hour journeys to central London had opened in 1869 and Carr bought 24 acres of land from his father-in-law in 1875 to begin the estate.

The Avenue, Bedford Park, Turnham Green, Ealing, 1987 87-2n-56-positive_2400
The Avenue, Bedford Park, Turnham Green, Ealing, 1987
Bath Rd, Bedford Park, Turnham Green, Hounslow, 1987 87-2n-34-positive_2400
Bath Rd, Bedford Park, Turnham Green, Hounslow, 1987
Tabard Inn, Bath Rd, Bedford Park, Turnham Green, Hounslow, 198787-2m-15-positive_2400
Tabard Inn, Bath Rd, Bedford Park, Turnham Green, Hounslow, 1987

The designs involved several leading architects of the era, most notably Richard Norman Shaw (1831-1912) who worked with the project for a few years from 1877 before withdrawing as Carr was slow to pay his bills. There were some intense arguments over the designs but the results were remarkable. Carr’s Bedford Park Company Ltd failed in 1886 but development of the wider area continued, and the estate had set a standard for buildings and the environment as well as for community development, providing the Club, Anglican Church and the Tabard pub which were a model for the Garden City movement.

South Parade, Bedford Park, Turnham Green, Ealing, 1987 87-2n-65-positive_2400
South Parade, Bedford Park, Turnham Green, Ealing, 1987

Among later buildings was the remarkable 14 South Parade facing Chiswick Green by by Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857-1941). Voysey was born in Hessle on the outskirts of Hull where his father Charles Voysey was curate, one of a number of clerical positions he held before being found guilty of promulgating “doctrines contrary and repugnant to or inconsistent with the Articles of Religion and Formularies of the Church of England” and forming his own church which denied the perfection of Jesus and the authority of the Bible. The Voyseys were direct descendants of Samuel and Susanna Wesley, often described as “the Mother of Methodism” and C F A Voysey ascribed “what little moral courage & independent spirit he happily inherits” to this Methodist connection.

More on Page 2 of 1987 London Photos.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Brixton Feb 1987

July 29th, 2020
Shops, Electric Ave, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987 87-2o-46-positive_2400
Shops, Electric Ave, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987

I visited Brixton fairly often in the 1980s and 1990s as it was one of the places you could buy cheap photographic paper, often outdated or cut up from larger sheets and re-packaged and sold by A.W.Young Photographic in Altantic Rd. Mostly I used this to make contact sheets of my black and white films, though at various times I also made small, often postcard-size enlargements of the more promising negatives as ‘file prints’, from which I would then make a choice to make as exhibition quality prints, usually on considerably more expensive papers.

Sanders, Jeweller, Brixton Rd, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987 87-2o-44-positive_2400
Sanders, Jeweller, Brixton Rd, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987

Cheap papers weren’t always poor quality. When Agfa stopped importing Portriga Rapid to the UK, remaining stocks went to the bargain dealers, and a similar situation happened with some papers from Kodak and Ilford, and some of my best prints were made on these.

Effra Rd, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987 87-2o-36-positive_2400
Effra Rd, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987

I’d begun attending events and workshops at the Photo Co-op in Battersea more or less as soon as it opened its Webb’s Road premises in 1984. It was an easy journey for me, just a short walk from Clapham Junction, and although I was pleased they got more funding in 1991, the move to Brixton as Photofusion almost doubled my journey time. But it did mean more frequent trips to Brixton in the 1990s, particularly as I began to put black and white photographs into the Photofusion Picture Library.

Mural, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987 87-2o-35-positive_2400
Mural, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987

More recently most of my visits to Brixton have been to photograph protest marches and rallies; at Brixton Police station, Lambeth Town Hall, in Windrush Square and around the area. Brixton has changed and lost a little of its character to gentrification, but remains a vibrant area.

Brixton Village, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987 87-2o-34-positive_2400
Brixton Village, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987
Tate Library, Brixton Oval, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987 87-2o-26-positive_2400
Tate Library, Brixton Oval, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987
Mural, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987 87-2o-15-positive_2400
Mural, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, Lambeth, 1987

The pictures here were I think all taken on the same day, most likely before a visit to pick up some photo paper, and you can see a few more from that visit to Brixton in the Flickr album ‘1987 London Photos‘ . I also took around a dozen colour images, and some of these are in the album TQ31 London Cross-section


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Feb 1987 Camden, London

July 28th, 2020
Saddler, Monmouth St, Covent Garden, Camden, 1987 87-2c-13-positive_2400
Saddler, Monmouth St, Covent Garden, Camden, 1987

This building is a part of a comprehensive redevelopment of the area, the Comyn Ching triangle, by the Terry Farrell Partnership which took place from 1983-1991, retaining the facades with rebuilt or restored shopfronts. This part of the Grade II listed terrace at 65-71 Monmouth St was only rebuilt in the third and final phase of development which began around two years after I made this picture. The lettering ‘B. FLEGG/ ESTd.1847/ SADDLER & HARNESS MAKER/ LARGE/ STOCK /OF/ SECONDHAND SADDLERY & HARNESS/ HORSE/ CLOTHING/18, with the name B. FLEGG applied diagonally to each side’ was then painstakingly restored.

Though sometimes referred to as a ‘ghost sign’, like many others it should more correctly be called a ‘resurrected sign’.

Thornhaugh St, Bloomsbury, Camden, 1987 87-2b-54-positive_2400
Thornhaugh St, Bloomsbury, Camden, 1987

One of the minor themes in my work at this time concerned the urban tree. London is a city with a great many of them, notably those London Planes, a hybrid of American sycamore and Oriental plane which first appeared by cross-pollination of these two introduced species in the Lambeth garden of London’s best known plantsman, John Tradescant the younger, who named it after the city around the middle of the 17th century. It has been widely grown in streets and parks across the city since the late 18th century.

I think these trees in their regimented rows are probably flowering cherries though probably some with greater aboreal knowledge will correct me. But this was a militarised forest that rather made me shudder. The planting was apparently designed to stop students playing football in the area. It hasn’t lasted and there is now a green area here – though some of the trees in it may be these same specimens, and there are still a couple of large brutalist concrete boxes around a couple of groups of trees.

UCL Institute of Education, Thornhaugh St, Bloomsbury, Camden, 1987 87-2b-43-positive_2400
UCL Institute of Education, Thornhaugh St, Bloomsbury, Camden, 1987

And in the background of the previous image was one of my favourite brutalist buildings, with a playfulness by Denys Lasdun’s that is perhaps more exiting than his National Theatre. It was a part of a larger plan, never completed and much opposed at the time, though in the end it was only a lack of money that really stopped the destruction of more of the area and the building on the open areas such as the ‘garden’ above.

Phoenix Cafe, Chalton St, Somers Town, Camden, 1987 87-2a-64-positive_2400

The Ossulston Estate in Somers Town, close to Euston Station was a remarkable council estate built by the London County Council in 1927-31, taking inspiration from modernist public housing which the LCC’s Chief Architect G Topham Forrest had visited in Vienna. The 7-storey housing blocks are behind a low wall of shop units along Chalton St, of which the Phoenix Cafe was one. Some of these units are still in use as shops, though not this one.

The 310 flats were built to high standards for the time and the development also included The Cock Tavern  – all are now listed. Some of the estate has been extensively refurbished.

St Pancras Church, Euston Rd, Bloomsbury, 1987  87-2a-25-positive_2400
St Pancras Church, Euston Rd, 1987

One of my favourite church exteriors in London is that of St Pancras (New) Church in Euston Rd, built in 1819–22 in Greek Revival style to the designs of William Inwood and his son Henry William Inwood. Perhaps its most remarkable feature are these caryatids, who look to me pretty fed up, perhaps unsurprisingly as they have a stone roof sitting on their heads. They are above the entrance to the burial vault and hold symbols suitable to this position, empty jugs and torches which have gone out.

Mahatma Gandhi, Tavistock Square, Bloomsbury, Camden, 1987  87-2b-01-positive_2400

A short distance away in Tavistock Square is a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, 1869 – 1948, who studied not far away at UCL in 1888. The powerful likeness is by Fredda Brilliant and the site for it was chosen by V K Krishna Menon who was a member of the Theosophical Society and for some years a St Pancras Councillor before being made High Commissioner for India in the UK. The memorial was erected for the 125 anniversary of his birth and unveiled by then Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

Most years for some time I have visited Tavistock Square each August for the annual remembrance on Hiroshima day around the Hiroshima Cherry tree a short distance from this statue. The square also contains a memorial to the victims of the 2005 bombing here, the Conscientious Objectors Commemorative Stone, a memorial and bust of surgeon Dame Louisa Aldrich-Blake (1865 –1925) and a bust of Virginia Woolf.

More pictures on Flickr in the album 1987 London Photos.


The Thing Itself

July 27th, 2020

I never met Bill Jay, (1940-2009), though I’ve heard many stories about him from photographers who knew him, not all entirely positive. By the time I really came into photography Bill Jay had left for the USA, having considerably shaken up photography in the UK through his conversion of the magazine Camera Owner aimed at amateur hobby photographers into a publication which was at the forefront of contemporary photography in the UK, Creative Camera, and founding and published the 12 issues of his own magazine Album as well as establishing photography in the ICA.

I bought all the back-issues I could find of both Album and Creative Camera, soon taking out a subscription to the latter which I continued for many years until it entirely lost direction. And I read and sometimes bought a number of his books, though I think only his first, ‘View on Nudes’ has retained its place on my shelves. And many of his articles appeared in the various photo magazines I read, including the BJP.

In later years, Jay put some of the many articles he wrote and his photographs, particularly those of many photographers, on the web, and I both read and wrote about these on-line. There is still a Bill Jay web site with these pictures and some articles etc.

I was reminded of Bill Jay by a post on ‘The Online Photographer‘, Bill Jay on ‘The Thing Itself‘ about his most reproduced essay, first published in 1988 in a college newspaper. Perhaps surprisingly I couldn ‘t find itisn’t on the Bill Jay site, but is available along with much other material on Bill Jay on the ‘United Nations of Photography‘ site. It’s worth reading the full version.

Also on the ‘United Nations of Photography’ site is a link to the recent film about Jay, Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay, about which Grant Scott writes:

Bill was a great believer in the sharing of knowledge, experience and beliefs and we therefore felt it was appropriate to make our feature length documentary on his life available for all to see. The film features exclusive interviews with Martin Parr, Brian Griffin, Daniel Meadows, Paul Hill, Alex Webb, Brookes Jenson, Homer Sykes, Anna Ray Jones and archival footage of Bill himself telling his story his way!

One of the others who knew Jay well – perhaps better than some of those listed above – and appears briefly on the film is John Benton-Harris, who I’ve often heard talking about Jay. It’s perhaps a shame that his views are not presented there at greater length.

Patina and Photography

July 26th, 2020

According to Wikipedia, “Patina is a thin layer that variously forms on the surface of copper, brass, bronze and similar metals (tarnish produced by oxidation or other chemical processes), or certain stones, and wooden furniture (sheen produced by age, wear, and polishing), or any similar acquired change of a surface through age and exposure.”

For his post ‘Patina in Photography‘, Jörg Colberg interprets the word a little differently, using it to refer to the qualities of any surfaces in photographs, something I might prefer to refer to as texture, but also extends it to consider the content of images.

The piece is an interesting discussion, illustrated with some of his own work, of what makes a “good picture“, something which he rightly says is “enormously difficult to describe” but is also “usually straightforward to see“, though I think we might often disagree with other viewers. Colberg continues to give what is I think a useful definition of “a good picture as a picture that makes a viewer look more carefully, that makes a viewer think.”

Colberg writes about the “lure of the easy picture” which captures many photographers – indeed all of us much of the time, including as he admits himself, writing “Mostly I now ask myself whether a picture challenges me. Not surprisingly, most pictures don’t. I still take them.”

He then discusses his different reactions to the very different cities of Warsaw and Tokyo, which he ascribes to their different patina. Colberg rightly comments that as photographers we react to what we see and chose to photograph because of our “background, culture, society…” but I think I would equally stress that what we have in the world to react to is also a product of these aspects, a different culture, particularly in terms of aesthetics, but also in terms of ideas about space and personal space.

Perhaps the most important picture I took in my early years as a photographer is one that I don’t think I have ever shown to anyone. Taken on a the building site of a new estate in Bracknell where I was then living, it showed a number of sewage pipes waiting to be installed. It wasn’t a great picture but it worried me because it stood out from the others I had taken that day and that in the terms that Colberg uses, it challenged me, though not at the point of taking, but when I saw it on the contact sheet and later as a print.

I couldn’t quickly find a copy of that picture, and I think it’s one I’ve never digitised, but probably neither you nor I would find it very interesting now, and if I had it to hand I probably wouldn’t have included it here. It wasn’t a bad picture – I was taking plenty of those – nor I think a particularly good picture but one that made me begin to think and study and change.

More 1987 – Mainly Soho

July 25th, 2020
Camden Town Cemetery, St Martin's Gardens, Camden St, Camden, 1987 87-1k-46_2400
Camden Town Cemetery, St Martin’s Gardens, Camden St, Camden, 1987

The slow process of putting up my old black and white pictures is continuing, thanks to the lockdown leaving the time on my hands. Although I’m going out of the house for exercise, that only occupies around 50 minutes of the day – and perhaps another half hour to recover.

This picture of the piled up gravestones in Camden Town Cemetery was taken in January and is one of the last from that month I’ve put on line. Although I’ve always liked to wander in cemeteries, often the only real places of peace and quiet in cities, and often good places to rest and eat my sandwiches, I’ve generally tried hard to avoid taking too many pictures in them unless there is a very strong reason to do so.

Partly because as a teacher of photography I saw far too many pictures by students of gravestones and monuments. They were easy to photograph, didn’t move much or complain about being photographed and supposedly said something profound about the human condition. At the in-house moderation of student photography coursework from across the country it was never long before I or another assistant examiner would be exclaiming “Not another sodding angel!”.

Wardour St, Soho, Westminster, 1987 87-2f-55-positive_2400
Wardour St, Soho, Westminster, 1987

In February I turned my attention to Soho, where photography was not always welcomed, though I didn’t intend to emphasise its more sordid aspects. It was one of London’s most varied and interesting areas, and remains so despite the ravages of property developers and Westminster Council.

But I didn’t avoid photographing the frontages offering ‘Intimate Bed Show – No Extras‘ though I didn’t go inside and photographed them in the early mornings when there were few touts or barkers around and any workers who might have occupied them were at home in their own beds. Nor did I meet the ‘Very Sexy Busty Brunette Model‘ whose notice was by a door in D’Arblay St, not even to make my excuses and leave.

Shop WIndow, Berwick St, Soho, Westminster, 1987 87-2f-46-positive_2400

But Soho was remarkable for the variety of shops, a place were almost everything was on sale – and sometimes it was difficult to know exactly what was on offer.

Butterfly, Upper James St, Soho, Westminster, 1987 87-2g-14-positive_2400
Butterfly, Upper James St, Soho, Westminster, 1987

There is still a clothes shop on the corner of Upper James St and Beak St, but it is now larger and more corporate, with a bland plate glass frontage, and Butterfly proved to be as ephemeral as its name suggests. Many other Soho businesses were longer lasting, and Randall & Aubin, late Morin and Cavereau remains in place on Brewer St, though many of the older continental businesses have now gone.

Randall & Aubin, Charcuterie, Brewer St, Soho, Westminster, 1987 87-2e-62-positive_2400

If you look through my pictures of Soho from 1987 you will find some showing the increasing Chinese presence in the area, including one of a crowd watching the New Year celebrations, but far less than in my later pictures of the area.

Charles II, Cibber, Soho Square, Soho, Westminster, 1987 87-2e-24-positive_2400
Charles II, Soho Square, Soho, Westminster, 1987

Soho Square still looked much the same when I was last there a few months before the lockdown, though I do wonder if Cibber’s statue of Charles II looks rather more worn now. Though we may now regret the restoration of the monarchy and feel that the puritanical excesses of the Commonwealth would better have been ended without bringing back a king the so-called ‘Merry Monarch’ does sound in some respects an improvement on our present royal house. And a king with no legitimate children who acknowledged at least a dozen by various mistresses is perhaps a suitable character to be remembered in Soho.

Haverstock Hill, Chalk Farm, Camden, 1987 87-1a-12_2400
More at 1987 London Photos

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.