I shot a few different versions of this picture before I came up with something I was happy with. I wanted do something very simple and truthful, almost like a technical drawing, but with more feeling. In the end I think the sky is what makes it. The boat in front was almost unavoidable, the damn things just kept coming into view as I tried to work, so in the end I just incorporated it. At first I considered this shot a lot more classic than adventurous, so to speak, until a friend pointed out that you rarely see Big Ben photographed close up and straight on like that, almost like a portrait. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Anyway, a simple shot of Big Ben as life goes on around it.
About this collection
The idea behind this ongoing collection is to depict London’s numerous icons and landmarks, but with a bit of a twist. The challenge I’ve set myself is to approach these subjects, that have literally been photographed millions of times already, and yet still create something different, or just better, than most of what’s gone before. London has so many contradictory qualities, it can be hard to pin down. The balance of old and new, man made and natural, is startling and virtually unique. One or two of the images in this series veer towards the more conventional where that has seemed appropriate, but with the majority I have tried to playfully make use of the many contrasts presented by this city and find the poetry hidden in it’s well photographed surfaces.
In terms of my photographic approach most of these images are the end result of multiple re-shoots. On a practical level that’s often to get the right light or sky, but there is also a strong element of evolution. Often the picture I come home with is not at all the one I set out to get, and I’ve learned to expect and exploit happy accidents. I often create very well thought out ideas before hand but like Chinese whispers they gradually morph from one thing into another over a period of days, weeks or even months. In other words the pictures in this collection, though they may not look it, are the product of a lot of shoe leather. Related to this is the fact that I try to never crop any of my images after the fact, so that what you see in the final print (with very rare exceptions) is what I saw through the viewfinder at the time. As you can imagine this way of working involves shooting a lot of pictures, some only microscopically different to the others, in order to achieve the perfect compositional balance. It’s not an intellectual thing, it’s purely emotional. You know when you’ve got it right when you find yourself doing a little dance next to the printer.
I create all my own prints and spend a lot of time getting them right, making them ‘sing’ if you like. I consider printing to be half of the overall photographic process. It’s a very demanding discipline to master but I think the printing process offers such an amazing opportunity to inject feeling and personality into an image.