Before I even started this collection I made a list of all the things I thought were iconic of London. For ages one entry sat neglected in my notebook, the Thames. How the heck do you make the river Thames the main subject of a picture, so that it’s obvious? Short of taking to the air and doing an aerial shot (a little bit beyond my resources at the time) I wasn’t sure what to do. These problems tend to hang around the back of your mind until an answer will spring out at you when you least expect it. I was walking over the Millennium Bridge one day on my way to the Tate Modern when I looked west towards the afternoon sun. The sunlight brought the river to life. There was my shot. As with one or two other pictures in this collection I printed this image down, so that it almost looks moonlit, a bit like a painting by Paul Delvaux.
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.
For those interested I use an Epson Stylus Pro 3880 printer, which uses Ultra-Chrome K3 inks, onto Epson Premium Semi-gloss paper, which ensures a very high degree of tonal and colour accuracy.