What does a photographer contribute

The obvious answer is of course a snapshot of time, a moment frozen for the future to reflect upon.  Now the future is pretty well a few seconds later in this day and age of immediate capture and post to one of the many sites that cater for such activities.

 

However when we step back in time we can clearly see that there was not an immediacy.  There was an extended process of capture and in the very early days that was in the order of many minutes, development of the negative, the rendering of the positive version and from there into production in a book or other form of print.

 

Clearly the process demanded a very careful attention to the art of photography.  The art being another aspect of the contribution of the photographer.  Sometimes denied by some areas of the art world but now generally accepted as an art form in its own right.

 

Harold Burdekin with his London Night clearly understood the two aspects of the photographers contribution so far mentioned.  His exquisite work, sadly not continued past the second world war as he was killed in 1944 by a V1 bomb falling on his home town of Reigate, leaves a definite gap in photography from the period around the second world war.  One could only imagine how he would have attempted a second version of London Night.  Would he have revisited the same locations to show the contrast or would he have sought new subjects.

So  in memory of Burdekin here are a few of his photographs not so commonly found on the web.  In this case I will not be showing my 2018 version.

 

 

 

Hanging on

One of Burdekin’s photo’s was most likely taken from one of the many wharves that populated the Thames river throughout London.  When trying to locate the site for the image I concluded that it was taken or very close to what is now a restaurant.  Luck did not favour me for it was closed.

 

However there was an access ramp and a fence so by climbing up the fence and hanging on by one hand whilst I used the other I was able to get a shot.  I might add not a very good shot.  Its one of the few where I wish I was back in London with enough time to do it again, preferably in winter so that the tree scape and foggy atmosphere was close to the original and the restaurant was open.

 

So here it is:  Cleopatra’s needle.

 

 

No roof top access

Back in 1934 when Burdekin and Morrison under took their adventure with night time photography of London the spent some of that time on the roof tops. When in London one person I was talking to at St Helen’s Gate said they probably just climbed up th efire escapes prevalent at the time.  Now I was not going to risk climbing up fire escapes in London in current times as I did not want to incur the ire of the property owners nor the legal institutions of England.  So I was unable to replicate a number of the images from the original London Night.

 

So one had to make do with finding the approximate location on the ground.  Mostly that was possible except for one called Red Lion Passage.  I could work out where it most likely used to be but even on the maps I was using it was not marked.

 

There is one photo from the roof tops in Regent Street which I think is beautiful, but again access to the roof tops was impossible, also the building most likely the original location was under renovations making it even more impracticable to gain access. Imagine the OHS issues surrounding asking building site workers to sneak me up to the roof.

 

There was one place I could get to though, it was a bar on the roof on Strand.  They kindly let me go up with all my equipment and I was able to get an across the rooftop shot of St Pauls which I will share with you.  It’s not taken from the same location however it does highlight how much the sky line has changed.

 

 

Things change

One of the aims of my replication of London Night was to see what had changed after 84 years with World War interrupting a city on a large scale.  No obviously some things will have disappeared altogether as I have previously discussed when looking for some of the sites photographed by Harold Burdekin.

_MG_3574

Sites that still remain are numerous, however there are still changes.  one of those is the orientation of the Abraham Lincoln statue near Westminster Abbey.  It once faced directly at the side of the abbey but now looks over a square populated with statues of other famous people.

 

It took me a little while to locate it whilst walking around the area.  I asked one of the guards at Westminster Abbey and he wasn’t even aware of it existing.  In the end I managed to locate it and capture a photo.

 

Abraham Lincolnc

The perversity of John Morrison

Now don’t get me wrong I have a great deal of respect for the writing skill of John Morrison, the partner to Harold Burdekin in their brilliant book London Night.

 

However, how can a person write such gracious words such as,

“Night, M. Paul Morand has remarked with Gallic shrewdness, is not the negative of day.  It is commonly so regarded, an antithesis today, a direct and complete reversal of the ordered process preceding it: a darkness where there was light, a void where there was wholeness, a silence where there was sound, an hiatus, an interruption, a denial. How little true ! As reasonably, as truthfully argue that woman is the contradiction of man.”

 

and then go on to title a photograph “A City Street”,

_MG_3555c

 

giving now clue as to its location, a blandness with its title, even mediocrity.  Perhaps Morrison did not label the photographs perhaps he left that to Burdekin.  One can’t be certain. But one can deduce that Morrisons style was all over many of the titles, such as “Cathedral of Commerce” and therefore responsible for the title in question.

 

So why would I rail against such a title, because it is a true title as it is a photo of a city street.  Did Morrison along with Burdekin surmise that one day an antipodean photographer would buy the book in a small country town 80 years later and decide that it would be fun to replicate in 2018.  Was this Morrison laughing from the grave?  I will never know.  What I do know was that I have never been able to locate where in London this city street resided.

Several months of pouring over the maps, google earth, asking the British Historian Society, A blogger that claimed knowledge of all London Pubs and the London Museum produced no results. So if anyone reading this blog does know please let me know.

 

In the end I found a poor substitute whilst roaming London:

extra1acs

 

 

 

Dark House

As I progressed with the project to replicate London Night I found that it was generating two conflicting emotions.  First was the admiration of Morrison’s literary skill, especially when one reads his introduction.  The second was bordering on anger as one tried to find those places that he chose to label  with the barest information.  One such image was titled Dark House.  The only clue being in the text was

“Do you know that by the riverside beyond London Bridge there are narrow alleys leading to ancient crooked houses that, by night, might well serve to inspire the creative genius of Rene Clair?”

_MG_3543.dhjpg

Once again to the map’s this time having discovered that the National Library Service of Scotland has beautifully detailed maps of London from circa 1895, i looked for an alley way that possibly resembled the appearance of the alley in the photo.  Not much luck with that however there was one called Dark House Lane which had some possibilities.

 

In the end it became one of those places that I was unable to locate so I was forced to substitute another location that had similar qualities.  Certainly a task as much of that old London had disappeared.  In the end purely by chance whilst visiting a site that was easy to find I stumbled across a little alley way that had  a Tudor style building, dark with just a light outside. This is it.

Dark HouseC

The search for Black Raven Alley

 

What an intriguing name was one of my first thoughts whilst looking through the book London Nights.  Later it was to become somewhat of a frustration as I embarked upon my journey to replicate the 1934 book by Burdekin and Morrison.

 

I of course first tried the ever faithful internet and to my dismay no result, Black Raven Alley didn’t seem to exist any more and didn’t seem to have much history other than the photographs that are freely available from Burdekin’s book.  I even went so far as to buy a copy of the 1930’s London Atlas. A disappointingly small book, A5 size if not smaller requiring one to use a magnifying glass to read the very fine print.  Its list of streets also didn’t have Black Raven Alley.  So back to the internet.

 

I found that there was a a set of London Fire Insurance maps that one could look over, a very time consuming pastime. Still no luck and by now its quite a few weeks into searching for just one street out of the many photographs I wanted to replicate.

 

Eventually, whilst doing another google search I stumbled across Spitalfieldslife.com and to my absolute delight there was a map showing Black Raven Alley.  Now I knew where it used to be so a quick visit to Google Earth revealed that the alley no longer existed, however the buildings that now existed followed the same street footprint as from 1934.  Therefore it was possible to do a photo showing how much has changed.

 

As you can see quite a lot has changed in this area.

 

 

 

Finding Fairholt Street

 

In this photo taken in Brompton with the aptly named photo of “A Cul De Sac”

_MG_3579fair

lay a mystery.  The only clue was the district Brompton and the First letter of the street M.  Using they recently purchased 1930’s copy of the A-Z Atlas and Guide to London produced no joy.  I scoured those maps tiny as they are to no avail I couldn’t locate a street starting with M that looked like the one in the photo.

 

This whole project was beginning to become difficult.  Then along came Pimlico Pete who proceeded to inform me that the street was renamed to Fairholt street and still existed.

 

Hoping onto Google earth and using street view I saw to my delight that it was the street and much the same as in 1934.  The Shop has gone, there are a lot more motor vehicles in the street but many of the buildings appear to be the same

A cul de sac c

London Night

 

Some time ago I was fortunate enough to find an old photography book called London Night.  Now I know that a number of people really love the look of the work of Harold Burdekin and in particular his work along with John Morrison when they created London Night in 1934.  It is a book that hold pride of place in my photography collection.

Last year we ( my partner and I) decided that a trip to the UK and other places was something that we had delayed long enough.  After much thought I decided that I would whilst in London try and replicate Burdekin’s work. Partly because I love the work, partly because its seemed like a good way to get to know some of London and partly because it would be interesting to see how much had changed.

 

After three months of surveying 1895 maps of London, some help from a gentleman called Pimlico Pete (who I think inhabits wordpress) and the great work of the WordPress site Spitalfieldslife.com (I think that is correct) I managed to track down a fair percentage of the locations of the original photographs.  Now I can hear you saying surely the original had the locations specified.  Well they did but unfortunately Morrison and Burdekin decided that for some an air of mystery was called for.  So some of the locations had great descriptions such as “A city Street”  Now if it was a really small city a fairly recent one could easily track such a street.  However with the intervention of World War 2 and its destruction of parts of London along with 80 plus years of growth locating such enigmatic titles proved exceedingly difficult.

 

Two such mystery sites ( Fairholt street and Black Raven alley) were located with the  help. of the aforementioned.

 

Enough of my ramblings:  I now present the first pair of photographs, the original from 1934 and my take in 2018.  Hope you like them.

 

Big Ben and Bodicea.

 

 

 

 

A trip to Beech Forest Victoria

A few days ago a Friend and I went for a two hour drive to Beech Forest, a small town found in the Otway Ranges of Victoria.  Along the way if one goes via the inland route and not the Great Ocean Road one eventually will turn off a drive through a National park. The park is home to a rainforest which has trees like this.

_IMG8237

I would love to find a grove of these trees but its unlikely as the geography is all steep slopes and hills with almost no access of the one road.

 

Continuing along the only road one eventually gets to Beech Forest.  One of the first attractions is an old Fordson tractor and if you are not looking it is east to miss.  This time I decided to take a six shot panorama of the tractor, more for the practise than anything else but I did like the result.

 

fordson

 

=Then its on to the Redwood Forest found a few kilometres along a dirt road.  The trees and area is beautiful and oh so very peaceful.  I tried a vertarama, a vertical panorama, which ended up looking like this.

 

Redwoods pano

 

Finally we went to Erskin Falls, we were really planning to go to the lower Kalimna Falls but traffic on the great ocean road delayed us to much.  Anyway again a panorama or vertarama of the falls.

 

Then it was homeward bound and a much needed sleep.  Hope you like the photos.