Long blue lights, aluminium walkway, cables angled upwards like an X Wing. The London Millennium Bridge looks like it could have been teleported from the year 3000.
This is especially true at night when the lights glow, forming what seems like a stationary laser beam across the Thames River, a laser you can walk on.
It was once known as the “Wobbly Bridge” because it shook when people walked on it, so they closed it … for two years. The Millennium Bridge spent the first year of the new millennium as an £18 million, useless piece of metal hanging across the river.
From pitiful beginnings the bridge has become a favourite walk for tourists and locals. Taking the bridge to the north bank of the river puts you face to face with St. Paul’s Cathedral, and south leads to the Tate Modern Museum, both unmissable landmarks.
I can still hear the metallic clangs of shoes on alloy as mine and a thousand feet ahead and behind me walked along, just a few inches of thin metal separating us from the brown silted water below.
Going through my old travel photos I noticed a similarity between memorials to tragedies on opposite sides of Europe, made by different people. In the summer of 2011 I was in Dublin where I photographed the Irish Famine Memorial, a collection of statues of immigrants walking to the ships carrying passengers to North America.
Last year when I was in Prague I came upon the Memorial to the Victims of Communism at the bottom of Petřín Hill. Again, the statues were thin, dark metallic figures, commemorating a tragic event in a nation’s past.
Rowan Gillespie, who made the Irish Famine memorial, had no connection to Olbram Zoubek, the sculptor of the communism memorial, as far as I can tell. I like to think they imagined similar concepts because the historic events they were memorializing were similar. There’s something chilling about the figures in Dublin and Prague. Their thinness, like walking ghosts, hopeless, desperate, among us but at the same time drawn in their own miserable worlds, as if they’re a time capsule in a transparent case, so we can all look inside.
Both are very democratic tributes to the nameless people who became victims of circumstances beyond their control. Their anonymity makes them more powerful, as if they could be anyone’s ancestor. Their metallic composition makes them strong but they’re thin and frail at the same time, like individuals who, despite the toughness of their spirit, can only overcome so much before breaking.
Staring at the fancy-ass West End from across the Thames River is Battersea Power Station, probably the ugliest landmark London has to offer, and, not surprisingly, my favourite. As a Pink Floyd fan I have to imagine a big pink pig floating majestically over the smoke stacks whenever I see it.
When I used to get the train home from Victoria Station I’d sit on the left side to get a good look at Battersea. No matter how many times I saw it, it never got old. Something about how different it was from everything that surrounded it, as if it refused to die while everything else gentrified, a stubborn relic of dirty old industrial London.
Another favourite London sight of mine is the iconic red telephone booth. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a tourist holding the receiver as if they’re making a call while someone takes their photo. How original. This is fast becoming the only time anyone bothers to step inside a London telephone booth. Everyone has a mobile phone these days.
I took some photos around the city recently and lined up a good shot of the famous London telephone booth with the station in the background and a rack of Barclays Bikes. Later I found out the same man who designed the London telephone booth, Giles Gilbert Scott, also designed Battersea Power Station.
Amazing booth. Amazing building. Hopefully Scott’s legacies can stand firm while the city they call home demands everything be new, modern, expensive, and soulless. It wouldn’t be the same without them.
Another post about Berlin, because it’s impossible not to write about or photograph this bizarre and exciting city. I took a great tour offered by Alternative Berlin into the heartland of the city’s famous graffiti scene. It was an abandoned trainyard near Warschauer Straße S-Bahn. These old warehouses and vacant lots show Berlin in its most run down, grimy, and industrial. The art is a mix of anti-corporate protest, political commentary and trippy random shit.
Here is a sample
I´m usually very careful to choose the right white balence when taking photos. I tend to follow the rules too closely, like the Germans never cross a street if the red man is lit, even though there is no car for miles.
But when I took a photo of the Berlin cathedral I forgot to set the camera from sunlight to cloudy white balence, and the result was the photo below. It gave it a almost negative film photo look and taught me that sometimes you can create interesting images by using the “wrong” white balence for the environment.