I flew into the UK on April 11th to stay with my former DC roommate Sarah who now attends the London School of Economics. It was fantastic getting to see her again and catch up. When we lived together we bonded over Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and feminism and nothing has changed. We both gushed over the Harry Potter connections in London and soaked in all the wonderful Britishness of her new home. Sarah was in the midst of writing some major papers, so during the days I was on my own wandering the streets.
London is such a great city for street photography. The architecture, the traffic, the street art, but most importantly, the people. They’re everywhere and is such an awesome cross section of society. I loved people-watching and practicing my street shooting. Unsurprisingly I took a ton of photos, chasing the right timing, the right framing, the right focus, the right look from a stranger. So many things have to line up to get a good street photo, and I relished getting to practice.
I also used my time in London to seek out photography exhibits to both study them and seek inspiration. I found galleries, and museums to visit. There was a show on American documentary photographers and the difference between the 1930s style and the style that emerged in the 60s and 70s. I got to see a print of one of my Mom's favorite photographs, the one that got her into photography in the first place, Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange. Comparing the work of depression era photographers to the quirky, offbeat captures of the hippie era was really fascinating. I liked aspects of both styles. Another show looked at the history of gender presentation, cross dressing and the transgender community since the beginning of photography. One exhibit followed Monsanto, the agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology company, and it's impact on farming, especially small farmers. That is a topic I am really interested in, and I liked seeing how Mathieu Asselin, the photographer approached the subject. He used photography along with mixed media to tell his story. There were television clips, seeds framed and hung on the wall, and farming documents.
I visited the National Portrait Gallery as well. They had a section on the development of different photographic techniques with stunning examples. Seeing that there were examples of women photographers who helped push the artistic use of photography for portraiture was really great. The collection included some early color photography techniques which were lovely and etherial. I also soaked in the all the paintings throughout the gallery. For my sister I went and visited Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Lastly there was the exhibit dedicated to the centennial of women winning the right to vote. All my visits to the museums and exhibits were motivating both artistically and personally.
Keeping on the theme of taking in the arts, I spent one night at the theater. The play I saw was called “The Ferryman” and was set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. It was so, so good. I laughed, I cried and it stayed with me after I left.
I also spent a lot of time seeking out street art mainly in and around Shoreditch. It was fun to go and appreciate it as art, and to try to incorporate pieces into my street photography. From Shoreditch I took a double decker to Borough Market. I got the best seat right in the front row on the top deck, it's my favorite way to see the city. After strolling the market I made my way to Tower Bridge, walked along the Thames and back over Millennium Bridge. This lets out right at the Tate Modern, and seeing as it's free I had to go in. I love being able to enjoy and take advantage of museums.
My last night in London I went out with Sarah, and one of our other former DC roommates Jessica, who now also lives and works in London. We had a great time getting a few drinks and talking the night away.
Even though it was a fairly quick trip to London, it was so much fun. And I took an impressive amount of photos, even for me.
kaitlin k walsh
Adventurer armed with a camera.