Glass, Light and Fantasies: The City of London At Night, a set on Flickr.
This latest photo set, on Flickr, from my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike — the 23rd instalment in what will be at least a year-long project — follows up on a previous set, Parks, Water and Dreams: Photos of a Journey from Surrey Quays to Central London, in which I recorded a journey through Rotherhithe on the evening of July 19, 2012, when I travelled to The Arts Catalyst, on Clerkenwell Road, in London EC1, to speak at an event marking the sixth anniversary of the arrest of Talha Ahsan, a British citizen and a Londoner, who has been held without charge or trial ever since, while fighting extradition to the US — an unjust situation that I have also written about here and here. Please also see this photo of me wearing an “Extradite Me, I’m British” T-shirt, to highlight the problems with the US-UK Extradition Treaty.
After the event — shortly after 9pm — I set off for home, but took a detour through the City of London, to capture photos of the City of London at night, the morally and legally dubious powerhouse of Britain’s financial industry, which fascinates me (see the evidence here and here), as does its offshoot at Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs (see the photos here and my essay here).
At night, the City, of course, is almost totally deserted, like Canary Wharf, and becomes a kind of futuristic dream, or some sort of haunted playground. The images in this set only capture a brief glimpse of this liminal world, in which the architecture of power oddly lacks the human players who supposedly animate it, but I find that appropriate, as it is, I believe, accurate to regard those involved in the international machinery of money-making by increasingly devious means as ghosts in a malevolent machine that no one is in charge of, and a metaphor for the wider society in which politicians play the same role, on the deck of the ship, manning the controls, but unaware — or unconcerned — that their actions are meaningless, as no one is actually in charge.
As I explain in the notes accompanying the photos on Flickr, the City of London at night is a fascinating, but rather haunted place, devoid of the human beings who supposedly maintain the levers of power, but perhaps more accurately illustrating how, in fact, no one is in charge of the juggernaut of greed and a skewed sense of entitlement that the financial centres of the West have become as a result of over 30 years of deregulation.
I’ll be posting more photos of the City and of Canary Wharf soon — from the 56 photo sets I have not yet uploaded, mostly taken in the month before I flew to Italy on my two-week family holiday, on August 12 — but in the meantime I hope you enjoy these photos of the City at night.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Christine Casner wrote:
”Reason may object in vain; it cannot fix the price of things.” ~~ Blaise Pascal, PENSEES ~~
Christine Casner wrote:
PS: Hello, Andy!! ♥
Hi, Chris. Great to hear from you. Your quote made me think about how we are particularly cursed by people who know the price of everything, but the value of nothing.
Jennah Solace wrote:
Wow! Those are my absolute favourite so far! Love the title too I don’t know how you do it? Make London seem empty of people — it was always bustling when I was there — day and night! Somehow it empties for you! Amazing. There is also a sad, lonely quality to them — really speaks to me — or maybe that is only my projection.
Jennah, thank you for your wonderfully supportive words. As this is a new project, branching out into new territory, the support is particularly welcome. I also really appreciate how you’re following my emotional journey. Finding the City of London empty at night isn’t difficult (although some other photos in London require me waiting for breaks in the traffic, or for pedestrians to move on). However, you’re right that, a lot of the time, I seek out landscapes without people. I think I’m seeking to focus on images without distractions, that may even be meditative in some way, and also asking if the new and shiny, the phallic towers and blocks of glass and steel, are beautiful, or troubling, and if, in contrast, the decaying, the neglected and the forgotten should be spurned, or if they also have an important place in the psychological aspects of our lives. Certainly, for me, the horror would be to find that everything old had been wiped out, to be replaced by only the uniformly shiny and new.
As for the sadness – yes, I think so, although because many of the photos are reflective, it may be that it’s not about sadness, but is, instead, not about false happiness or the illusion of permanent cheerfulness that is supposed to accompany success in the narrow, self-obsessed, materialistic world in which we find ourselves. I think there’s a difference …
Jennah Solace wrote:
That is very deep, Andy. It reminds me of when I was living near Croydon. There was an old, fairly run-down theatre on one street corner. As I passed by one day, some children from a local school were doing a questionnaire about it for a project. They wanted to know how local’s felt about the prospect of it being torn down to make way for new developments. I said they should build around it — spruce it up! It will add character to the neighbourhood. Who wants to live in a glass world of buildings and offices? Where’s the charm in that? We have a down town area in Ottawa, Canada. People flow into it to work — and at five pm it empties and everyone rushes home to the suburbs. The city centre becomes like a ghost town. I don’t get it. It is not sustainable, to make everyone commute to the city and then out again. Why can’t people all live and work in the same areas. We depend on fuel for everything — what happens when it runs out? I think architecture is a lost art as well — as people think more about saving a buck, or on efficiency, they lose out on the aesthetics. Here’s an article about the theatre in Croydon — are you going to take pics of that area as well? Hope so — and I hope you take some of Brixton, I loved spending time there! http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/culture-cuts-blog/2012/may/15/arts-funding-theatre
Thanks, Jennah. Your story about Croydon and the theatre touches exactly on what I feel, as do your comments about life/work, and not this outmoded model of wasteful commuting. It amazes me that technological advances have enabled us to work anywhere at any time, with just a small handheld device, and yet every day millions of people commute at the same time to and from offices that are often no longer necessary.
Also, I have photos of Brixton. I lived there for eleven years, so it’s an important place to me. I visited one evening before my Italian holiday, and hope to post the photos within the next few weeks, but they’re in a queue, with another 25 sets to post beforehand!
Martin Gugino wrote:
I enjoyed looking at the photos of Rotherhithe: learning a tiny bit of the layout of London.
Thanks, Martin. I’m in the process of adding my photos to a map, which will hopefully make understanding London even more accessible. I just added the Rotherhithe photos to the map today: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andyworthington/sets/72157631047915050/
George Kenneth Berger wrote:
Sharing these, Andy. Your photos are well-liked on my page.
That’s very good to hear, George. Thanks.
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