London: a love story…actually

Big Ben

Look kids, Big Ben! Parliament!

Proper tea at the National Gallery with Kathleen

L: Piccadilly Market at St. James’ Church; R: Telephone booth near Leicester Square

Discovering an alley of book sellers.

Kathleen: Bump watch 2012

Touring the London Library with Charly, Nate (Squared) and Jill.

Inside joke caption for Ariel: Actually, it’s the hair that’s popular!

The Tate Modern

L: Though not technically perfect, (blame jet lag) this was the first shot upon arrival.  R: Downton Abbey extras & don’t try to convince me otherwise.

Department store Fortnum & Mason.

A proper pub with Charly, Jill & Nate.

I’ve been home from London for over a week. I’m still processing my feelings and experiences and going through my images. As a total anglophile, this first trip to London had me super excited. What I found was an unexpected case of creativity block. Normally, new sites and sounds get me super jazzed to pull out my camera and document every minutia. I’m sure it didn’t help that I experienced a pretty rough case of jet lag. For some reason I kept waking at 4 a.m. London time, tossing and turning. I don’t think I slept more than 4-hours in a given stretch.

I felt guilty that my short time in London was slipping past me with few photographs to show for it. The book I was reading, written by a master street photographer, stressed the importance of working through creative blocks. So, everyday I walked with my camera. Looking. Concentrating deeply on visualization. I turned left. Then arbitrarily right. I stopped for espresso at a cafe whose patio shared a tree canopy with an old dark stone church. Drawing strange looks from the other patrons, I even climbed on a fountain to view the church from a higher vantage point. That turned out to be someone’s internment. Oops, sorry dead guy. I looked through my camera. Paused to read a plaque. I ate an ice cream cone Brits simply call ices topped with something called a flake. I actively sought THE photograph all the while questioning its evasion. Then while sitting on a bench in St. James’ park watching a rather vibrant species of bird make the others look drab, the explanation for why THE photograph evaded me floated to the top of my brain. I was at odds with the modernity of London. I didn’t expect Downton Abbey, but 80’s Manchester in monochrome might have been nice. Basically, I wanted the city to look and feel like the film Control.  That’s okay, London wants London to be 90’s Seattle, so I guess we’re even.

A proper bird.

I have since come to realize the problem was in having no idea to investigate. I think that’s one reason I like photographing weddings. There is a rhythm, a clearly defined audience. The narrative comes organically from the couple and the structure of a wedding event; however, traveling in an unknown city with no concrete destination or theme I’m exploring…well, it’s obvious now why I was frustrated. Once I figured this out it was easier to move past this creative block. At about that same time I made an observation. London is a city in love with words: speaking them, their visual depiction. This started to provide me a context within which to work. Quaint book sellers of rare letters fill unmarked alleys. Gorgeous script beckons from store windows. It’s home to the Globe Theatre where the greatest works of the English language debuted. We toured the London Library, an entirely unfussy and pragmatic source of books on an unimaginable scale. England’s love of words: the nuances, the fonts, the dramas that it brings to life, is the very essence of my love for England. London is not Paris. And that’s okay. Though I don’t really like English architecture, Colin Firth will not revoke my Jane Austen book club card for saying so.  I’ll return one day, and next time I’ll travel to the countryside. My appreciation for London was slow to recognize, but eventually it totally endeared itself to me. OMG. That sounds exactly like Pride and Prejudice!

Things I loved about London –

  • Period film extras. Enough said.
  • They drink something called flat white comprised entirely of tasty, tasty milk fat goodness.
  • Speaking of drinks, they are serious about their beverages. Tea. Beer. Wine. Bless their little hearts.
  • The posh guys are all really smart dressers. And accents are HOT.
  • The people are incredibly mannered.
  • They use “proper” as a modifier for everything. It’s adorable.
  • Lest you think they’re all super classy and better than us, they have a show called My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding that makes The Jersey Shore look like Masterpiece Theatre.
  • My slightly obscure British celebrity crush, Rupert Penry-Jones, was interviewed on morning television.

Things that surprised me –

  • Morning television is exactly like when Bridget Jones reported from the Lewisham fire station.
  • According to a cabbie, Americans get more Royal gossip than Brits.
  • Nirvana is really, really having a bit of nostalgic popularity.
  • My brain adjusted really slowly to cars on the opposite side of the street.


March 13, 2012 - 4:37 pm

Kristen - Damn you for being able to capture a bird in flight. I spent 2 entire trips to Ireland trying to (unsuccessfully) catch one. A photo, that is, not a nasty bird. Although mine was supposed to be circling a castle but Big Ben is totally acceptable.

Secondly, Charly should use the posted photo of his for brand spanking new facebook account.

March 13, 2012 - 7:26 pm

Brandy - Photo tip: Birds in flight require a fast shutter speed and don’t like to be called nasty. Kristen, you know I love me some birds.

March 21, 2012 - 7:56 am

Kathleen - I love your musings on creative blocks and how to work through them – and I must say you did a brilliant (Britishism!) job of finding great images despite any block you may claim. I was in London again last week and already looking at the city through new eyes, my “What will I show Brandy next time?” eyes. Can’t wait for you to come back. Sumptuous dinner on Mr. Trask and me.