London is a special place. There are few other cities in the world that offer up such variety in both the locations and people that call it home. The sheer number of people that walk her streets is staggering and yet it never ceases to amaze me just how well the city holds us all together. Yes there are times when things boil over, and there will always be friction whenever you have so many different cultures bumping up against each other every single day, but it is always the idea of London and being a 'Londoner' that brings it all back.
As with almost everything, each of us will have our own unique experience of this place. The sights and sounds can be overwhelming to some, but if you're able to block out the symphony of life that never slows down and find your place in the crowd, London will offer up all of her opportunities and all of the incredible sights and characters that she holds.
As a photographer, the city offers up so much to be captured, from historic vistas to intense street scenes and all manner of rich textures in between. There is always a new market popping up or a new insane fashion trend on display, so you are never short of possibilities. If I'm honest, it's probably best to try and develop some sort of filter when shooting so that you aren't distracted by the hundreds of new ideas being thrown at you every second in this city.
The look and feel of the city varies greatly from place to place, sometimes for cultural reasons other times due to the role that particular events in history have played. The one thing that remains consistently apparent throughout though, is the seamless blend of the hyper modern and heritage architecture, especially visible in the city (financial district) where there is a blend of centuries old stonework and the hard lines and impossible angles of the brand new steel and glass behemoths. All the while the bustling streets play to host to the indistinguishable sounds of London's big red buses, black cabs and Deliveroo riders on mopeds.
The distinct character found in each of London's boroughs lends itself to a new sense of adventure when exploring a new space. The hidden gems hiding down side streets and alleyways are available to all who are willing to take the time to find them. The bright lights and photo-snapping tourists of Picadilly Circus form the focal point of an area of the city playing home to the Royal Academy of Art and others, Old Street will take you from the heart of trendy Shoreditch right through 'Tech City' and toward City Road. Sandwiched between the pomp of Fitzrovia and the artfully free cultural hub of Soho, you'll find the British Museum and all of its treasures. London, it can be said, is a city of contrast and sometimes of contradiction, but it can never be called boring.
The best way to explore any place, I believe, is to walk as much as you can. I was amazed when I eventually discovered how close together things were in London and how much I was missing out on by taking the tube as my first choice of transit. There are shortcuts and side streets that connect the city in ways that the incredible underground system can't do. The benefit of walking whenever possible doesn't just stop at discovering new places, it has the added bonus of helping you to avoid the rush hour mayhem that descends upon each and every station around the same time every day. There are only so many spaces for people to occupy on the train and London has more people than spaces.
There is an ever-expanding network of cycle lanes in the capital and a bicycle rental service available at various points throughout central London. Now smaller tech startups getting involved in the cycling space and encouraging more and more people to get on a bike, the prospect of seeing London from the saddle is becoming less and less daunting by the day.
There is also a network of canals to explore, winding their way through many of the cities busier boroughs and beyond. The 'boat-life' of London's barge dwellers is an interesting alternative to shrinking spaces people call home in big cities across the globe. With the opportunity to live in a different neighbourhood every other week, it is particularly appealing to the more adventurous souls.
Hopefully in the near future I'll collect some images of specific aspects of the city and compile them in some sort of series on London. But I make no promises...