I’ve now had the opportunity to visit London three times over the past year. I must admit that as great a city London is, after weeks exploring the magnificent landscapes of Scotland, I’m a little spent creatively and lacking in inspiration. I have already photographed many locations here but one image lacking from my portfolio was a panoramic night view over the Thames with the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament in the distance. The sunset wasn’t bad but it was nothing to write home about either. Some late colour in the clouds just before it became really dark provided some colour contrast with the Eye illuminated blue last evening. I used a long exposure of two minutes to fully record the lights of a boat streaking across the frame, filling what would have been an empty space in the bottom right quadrant of the image. I’ve posted a large version to the website here.
One of my favourite activities in London is visiting the museums and galleries. Attending the twice daily guided yours at the National Gallery has been particularly enjoyable. Unlike most other European cities, entry is free, although a donation is recommended. I believe that there is much to be learnt from studying the work of artists, analyzing their compositions, observing their use of light, colour and a great many other things. Since the National Gallery doesn’t specially collect work from any one genre, all the major schools are represented and this makes it a great place to get an overview of oil paintings. This week, of particular relevance to me was a presentation on the painting “Gare Saint Lazare” by Claude Monet. It was interesting to hear that the French Impressionists embraced photography and learnt from the new medium. This was in contrast to most other artists who felt threatened by photography. Like many landscape photographers toady, it seems to me that Monet was an artist who felt that light was the most important subject in an image.
I was also pleased that “Samson and Delilah” by Flemish Baroque painter Peter Rubens was chosen for one of the tours. It depicts Samson, asleep on Delilah’s lap, having his hair cut by a servant or barber. Philistine soldiers await outside the doorway, ready to arrest him. Even from a superficial point of view, there is an special glow to the painting which in addition to the sheer richness of colour makes me feel that I need to stand back to view it.
There is a special exhibition running at the moment at the National Gallery titled “Venice – Canaletto and his rivals” which I’m planning to see in the limited time I have left in London. According to the promotional material : “This exhibition presents the finest assembly of Venetian views since the much-celebrated display in Venice in 1967.” I will surely one day return to this most photogenic of cities and hopefully this exhibition will provide some inspiration. In this day, the digital age, we are always looking to the future for this spark. However, the galleries in London have been a timely reminder that the past is just as relevant.