Look Up, London!

by Christina

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‘Maybe we need to think a lot more about the quality of what we’re doing. To a certain extent, part of the quality is, do we ever stop? John Betjeman said, look up. I think one of the beauties of London is if you do that, on the whole, you will find something interesting to look at.’

– Nick Tyler, speaking to Craig Taylor in The Days and Nights of London Now (2011)

As Londoners often we have enough trouble looking ahead of us and truthfully, we probably spend quite a lot of time gazing down at our feet, looking out for trip hazards on the Tube or just concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other.

We forget to look up, and it’s no wonder, what with such a plethora of sight and sound weaving itself into a tangled mixture of utter confusion all around us at eye level. But every so often it’s good to look up. There’s a whole other London above our heads.

Beautiful architecture:

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Southwark Cathedral towering over me in May 2009 – Polaroid 600 film

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A world of sophisticated glass, near London Bridge in May 2009 – Polaroid 600 film

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Carnaby Street, June 2010

An interesting reflection:-

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Near Tower Bridge, May 2009

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Waterloo underpass, May 2008

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Soho Square, March 2008

A pretty piece of art:-

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The ceiling at the V&A Museum, taken using Polanoid app for iPhone, July 2009

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Brixton railway bridge, January 2010

Cranes….the London skyline is full of cranes and it can be a beautiful view…

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The skyline near London Bridge station looking like giraffes, during construction of The Shard, using the Polanoid app for iPhone, July 2009

Cemeteries:-

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The family tomb of Henry Doulton, West Norwood Cemetery, May 2013

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Looking up at the name on a mausoleum, Brompton Cemetery, June 2011

Something unexpected:-

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Brixton, off Electric Lane, January 2010

And up beyond all of this brickwork and spray paint, sticker art and glass, there’s the sky. The sky never, ever gets old. Not even in London. We don’t see it often, especially not when hemmed in among storeys and storeys of office blocks and pollution. But it’s there, waiting to be remembered.

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The sky above Camberwell, SE5, September 2013 at approximately 5pm

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An early morning plane drifting across the sky above Forest Hill, SE23, May 2011, at approximately 5.30am

Take a moment next time you’re walking around the city, and this goes for whichever city or town you live in, to look at your surroundings from a different perspective. You never know what you might discover, what might come to life right before your eyes.

Just watch out for moving traffic!

‘Spend a few seconds to look up and say, those things are there, that’s very interesting. Why? What? How? All those sorts of questions. If you were to stand in the middle of Oxford Street and look very fervently at the top of the roof line, people would come past and they’d start trying to see what you’re looking at. It’s always a great game.


…maybe we need to design a city around making sure that stopping is part of it.’

– Nick Tyler, speaking to Craig Taylor in The Days and Nights of London Now (2011)

All photographs taken by Christina Owen, copyright 2014

The Days and Nights of London Now – As Told By Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It and Long For It is by Craig Taylor, published by Granta 2011 and available here.

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