London Nights: Dispatches from the Museum of London.

London lead picture

The London Nights exhibition at the Museum of London is a major photography exhibition running from the 11th May-11th November 2018. Through portraiture, documentary, candid and conceptual photography and film, it aims to show nocturnal London in all its glory and diversity.

My girlfriend booked us tickets for this as part of my birthday present. She really spoilt me this past weekend and we made our way here from the hotel she’d booked for us, The Rookery in Clerkenwell. It was a short 10-minute stroll in glorious sunshine to the museum although we were a little stumped when we tried to find the entrance. It’s located on a roundabout and I couldn’t remember how to get in from the last time I was here. There are several entrances as it happens, all strategically located on the corners of the surrounding streets. We made our way into the museum and after a quick security check we were having our tickets scanned and admitted into the exhibition.

She booked this exhibition in particular as she knows that I love London, history, the history of London, and photography. I have other interests of course but I’m trying to keep it relevant here! I was delighted to discover that the exhibition started with the oldest of the photos from the late 19th and early 20th century when night photography was incredibly difficult and still in its infancy.

The earliest photos, for me, were the highlight of the exhibition. Seeing after dark photos from the time of the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902 was fascinating. There were several photos of London at night taken before and after World Wars I and II and all the usual West End suspects were present; Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus and the Houses of Parliament all feature but in a new, not often seen light. These were the pictures that I enjoyed the most.

As you make your way around the exhibition you start to see the photos that were taken later in the 20th Century. For me, the exhibition started to lose its way a little here. There were some conceptual photographic plates that I didn’t care for and scenes of nocturnal, suburban London which were quite mundane and pedestrian, albeit well shot. It does feature the remarkable photo taken of London from the International Space Station by Major Tim Peake though, which was another highlight.

The variety in the exhibition was good, with photos ranging from drag and cabaret acts, the 1960’s Teddy boy scene in Soho and up-to the modern-day grime scene. There was also an interesting selection of photos of commuters from the 1970’s crammed into a train showing that as much as things change, they also stay the same.

Anyone with an interest in night-time photography or indeed in London in general will find something to enjoy here, I certainly did. No photography exhibition will solely feature photos that you are interested in but there is enough of an overview here to satisfy everybody. I loved the photos of late Victorian and Edwardian London. I didn’t particularly like the modern stuff although they were still good photos, they just didn’t interest me. Mostly because I’m interested in history not a picture of a grime rave but also because the newer photos were a little more mundane. Featuring scenes of empty housing estates and 24hr shops; they were excellent from a technical viewpoint but a little uninteresting.

The exhibition was a great way to spend an hour or so on a Sunday and maybe because of the weather or maybe because it’s been open for a couple of months, it was also empty. It showed me parts of London and its history in a light I’d never seen before. It’s well worth a couple of hours of your time. The Museum cafe also serves decent coffee!

Thanks for reading.

Terry

Prices and Info:

Tickets purchased in advance start at £10.

Museum of London 150 London Wall, London EC2Y 5HN

https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london/whats-on/exhibitions/london-nights

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