Review: London Cityscapes @ City Hall

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From Tower 42 SE 2008

If you’re in the Tower Bridge area and you’ve a few minutes spare, it’s worth ducking into City Hall to check out a small but engaging exhibition that shows the city in an unflattering but familiar light.

In London Cityscapes, photographer Michael Collins presents large-format shots taken from some unusual vantage points, including cranes and City skyscrapers. What makes the series different is that, instead of capturing beautiful sunsets or dramatic, cloud-studded summer days, Collins has drawn inspiration from “record picture” photography, the mostly-forgotten aesthetic, originally utilised by civil engineers, which sought to capture landscapes in flat, neutral lighting, for the purpose of recording them in as much detail as possible. Collins marries that technique with modern printing methods, in the process creating vistas of London bathed in a characteristic grey gloom, the overcast skies conveying a familiarity that renders the extraordinary detail his lens captures all the more compelling.

Of particular interest is one shot that somehow crams more London-ness into an image than we’d ever thought possible without the use of Photoshop: a diminutive Nelson’s Column, Big Ben, the London Eye, Royal Festival Hall, the Thames, the City and, in the distance, and the cluster of Canary Wharf. That’s most of the city’s skyline in a single shot. Should Richard Curtis find out, he’ll never need to location-scout again.

London Cityscapes is at City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, SE1 2AA (map) until May 14th. Admission is free. For more information on Michael Collins, visit his website

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