Londonist Behind The Lens: Lee Jackson

Lindsey
By Lindsey Last edited 83 months ago
Londonist Behind The Lens: Lee Jackson

From time to time we take a look at the people behind the pictures in the Londonist Flickrpool and ask them about their London and their photography. Today, meet Lee Jackson, the creator of www.victorianlondon.org; author of the best-selling Kindle ebook Daily Life in Victorian London, plus seven Victorian thrillers, including The Diary of a Murder (May 2011). He lives in Stoke Newington and spends too much time on Twitter (@victorianlondon). You can also email him at lee@victorianlondon.org

One of those painted street signs. I've learnt it's almost impossible to photograph a street sign badly; something else to add to my store of useless knowledge.
One of those painted street signs. I've learnt it's almost impossible to photograph a street sign badly; something else to add to my store of useless knowledge.
An already careworn bit of decoration in Charterhouse Street, bang next door to the new Farringdon Station works entrance (which won't help with the deterioration, one suspects). Security guards were suspicious; and I had to explain, in high-pitched panic, that I was taking pictures of Victorian faces, not engineering works. Contempt ensued.
An already careworn bit of decoration in Charterhouse Street, bang next door to the new Farringdon Station works entrance (which won't help with the deterioration, one suspects). Security guards were suspicious; and I had to explain, in high-pitched panic, that I was taking pictures of Victorian faces, not engineering works. Contempt ensued.
A Victorian (maybe Georgian) portico, robbed of it's stucco finish in Liverpool Road. I had a thumbprint on the lens, so it's a bit vaselined in quality, but I tell myself the blur makes it look timeless.
A Victorian (maybe Georgian) portico, robbed of it's stucco finish in Liverpool Road. I had a thumbprint on the lens, so it's a bit vaselined in quality, but I tell myself the blur makes it look timeless.
Sunlight through a tree on the Lloyd Baker estate (which, with the crossing's lettering, could be a Conservative Party advertisement)
Sunlight through a tree on the Lloyd Baker estate (which, with the crossing's lettering, could be a Conservative Party advertisement)
Gaslight in Lincoln's Inn.
Gaslight in Lincoln's Inn.
A very strange, eerie window in Bethnal Green.
A very strange, eerie window in Bethnal Green.
Those Python-esque Victorian gaslights from Holborn Viaduct.
Those Python-esque Victorian gaslights from Holborn Viaduct.
A nice, pointy building on New Fetter Lane. The triangle just seemed too perfect to ignore.
A nice, pointy building on New Fetter Lane. The triangle just seemed too perfect to ignore.
Some nice bricks. No more need be said.
Some nice bricks. No more need be said.
A nice silhouette of Victorian (or earlier) ironwork from Guy's Hospital.
A nice silhouette of Victorian (or earlier) ironwork from Guy's Hospital.
Lion and Unicorn on the spire at St. George's, Bloomsbury - I like how the zoom let's you see them in detail, even down to the indvidual blocks of stone of which they're composed.
Lion and Unicorn on the spire at St. George's, Bloomsbury - I like how the zoom let's you see them in detail, even down to the indvidual blocks of stone of which they're composed.
Prince Albert at Holborn Circus - I like the contrast with the modern glass in the background.
Prince Albert at Holborn Circus - I like the contrast with the modern glass in the background.

It was really pure chance that I started taking pictures of London this year. We lost our old camera and I started looking through reviews on Amazon for a replacement. I had a vague idea that it might be nice to have a proper zoom, and I found almost universal praise for something called a Lumix DMC-TZ8. It sounded ideal: a normal pocket-sized camera, an unusually powerful 12x zoom, a discounted price, and lots of people saying that an idiot could use it. So I pushed the boat out and ordered.

It hasn't changed my life, but it's done me a huge favour. I've always been obsessed by walking around London, but after fifteen years of pounding the streets (in recent years with family in tow) I'd got a bit blasé about the joys of walking the metropolis. Then I started taking some pictures. Now you will find me wandering around our city streets, stopping and smiling enigmatically to myself at odd intervals (well, I tell myself it's enigmatic) and taking sly photographs, principally of architecture, but really anything that takes my fancy. I'm not quite sure why it's so satisfying. Possibly, as an author/web nerd, I just needed to get out more.

The zoom lens is the thing. I manage to frame the odd decent shot, but I'm no photographer; and I find the 'auto' setting generally produces the best results. It's the zoom that let's you discover London anew, from an entirely different perspective. It's not so much seeing something you'd entirely missed (although that happens - eg. the statues of Edward I and Edward VII four storeys up, opposite Holborn tube) as being able to pick out different aspects of the city as you walk around - and the very act of taking the photograph forces you to concentrate and, ironically, creates a memory, even as you record it for posterity via the magic of the camera.

Being somewhat interested in Victorian London, there is a certain historical bias to my subject matter, to say the least. Sculptures and monuments are always fascinating, as well as adding to my ever-increasing collection of gas-lights, railings and ironwork (the Pythonesque helmeted lights on Holborn Viaduct being a particular favourite). I also have a fondness for intriguing doors, windows, anything that looks old or derelict, and street signs. It's only since taking pictures that I've noticed, for instance, how many painted street signs there are in Westminster. If anyone knows the reason for this, let me know. Walls, too. I actually take pictures of bricks. Possibly I still need to get out more.

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Last Updated 04 June 2011