London After Dark - 16 Phenomenal Photos

Last Updated 14 June 2024

London After Dark - 16 Phenomenal Photos
People sitting on a nightbus

The tube is where my passion for street photography was born.

Working long hours in advertising meant heading to and from work was my only opportunity to take photos. Instagram launched around this time, meaning I could sate my appetite to upload and share my daily commuter photos. They proved very popular. Most of my colleagues begrudged their daily commute, but I thrived on it. I got a real adrenaline rush from capturing candid narratives, especially in such close proximity on the tube. It turned my mundane commutes into an inspiring adventure.

A person in front of a Moulin Rouge! neon light
A glowing red neon sign for The Mousetrap
A person reading a menu through a condensation covered window with a heart drawn into it

Night photography involves a blend of technical skill and creative vision. You need to have your camera ready with the right settings to ensure you can capture those undiluted fleeting moments. You also need a curious eye for anticipating a moment. More importantly it's about utilising the available natural light. Night time offers me a chance to capture a different mood in my photos. The soft glow of streetlights can create a romantic feel, while neon signs add a vibrant energy.

Someone on the phone stepping beneath a glowing roundel
A young woman ascending the stairs of a bus
A man in a turban looking out from a bus window

There's something magnetic about the streets of London at night. As the sun sets, the city undergoes a dramatic transformation. The bright lights of the theatres, cinemas and passing traffic illuminate the streets. The neon signs come to life. It's like the city puts its makeup on. The mood's lightened. There's more of an extroverted drive, and that really plays into the way I like to approach my storytelling. During those hours, you encounter the energy of unleashed Londoners, adventurous and carefree, chasing the night. These are the moments I am passionate about documenting, which make London such a fascinating place to shoot.

Two men in an an otherwise empty tube carriage
A person sitting at Westminster platform as seen through the window of a tube train
A nut seller on Westminster Bridge3

Rain is a street photographer's best friend. It opens a whole new scope of visual opportunities. Wet roads and pavements turn into giant mirrors, reflecting the world around them. This adds a new abstract dimension, allowing you to get creative and capture scenes from a different and unique perspective. The rain also evokes a certain mood and atmosphere. In my latest campaign work with Fujifilm I shot exclusively in the rain after dark to give my photos a more cinematic feel.

Two people hugging outside a tube station
People on their phones in front of neon signs for adult videos
An Underground roundel reflected in a puddle

Storytelling plays a fundamental role in my photography. Every photo should be an invitation that connects with my viewers to create their own version of events when looking at my photos. If someone can figure out my photo immediately, I feel I've failed to a certain extent. I'm always on the lookout for mini narratives when I'm on the streets to engage my viewers and add an extra layer of storytelling to my photos.

A person walking past a shop mannequin with a lamp shade on its head
A person with an umbrella silhouetted in a windows shaped like a 10
A woman stepping onto a train with bare feet

I have a handful of favourite images throughout my book, London After Dark. One that springs to mind is a photo I call "Cinderella". This photo was made on the first night the UK came out of lockdown. I headed into the city with a brief to capture the essence of the celebrations. It was like New Year's Eve — everyone was in high spirits and it was good vibes only all night. As I wrapped up the evening and headed to catch my last train home I noticed a lady clutching her heels in her hand on the platform. I had this particular frame in mind, so every time she passed a doorway I would get into position. After a few false alarms, I managed to get her entering the train, with a focus just on one bare foot to tell the story of someone who had obviously had a great night out. Coupled with the leading lines on the platform and the clock which perfectly time stamps the late night shenanigans, I was really happy with this one.

The cover of the book

London After Dark by Bal Bhatla aka Mr Whisper, published by Trope Publishing Co.

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All images © Bal Bhatla aka Mr Whisper