A visit to London will undoubtedly feed your mind and soul. It is impossible to leave London and not be inspired, tired, or challenged. London’s effect on you are great. She seeps into every part of your being without you noticing.
A visit to London is like a love affair that never really ends. The city is always on your mind. You crave her and everything London offers long after you leave. You miss the sounds of London, the rumble of the London Underground, and navigating the crowded streets. Crossing over London Bridges remains in your memory. Iconic places such as St Paul’s Cathedral or Trafalgar Square stay etched in your mind. Maybe the views from Waterloo Bridge or the wide spans view of London from Primrose Hill are still in your mind when you close your eyes.
You’ll always remember London.
My affair with London began more than thirty years ago. The city has made a huge impact on me. I often like to say – “Everything I’ve Learned About Life I Learned From London.”
My love of live theatre began in London when I saw “Daisy Pulls It Off” at the Globe Theatre, which is now the Gielguld Theatre. I saw magic when the curtain went up and I was captivated until the finals bows and the curtain came down. Even today I attend live theatre performances like most people see movies. Theatre taught me a bit about being dramatic and I use the lessons I learned in my photography. Funny that. Right? It also taught me how to string together words in a particular way to make a point.
London is a mecca for art and museums. If you have an interest in the world’s artifacts, head over to the British Museum. If you love paintings from Monet, Manet, Seurat, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Rubens and a myriad of other masters, go to the National Gallery. If you love modern art, head over to the Tate Modern Museum. And what’s more is you’ll find a plethora of independent art galleries throughout the city.
Studying the masters of art is a fantastic way to improve your photography. Painters are masters at presenting light which is what photography is all about. But, also pay attention to the use of textures, leading lines and other composition elements.
Perhaps you love fashion or interior design. Fine art at any museum could inspire you to redecorate your home or design your next outfit that no one else will have.
A walk past Fortnum and Mason’s window displays will bring a smile to your face, tho’ it’s entirely possible you’re creative energy explodes. You could be inspired to create your next masterpiece. Or maybe you’ll get a warm feeling and think of the person who is not with you but you love with all your heart.
The gardens and parks throughout the city offer a sanctuary from the loud noise and madness that is London. One of my favourite places is St. Dunstan-in-the-East. The moment I walk into the remnants of the old church all of London’s noises go away. I feel peace and everything seems to be right in the world. I’ve sat on the park bench for hours and sometimes with a lunch. It’s a place where I can actually think without distraction. Problems are sorted through and even my next project is pieced together while at St. Dunstan’s. There is no other place of solitude like it anywhere in London.
Soho is a splendid place for understanding and inspiration. This area of London is one I’ve spent countless hours with my camera. I’ll typically wander through Soho at night and into the wee hours of the morning. Great photographs are a dime a dozen in this area of London, but if you stop long enough, you might end up in a conversation with someone you would not normally speak to.
I met a man drunk as could be who wanted me to celebrate the birth of his grandchild with him. I spoke with a young heroin addict who described what it was like to be homeless and sleeping on the streets. A prostitute offered me her services. Although I declined, we had a good jovial chat in Wardour Street and she told me where to capture the best photographs. She also warned me to keep my camera safe.
Not everyone in London are like the people I described. The point in sharing these experiences is that London taught me to keep an open mind and listen. And trust me, if you listen long enough, you’ll hear everything. The key is avoid judging anyone or projecting your own life’s beliefs on someone else.
Don’t be surprised to see a woman walking down the street wearing only her bra and a pair of shorts. You might even see a man jogging in his tiny speedo. Whatever you see, take it all in and realise that you can be anyone and anything you want to be because London tells you that you can. Many of my own inhibitions went away because of the sights I’ve seen on London’s streets. Be who and what you are without worrying what others may think or say.
I especially love Jermyn Street between St James’s Street and Regent Street St James’s. The street has been gentrified lately but it keeps the authentic gentlemanly traditions it is known for. The statue of Beau Brummell reminds us that Jermyn Street catered to London’s gentlemen long before we arrived. Feel civilised and have a shirt tailored for your next special occasion, have a shave or become a connoisseur of cigars and fine art. Almost everything you need to know about being a gentleman can be found in charming Jermyn Street.
If you’re visiting from the United States, a walk through London should remind you how young your country is. So many of London’s buildings date back a thousand years. That’s four times the age of the USA. It is sort of mind blowing when you think of London that way. As you walk along London’s streets, know you are walking amongst history. If you know a bit of London history, take yourself back. Try to visualise what Piccadilly was like in the 1700’s. What was Westminster Abbey like when it was on an island in the Thames River? Or what were the views from London Bridge when it was the original London Bridge?
London has something for everyone no matter what your tastes or interests are. Your challenge is to be aware. Be aware of what the city has to offer. Be aware of what is in front of you because you never know how London will move you to be the person you always wanted to be. Open your mind and let London shape you. London is a hard cold city on the outside. The truth is, however, London will take good care of you. She will teach you about life and help you understand that you are more. London will teach you how to love other people, too.