Monday, January 31, 2011

In the alleys of London

"You can't photograph if you're not in love."

W. Eugene Smith

Apparently Eugene Smith told that to a student of his once. General notions aside, I kinda agree with the statement. One has to be in "Love with the Subject" when taking photos. The simple reason is, if you do not appreciate what you see, how will you translate your vision into a photo. A photo is not just an assimilation of aperture and shutter control, muddled with an understanding of balance, composition and other sundry stuff. Its about being soaked into the moment, into what you see, that which you wish to capture with that device in your hand. Just like you always like the object of your affection to be looking good, similarly with photos you want everything to be perfect. If that means waiting hours for the perfect moment, so be it. If that means going to odd lengths, hanging off a ledge and braving the cold, then that is the price one has to pay. It has to be an emotional investment.

I have had a similar love affair with the alleys of the City of London otherwise known as the Square Mile or simply the City. Soaked in history at every nook and cranny, a walk through these alleys will always lead you to a corner hitherto unknown to you. And sometimes even if you've been there before, you want to be there time and again. Its a photographer's paradise, a history buff's holy land (exaggerating, but please humour me over here). It was on such a walk on Saturday, along with a friend of mine I set about walking some of the alleys of London. During the course of the walk we came across the London Stone on 111 Cannon Street. Not much remains of this stone today. In fact, if you don't know where to look for it you may even miss it. Embedded in a cavity in the southside of St. Swithin's Church about 300 years ago (the church no longer stands), the folklore surrounding the stone makes some refer to it as Brutus' Stone (of Brutus of Troy, after whom Britain is named. Not to be confused with Marcus Brutus).

The Old Wine Shades
Old Wine and Shades

About 5 minutes away when walking towards Monument, a quick right leads one to Martin Lane, where at 6 Union House one would come across Old Wine and Shade, arguably one of the oldest (there are establishments older than that) pubs in the City. Turn left and across the road which leads to London bridge and one would be standing in front of Monument, a memorial for the 1666 Great Fire of London. Interesting bit about most pubs in the City are they date from around 1667/1668, owing to the fact that most of them were burned down during the Great Fire. Walking north along Gracechurch street, we went through Leadenhall Market, took a peek at Lloyds of London, through St. Peter's Alley onto Cornhill before going turning left into St. Michael's Alley.

Jamaica Wine House
Jamaica Wine House
It is in St. Michael's Alley, that one will come across Jamaica Wine House, which started out as London's oldest coffee houseback in 1652. Being a Saturday it wore a desolate look as does most of the financial district of London. Carrying on along Lombard street we reached Bank, carried on past Bank of England and Royal Exchange towards Guildhall and finally London Wall, before taking a break from the chill in a coffee shop near St Paul's.

A couple of hours break, accompanied by some coffee and conversations and we were off towards Chancery Lane to check two of the other old boys of pub lore, Ye Old Mitre Tavern (1542) and Cittie of York (1430) before heading on towards more busy parts of the city to wrap up the evening.

It is because of this love affair that I have been able to learn the little that I have learnt when looking through the viewfinder. It's a charming journey which only get hindered by the regular vagaries of life. But only for a while.


P.S. The shots included in this post may not seem high quality. Kindly follow the links on the right strip to the Flickr page.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

On a cold day I'm reminded of...

... a warm duvet
... a mug of hot chocolate
... Home Alone (the movie)
... Serendipity (the movie)
... snuggling in with a book
... Hot toast with melting butter and an omellete
... Poha/Upma at Buddha's Paradise (a cafe in Koregaon Park, Pune, Maharashtra)
... Buttered toast and Anda Bhurji at Vohuman's Cafe (a cafe near Pune Station, Maharashtra)
... a hot bowl of Maggi
... Luchi-aloo'r dom (A standard Bengali breakfast delicacy)
... a big English breakfast
... Aloo paratha (Indian fried flat bread stuffed with mashed potato - spicy or otherwise) at Shashi's (a small eatery in Majitar, Sikkim)
... roaming about dressed like Feluda (a detective created by Satyajit Ray) in a Kurta-pyjama with a shawl draped over and the sleeves rolled up
... watching a Ray classic
It's uncharacteristically cold today in London, not the sort which would chill you the bones but the sort which would make you vote for a lie-in than a walk to work. Sadly, that is an option not many can exercise. So here I am reminiscing the days the when I could enjoy a leisurely cold day.