Monday, October 13, 2008

Canary Wharf thoughts

click photo to enlarge
The fog that enveloped London early yesterday morning was the precursor to a beautiful, uplifting, sunny day with an unseasonal maximum temperature of 23° Celsius. But, as I walked along the south bank of the river at Rotherhithe, and the towers of Canary Wharf loomed up out of the mist, my mind was filled with darker thoughts. Along with the City of London, these buildings are the country's financial powerhouse - Citicorp, HSBC, Barclays, Lehman Brothers and others have their headquarters at Canary Wharf. Looking at them I couldn't help but see the fog that surrounded the towers, a fog that had swept in and enveloped them, but also was of their own making from their heating plants, as a metaphor for the financial turmoil that surrounds and penetrates most of these institutions.

However, my mind only allowed these thoughts to last for a moment, because the way the sunlight was falling on the buildings, turning them into amorphous masses, casting deep shadows that contrasted with the illuminated particles of water that filled the air, caused the name Hugh Ferris to surface in my consciousness. Among American architectural draughtsmen of the twentieth century Hugh Ferris (1889-1962) stands supreme. His charcoal, pencil and crayon perspectives of imagined and actual skyscrapers created romantic, almost Piranesian views, featuring towering mass, deep shadows, converging verticals, and the multiple step-backs of the early buildings. Ferris clearly saw drama, poetry and a vision of the future in the skyscrapers that were springing up in New York and Chicago.

Had the morning been clear and sunny I'd have looked at Canary Wharf and seen the buildings of organizations that once revelled in their omnipotence and omniscience but now crave state hand-outs. But the fog and the light allowed me to forget the troubles of the world for a while, and see it through the eyes of a visionary draughtsman. For that I was grateful.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 24mm (48mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/2500
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On