Saturday, November 21, 2009

London, Wordsworth and Blake

click photos to enlarge
I can't pass Westminster Bridge in London without thinking of Wordsworth's sonnet. "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge, September 3rd, 1802" is a poem in which the great Romantic applies the language and evokes the emotions more usually associated with his works about nature, particularly his beloved Lake District. In this piece Wordsworth describes the view from the bridge in the morning, and he speaks favourably of all that London has to offer the eye, the spirit and the mind. It is not what lovers of Wordsworth would expect to fall from his pen.

William Blake's vision of the city in his poem, "London", as a place of dirt and despair might seem to be more in tune with Wordsworth's outlook, but the Romantic's eye spots the beauty that exists alongside the grime where Blake sees only horrors. What would both men have made of the city today I wonder? People have sometimes asked me if I could live in London, and my answer has always been the same - yes, I'd love to for three or four years, but not for a lifetime. I think that in that period I could take from it in one long draught that which I currently experience in sips.

I recently spent some time around Westminster Bridge and today post a couple of the shots I took. The first shows the view upstream, and is a scene that is not as frequently photographed as the one downstream. Out of view, to the right are the Houses of Parliament. I took the shot for the foreground of the bridge parapet with the people (especially the tourist in red taking a photograph) against the background buildings and clouds. Millbank Tower on the right is an abomination that should never have been built, and the flats with the bizarre tops in the centre look better only when you're very close to them, so it was the colours and light as much as the details that appealed to me about this one.

The second shot shows the Houses of Parliament (properly called the Palace of Westminster) with the low sun about to set behind its prickly outline. There's no denying the distinctiveness of Barry and Pugin's Gothicised spires and towers, and the romantic way they pierce the sky. In this light Westminster Bridge can just be discerned, and I was grateful for the passing bus and gull on the left which helped the compositional balance. Though it is the opposite end of the day to when Wordsworth was on the bridge, and the Parliament buildings weren't yet built, this view offers the eye something of the qualities that must have led him to sing the city's praises.

photographs & text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1 (Photo 2)
Camera: Lumix LX3 (Olympus E510)
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 12.8mm : 60mm/35mm equiv. (22mm : 106mm/44mm equiv.)
F No: f4 (f5.6)
Shutter Speed: 1/320 (1/1250)
ISO: 80 (100)
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV (-0.3 EV)
Image Stabilisation: On