The London Panoramas
English Heritage have just published what might be the mother of all London books. At £40, the immense and barely liftable volume catalogues London’s working life, its wealth, workplaces, poverty and ability to change in monochrome photographs from 1870 to 1945.
Some of the photographs appear to show entirely alien landscapes. Residents peer out from buildings that appear to be not a century old but more like four or five hundred years old. Vast swathes of London are unrecognisable. There are spectacular buildings that have been lost ton bombing or, more heartbreakingly, torn down by philistine institutions, and appalling slums in darkened alleys filled with curious children watching the photographer.
The pictures are mostly street scenes revealed in incredible detail. I hope English Heritage create a follow-up book running to the present day. The large-format allows the photographs to fill one’s peripheral vision so that you become enveloped in another time and place – and a city that is now so often lost from view by the sheer weight of visitors returns to focus.