Sometimes it seems that writing about the Tower of London is like writing about The Beatles. What can you say that’s not already been said before? There’s too much on the White Album, Revolver is far superior to Sgt Peppers and the Abbey Road medley is a work of genius. It’s all been said before.
And that’s the problem with photography and the Tower of London. So strong is the visual culture of the Tower and so powerful is that visual culture in symbolising Englishness (whatever that means), you’d be forgiven for asking whether any new photographs of the Tower could ever be taken. But what if you took away the Beefeaters and the military tradition, the Crown Jewels and ravens, White Tower, Traitor’s Gate and the execution site, what would be left to photograph? Would the (almost) one thousand years of incredible history have something to say for itself?
Well, that’s precisely the question I decided to pose when the Tower Education Service decided to recruit a photographer in residence. Could we get a photographer that could see things differently, to get beneath the very thick surface of the Tower and photograph it? Is there anything else except the surface worth photographing? All of a sudden the residency became very exciting.
After an exhaustive selection process we selected Christopher King and over the next six months Chris will have (almost) unrestricted access to photograph what he wants at this UNESCO World Heritage site. As well as developing his own body of work, Chris will be completing a series of projects with education audiences, helping them see the Tower and its history in their own way, because that’s what we do at Historic Royal Palaces, we help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, and then let them make their own mind up about it. And that’s precisely what we’re allowing Chris to do during his time at the Tower.
The Light of Many Days Blog is his online sketchbook – the record of his residency at the Tower of London. Bookmark it cos it’s going to be a valuable insight into his work.
Alex Drago – Education Manager, Tower of London