Alone in the Crowd

Recently I have been working in areas of the Tower that are off limits to the public, I have been left alone with my thoughts and my camera. Looking back over some of my earlier photographs I can see that this is a recurring theme and that I am drawn to quieter, more secluded spaces, even in the middle of London I would be attracted to the hidden areas of the urban landscape (as seen here).

When I first came to the Tower I had yet to gain security clearance and was only given access to the areas open to paying visitors. I started to explore the various buildings that make up the Tower of London and I began to find myself caught in the crowds, not just physically but also mentally, I began to move with the throng and realised I wasn’t really looking at anything that wasn’t located directly in front of me. I was caught in the ‘visitor experience’  – after my first visit I struggled with how I was going to photograph such a place, a place full of people, which is a symbol of itself – a symbol that is photographed by millions of people every year.

For the first time while making photographs, I began to listen to my MP3 player. I walked around the open spaces and buildings with the other visitors, the minimal, contemporary classical music helped separate my thoughts from the crowd, generally calm me down and helped me get in to a more receptive state of mind.

One of the composers I listen to a lot is Max Richter. I discovered his work through Radio 3’s Late Junction – a program that has introduced me to a lot of new, eclectic music. I listened to Max Richter a lot when I lived in London 3 or 4 years ago and found that it really suited sitting on buses watching London pass by. In some ways it often felt that it hieghtened my awareness of the experience of the capital city, making everything seem filmic and poetic.

I have also been listening to the work of Olafur Arnalds  – a very recent discovery.

While making photographs in the Byward Tower, and more recently Thomas More’s Cell (both of which are restricted areas where I was working alone) I worked without the MP3 player – there was no need, in fact even the most subtle music would have seemed intrusive.

I would be interested to know if there is anything you listen to that seems to heighten the experience of the world around you, as I’m sure I’m not alone.


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