This is London City Hall, with the Tower Bridge over the Thames in the background. I attended a press briefing at City Hall this morning, for the Olympic Torch Relay, which will happen this Sunday through 30 miles of London. I’ve been hired by a firm in HongKong to shoot video of the torch relay for a production they are creating on the life of Olympic champion Eric Liddel, of Chariots of Fire fame. Should be an exciting day of tromping around the city through the crowds, and getting some interesting images for their documentary. I’m excited. And I get an official press badge.
After the press briefing, I wandered over the Tower Bridge to the Tower of London. It’s the famous tower/castle/armory/palace/warehouse/torture chamber/menagerie of medieval London, begun in 1066 by William the Conqueror. Perhaps it is most famous for being the place where kings imprisoned and eventually executed such ‘traitors’ and enemies of the state as Ann Boleyn, Thomas More, Henry VI, Guy Fawkes, Lady Jane Gray, and child Princes Edward and Richard sons of Edward IV. It is the latter, the child princes, that I find most interesting at the moment. Especially because, outside the Tower, in what used to be the moat, there is now a colorful but entirely forlorn playground. I can’t help but look at it, and think of those two boys who were imprisoned and eventually murdered here, never to be seen again….
Speaking of children, London tourist attractions are filled with children, most from England and France. Sometimes, as I wander about reading signs, looking at the sights, and taking photographs, kids will tentatively yell out, “Hello!” And I say hello back. And then, if they are courageous, these French students will try a few English phrases on me, as these high schoolers did. We talked for a few sentences about where they were from, how long they are here, where I am from (“America! Oooh, a long way.”). I even got to practice some of my French on them, saying, “I do not speak French” quite fluently. We were all pleased.
London’s Hyde Park reminds me of New York’s Central Park: large, central, well used by the community, lots of public events, room to stroll and to touch some grass. I wandered and photographed during a beautiful afternoon there, the first that was warm enough that I didn’t need a cap.
I’d spent a little time in Hyde Park last year (you can see some photos from a link here), with my traveling companion Jim Andrew. He took me to see Speaker’s Corner, where on Sunday afternoons anyone with a soapbox (or ladder) can come and say whatever he pleases. It’s crazy.
All the major museums here in London are free to the public (except for special exhibitions, in particular wings, which cost). It’s marvelous to be able to wander in and out, and back in again, museum to museum. So far, my favorite has been the National Portrait Gallery. But we had a lot of fun in the Victoria and Albert Museum (the stained glass, up close, was marvelous; so were the miniature portraits), the Natural History Museum (who knew dinosaur bones could be so fascinating?), the Photographer’s Gallery, and the National Museum. And, as I’ve mentioned before, the people watching is about as good as the museum exhibits.
Here are a couple images here shot outside the front doors of the National Gallery.
I received notice yesterday from PhotoLucida’s Critical Mass Competition that I was selected in their top 50 list. The news isn’t up on the PhotoLucida website yet, but one of the reviewers, Lisa Hunter–quite enthusiastically–posted the results on her blog. In time, PhotoLucida will put the work of the top 50 on their website for all to see.
Critical Mass is a competition entered by hundreds of photographers from all over the world. From those masses, 150 are selected to be shown to the reviewers (quite a long list of reviewers), who then vote and whittle down the list to the top 50, plus 3 winners of whose work they publish little books. So it’s an honor to be selected in the top 50, and I’m hopeful about what may come of it, as other photographers, collectors, curators, and publishers look at the finalists’ work.
For Critical Mass, I entered 10 selections from my documentary series on eating disorders, Skeleton in the Closet.
This is one of the more joyful photos I’ve taken.
This gentleman is from India (having immigrated 20 years ago), and we started talking. He has peanuts in his pocket, and while it’s not legal to feed the pigeons in the square any more, he does seem to enjoy helping other people feed them. But only one at a time, and only while they’re standing on your head. Sometimes more than one at a time.
He’d see someone trying to get a photo of the pigeons, or trying to commune with them, walk over, offer them a peanut, and show them how to hold it just so, between thumb and foreginger. Or, he’d take a peanut in his hand, attract a pigeon or two, and place them on people’s heads. “Have your camera ready!” he’s scold them, in his Indian accent.
We talked for some time, and at one point he asked me, “So, tell me, what is it that you eat, you Americans? There must be some mineral. What is it you eat that makes you think of creative things like jet planes, computers, the internet? What is it?”
I didn’t know what to tell him.
Well, finally, I have something to show you.
Shannon and I went into the city on Monday, and I must say: the people watching in London is out of this world. Wow. I didn’t have my camera, and it was killing me. So today, on my own, I went in, visited the British Portrait Gallery, the Photographer’s Gallery (both excellent and inspiring), and the British National Gallery. And then I went shooting.
A personal favorite.
After a week of walking and watching in Yorkshire, we are now settled in at Manna House, a hospitality house of OM, in London. Here we will be hosting people from all over the world, as they come to attend conferences, stay over between flights, and have some R&R in London. Already we’ve met people from Germany, the Philippines, a Dutch couple from Zimbabwe, Americans, and Chinese. Oddly enough, we’re here in London surrounded by people who are not Brits. Fascinating stories flow over the dinner table, with English flavored by the spice of worldwide accents. (Oddly enough, foreigners speaking English are often more intelligible than local English people speaking English. And I find myself, still, self-conscious about my American accent when talking with Brits–more so even than when I’m speaking Spanish in Mexico.)
We’ve been in England for a week, off on our little adventure in Europe. I’ve been photographing quite a bit, but mostly for stock, and one event, but little of personal, artistic interest. But I’ll share a couple photos here:
We spent all afternoon yesterday hiking through the sheep pastures here in the Yorkshire Dales. We’ve wanted to do this for some time, having been James Herriot (‘All Creatures Great and Small’) fans for many years. It’s as beautiful, quaint, and delightful as imagined. What a fantastic system they have here of public footpaths and rights of way through pastures and fields and fells, historic ruins and rubbish burn piles, sheep folds, farmers, marshy bogs. The dry stone walls fascinate me, and there are thousands of miles of them in England. It’s hard to imagine men building them, stone upon stone, up hill and down dale. Beautiful.
And here is my creepy photo of the day, of two sweet little lambs here on the farm where we are staying for a few days….
The sheep are generally as placid and stupid as reputed. Although yesterday, as we hiked, we passed through a stone wall just as the farmer was passing behind us on his ATV. The sheep in the field we were entering heard him and, assuming supper was here, started charging the wall we we in front of. They leapt up top of this 5 foot wall, and on over. But when the children we were hiking with got in their way, the sheep became confused, began charging us, swerved around us, and lept some brambles to our side. It was a funny moment, being charged by horned Swaledale sheep headed for supper. We had a good laugh.
Skeleton in the Closet
~including new work not previously shown~
Photographs by Fritz Liedtke
February 23-March 21, 2008
Join us for the Artist’s Reception:
Friday, February 29, 2008, 7 – 9 pm.
Peterson Hall, Lower Level
2255 NW Northrup St
My friend Gali, a student at Lincoln High School, is in charge of the National Eating Disorder Awareness Week events at her school. She’s so full of energy and organization and ideas, she’s hard to keep up with.
As part of her and her committee’s program this week, they asked me to display 8 images from my series Skeleton in the Closet. So if you happen to be there this week, take a look!