I have always liked London. I had my first experience there as a teenager living in Brixton and working in Putney. I have been back many times (read about my trip there last year) and passed through on transit to other locations and can honestly say it has always been positive. But without doubt the coolest memory I will have about London will be this moment when I was walking down a crowded Regent’s Street on a sunny Tuesday evening last with Dan Rubin on our way to the Apple Store and arriving there and seeing a poster in the doorway with my name on it encouraging people to come to meet Brendan Sé – the iPhone Photographer. A really nice moment.
I got to London on Monday afternoon after a short hop across the Irish sea. Cork is only a 55-minute flight to London. When travelling I try to avoid Heathrow as I never liked it as an airport, mainly because it always seemed to be under development. Thankfully, this now seems to have been completed and the new Terminal 2 that Cork flights arrive to and depart from is really impressive. I was met by a driver who brought from the airport right to the door of the hotel. It was great to to get to see parts of London I had not seen before. Most of my getting from A to B in London would have been underground so it was nice to see the city from the car as we made our way through London in rush hour on Monday evening.
The sponsors of the event – Knomo, London – were really great. The hotel – Citizen M – they put me up in was one of the best I have stayed in. Situated in Southwark, it is only a short walk to the river and close to the Tate Modern also. What I really liked about this hotel, besides the very cool design and layout, was the great attitude of all the staff. They were always very helpful, friendly and upbeat. Nothing was too much hassle for them and more often than not, what you will return to a hotel is not for the design, comfort or location (all which this hotel has) but for the welcome and service you get. And on this count Citizen M scores highly.
Once I had settled into my room, I wanted to get out and hit the streets and get some photography in. I asked the guy on the front desk where would be a good place to head and he sent me in the direction of the river. Within five minutes I was in the heart of iconic London: St. Paul’s Cathedral, The River Thames, Tate Modern, The Millennium Bridge and the skyline of some of London’s most famous buildings lit up at night. Throw in all the passersby and I was in my element. I shot quite a few images with the iPhone.
After about an hour or so wandering around this area I headed back in the direction of the hotel, using the Shard building as a landmark. When I got back to the hotel, I went on a little tour of the floors and took in the very classy design of the hotel. I must have been a sight for some of the guests as I lay on my stomach getting a shot of the corridors.
Before falling asleep I set the alarm for 7.30 and was woken by the at-first gentle sound of a ping-pong, which gradually got louder and as it did the lights in the room began to come on. A calming green light in the doorway first and then a faint orange shone through the glass walls of the bathroom. Then the blind slowly rose to announce a sunny London morning. I wish I could wake like this every morning. It was so cool.
My plan was to get out and get among the Londoners on their way to work and to get some photography in. I wanted to see what the area was like in daylight. It was a beautiful sunny, but chilly morning. I headed towards the Millennium Bridge and joined the hundreds of others on their way to work. London is a beautiful city and when the sun shines – wow! I spent about ninety minutes out on the streets getting shots and enjoying the wonderful early morning atmosphere.
After this, I headed back to the hotel and rested for a short while before heading back out to get in some more shooting. I was lucky with the weather. The sun was shining and I love to shoot into the sun to get the shadows and highlights that I like. I found this location and didn’t have to wait long to get passersby into the frame to get these two images. The black and white was shot with one of my favourite apps – 1-hour photo. If you have not tried this – then get yourself to the app store! It is a great little app for shooting black and white.
One of the great things about being in big cities is that you have lots of streets and lots of people. Find yourself a good location and work that scene. Here is an example of this. I found this theatre – whose name escapes me at the moment – with this big hand and finger pointing down. Wait! The objective is to get a passerby in motion directly under that finger. I was lucky. My patience resulted in this gentleman dressed in a red coat and red runners walk past and I was ready to snap.
After about another ninety minutes or so, I made my way back to the hotel to meet Dan Rubin, who would be interviewing me later that evening. Dan is a famous designer and photographer and I was excited about the prospect of spending time with him, getting to know him a little better and learning from him. We had a great afternoon together getting to know each other and our conversation on photography was really engaging. Without any rush or stress, we made our way into Regent’s Street to the Apple Store and got backstage to do the final prep for the interview. I liked the way Dan operated. He is easy going and makes you feel relaxed. We had had a phone call the previous week and the structure of our talk was set out. During the afternoon, many of the things that would later come up in the interview, came up organically in our conversation and without purposely rehearsing, we had worked the talk through. This meant that by the time we took to the stage, I was relaxed and ready to enjoy this experience. Before this, we were met by Robin, the events manager at the Apple Store. He was overseeing everything and also taking some photographs of us backstage. Robin was a cool guy and I wish I had more time to chat with him. I enjoyed hearing his stories of shooting some big names who come into the Apple Store.
Then a little after seven we took to the stage. I was told the attendance was about 120 people. We sat on director’s chairs on stage and the talk went like this. To begin with, we talked about my photographic journey, and in particular the story of my Shot on iPhone image, that one that is on billboards and posters all around the world, and then moved on to talk about some of my favourite images taken with the iPhone under the categories of Street, Travel and Blur. After this, I showed some of my editing with images and the apps I use for this, and to round things off there was some time for questions and answers. The talk itself took just over an hour and it was enjoyable. Once I got over the initial little nerves, I actually really liked the experience. In fact, I made sure I did. I realised this kind of thing does not happen too often and the opportunity to talk about my photography is something to be enjoyed. It was well-received by the audience and Dan was very generous in his praise during and after the talk. I am looking forward to seeing the video podcast that Apple will release in a few weeks. Here are two images taken by a friend of mine in the audience.After the event, we all headed to a restaurant just off Carnaby St. A good opportunity to get to meet so many people and to see their images and hear their stories. Here is a fellow Irishman Gavin, a very interesting character who will go far in life, I am very sure. He is, as we say, a lovable chancer!
I got back to the hotel some time after midnight, tired but happy. The next morning I got up early, checked out of the hotel (I was sad to leave this beautiful place) and got on a tube to meet Dan and Franco (the event’s sponsor) in Shoreditch. I had never been to Shoreditch before, but had seen a lot of great images from there, so I was excited to get the chance to shoot there. The only thing was that this morning it was lashing rain. After breakfast and saying goodbye to Dan and Franco, I intended to get in some shooting around the streets of Shoreditch, but it proved impossible as the rain was too heavy and I was not dressed for it. I took shelter in the doorway of a shop and to my surprise the shop assistants came out and invited me in to the shop; suggested I rest my bones on one of their sofas and asked me if I wanted the wifi password. How incredibly kind! Somehow, when I travel I tend to encounter the nicest of people. Once the rain let up, I got out to get some shots of Shoreditch. It is a place brimming with character and history and when I get back to London I most certainly will head back there. Here are a few of the shots I got there.From Shoreditch, I went on a nostalgia tour to Brixton. I had not been back there in years, but really wanted to revisit where I had lived as an 18-year old boy. I had been told that it had been gentrified and become a trendy and hip place. To be honest, I did not notice that many changes. Perhaps it was the miserable weather, but it still looked a little run down and neglected. But then I just did a short tour of the market around the tube station and up to Sudbourne Road, where I had lived in the late 80s. Maybe, I did not get to see the newly-renovated and hip places. I got a nice lunch in a little cafe there and memories came flooding back to me of the sense of community there was in Brixton. I struck up a conversation with the guy sitting on the next table and we talked about football and Ireland. The lunch – lentil soup and a piri piri chicken wrap was lovely. By this time, the rain was easing and I got out and continued on my nostalgia tour. Cork people do nostalgia better than everyone.
From Brixton, it was back into the centre of London and back into sunshine. The rain had subsided and the sun was out and all was right with the world – well, at least from my perspective. I was on the streets in a big city and enjoying it to the max. I had time on my hands and I knew the type of shots I wanted to get and I knew where to get them. Here are some of those.
From the centre of London, I headed back to Southwark to collect my bag in the hotel and make my way to Heathrow. The Southwark tube station is a wonderful station, as can be seen in this image I shot of the reflections on one of the station walls.
And so my wonderful London adventure came to an end as I arrived in Heathrow to get the plane back home to Cork. I was leaving with such great memories and some good photos, I hoped. I would like to thank Dan, Franco and to all the kind people I met at the Apple event. You made it really special for me.