London Photographs

Peter Marshall

from 1974 on

Back to London

In 1974 I moved back almost to London, a few miles from where I was born and grew up, buying a small 1880s semi-detached house in Staines, formerly the main town in south-west Middlesex. When Middlesex was absorbed into Greater London by the local government reforms in 1965, local conservatives, particularly those in Shepperton and Sunbury were appalled by the idea of being lumped in with Hounslow and declared UDI, leaving the roots of the area in Middlesex and joining its old rival Surrey across the opposite side of the Thames, much to the distress of many of the residents of the more urban Staines, Ashford and Stanwell who felt strong links with London rather than the wealthy and leafy Home County of Surrey.

We moved to Staines because it had a railway station with good services to Waterloo, walking distance from where my wife worked in central London, to Bracknell where I was working and where we had been living in a new town property, buying a property in a quiet street five minutes walk from the station - where we still live.

For the first few years my visits to photograph London were fairly infrequent, with work and soon a young family taking up much of my time. But moving to a new post a short bike ride from home gave me more time, and our two sons got older and I was able to go up to photograph London more often - sometimes with a very young assistant at my side.

The Buildings of London

It was in 1986 that I began my project to photograph the whole of London, and in particular its buildings. In part it became possible because of the changes to transport in London that had been brought in by Ken Livingstone and the Greater London council, in particular bringing together the trains, underground and buses under a single ticketing system with the Travelcard, which revolutionised moving around the capital.

Before that time, my walks were often more or less at random, allowing myself to be led by what I saw or felt , and some of the pictures from these make up my book 'London Dérives', but now I began a much more systematic exploration. I started in the City and inner boroughs, aiming if not to walk down every street at least to look down it from each corner and decide if it was worth doing so, and examining maps, both ancient and up-to-date for any features of interest. I went out with photocopies of pages from a street atlas, marking my routes when I got home with highlighter pens to be sure I had covered each area fully. I wanted to photograph everything of interest in the built landscape, and to include examples of the typical as well as the unusual.

I had some particular interests, and was very aware that many exisiting collections concentrated on just a few of London's buildings - mainly those of great age and especially churches. I wanted to photograph 20th century buildings of all types, but particularly factories and commercial buildings, as well as producing a portfolio of 'Modern London'. Some of these pictures I took were bought for the National Building Record, whose collection of some areas was largely composed of pictures of churches taken by the local vicar - many of whom in earlier days had large amounts of time on their hands and were keen amatuer photographers.

As well as the main project to document the buildings of London I also worked at the same time on other themes, such as a series of colour images, some of which became part of a work called Café Ideal, Cool Blondes, and Paradise', which were taken on the same explorations. At times, before starting work on London's buildings I would spend a few hours on something completely different, photographing people and events on the street.

A few of these images were put on line in one of my earliest web sites in 1986, which I added to and re-wrote in 1998, with a few later additions and corrections. The site enabled the pictures to be displayed either by location, by period or by type, but it proved difficult to categorise the images and the site was not readily scaleable. One solution would be to use some sort of content management system, but I've instead decided to go for a simple solution in which each image caption will include relevant information which can then be found by searching.


London Photographs - The Buildings of London
From 1974 on