Does London have a distinct Identity?

Dorothy Bohm
Petticoat Lane Market, East End, London 1960s
© Dorothy Bohm Archive

This summer London has been the focus of a lot of international attention and in response The Great British Art Debate has been thinking about the capital and its cultural identity. Does London have a distinct image or identity and, if so, how it can be described?

In search of a different perspective on the British capital we took a walk to ‘Another London’, an exhibition currently at Tate Britain that examines different ways in which London has been captured by foreign photographers.

James Barnor ‘Mike Eghan at Piccadilly Circus, London’ (1967)
© James Barnor / AutographABP

Perhaps a little unsurprising for an exhibition that takes note of London as a place that with no single style, ‘Another London‘ takes a variety of photographic approaches to the city. At some points this gives a glimpse into parts of the city that have passed, such as Rene Groebli’s, ‘ Tram on Westminster Bridge’ and at others makes reference to the city’s more recognisable landmarks as with James Barnor’s, ‘Mike Eghan at Piccadilly Circus, London’ above.

However, some of the most intriguing insight into London’s lack of aesthetic consistency is shown in images that depict the diversity of life that is played out openly on its streets, a subject that captured Bruce Davidson’s imagination when visiting London in the 1960’s.

In the later parts of the exhibition, the images take a twist and present subculture, social change and an all together more self aware London. In the photographs of Neil Kenlock, official photographer for the Black Panthers, this is shown in the stands that prominent protest campaigns made against inequality. Alternatively for Knorr and Richon the drive for change sprang from debates around the politics of representation and punk culture in the clubs ofCovent Garden.

Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon
Roxy 4 from the ‘Punk series’ 1976
© Karen Knorr and Olivier Richon

Through all of its attempts to represent the city, ‘Another London‘ asks the viewer to question their own relationship with the city. How do you see London’s cultural identity? How do you place yourself within it?

Another London will continue at Tate Britain until 16th September only, so head down this weekend if you would like to see the exhibition in full.


Posted on by Amy Jackson-Bruce
Filed under Blog

About Amy Jackson-Bruce

Amy Jackson-Bruce is the new Online Co-Ordinator for The Great British Art Debate.

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