I remember the first time I moved to London for university in 2011. My bags unpacked and my mum waved off, my first foray into the Big City was an evening walk along the Strand and over towards Blackfriars Bridge with some new friends. Seeing London by night – by myself, with no adult in tow – was something completely new to me. The crowds of business workers had dispersed and tourists were tucked into restaurants and theatres, leaving only London’s array of interesting locals scattered around the streets.
Rather than feeling scared or overwhelmed, this was a pretty monumental evening for me. As a town girl through-and-through, seeing city life roll on past sunset and into the night was eye-opening. There were new experiences to be had and new sights to see in a different light, and suddenly my live had just got that little bigger.
London Nights Photography Exhibition
Today, London by night is something I’m much more familiar with. With work, late-night gigs and blogging events, I often find myself rushing around the city by myself at night. And London by night still has a whole different feel than London by day, as people race home and the frantic work day comes to a close.
It’s this interesting phenomenon that is tackled at London Nights, a new photographic exhibition at the Museum of London. Featuring over 200 pieces of work by 60 photographers, the exhibition takes you on a journey of London at night – from the 19th century to the present day. It takes in key sights at night, as well as iconic events like King Edward VII’s coronation procession route in 1902, and the flashing neon lights of the West End.
The concept of looking at the history of London by night is a simple one but one that really blew my mind. The exhibition itself looks at the way people work, play and relax in the capital at night, and it really brings the many faces of the city to life. There are the tops of clubbers’ heads accentuated by the venue’s flashing lights; the weary worker leaning against the bus window; and drag queens gearing up for a performance. It reminded me of the many different lives that are led all over the city.
Some of my favourite photos, however, were those taken during World War II. Nighttime obviously took on a very different feel, what with the Blackout to confuse enemy aircrafts. With street lights dimmed or turned off and windows covered with black paint or cardboard, London’s landscape would have been completely different to what we’re used to.
Another range of photos that caught my eye were those by Chris Shaw, a night porter who worked in several London hotels between 1993 and 2004. During his shifts he’d take photos to help him stay awake, and the photos reveal a relatively unseen side to hotels, from drunk guests to drowsy colleagues!
What I like most about the exhibition is the fact it appeals to so many people. Whether you’re into London, photography, history, sociology or feminist issues, the exhibition really delves into so many different areas. I can’t recommend it enough!
The London Nights exhibition is on at the London Wall site of the Museum of London until 11th November 2018. Late-night entry is every Friday until 9:30pm. Entry is from £10, but under 16s go free!
Note: I was provided with complimentary entry to London Nights, but I was under no obligation to write about it. I just loved it and thought you would too!