Hi, I'm Niki, a UK fine art photographer specialising in black & white images of London. I always aim to capture the true character of the city, from its famous landmarks to its vibrant street-life.
It was great to be invited back onto BBC London’s Robert Elms show yesterday to be interviewed about my Thames foreshore exhibition at the National Maritime Museum. I took along Eliott Wragg, one of the intrepid Thames Discovery archaeologists that I photographed for the project and a specialist in the fascinating layers of maritime history exposed at low-tide. Dotun Adebayo’s perceptive and probing questions soon had us chatting in depth about the challenges of photographing these specialists deciphering the hidden history of the Thames. Do have a listen to this 15 minute discussion. We start at 00.38 into the show.
From 1st September to 6th October, the National Maritime Museum will be hosting the #TotallyThames Festival’s ‘Maritime Lecture Series’ and featuring my photographs of those intrepid Thames Discovery archaeologists (see February Blog below). This series of 6 lectures will give fascinating insights into the river’s extraordinary history from Mesolithic times up to its shipbuilding heyday, providing a great showcase for my photographs of the archaeologists in action on the Thames foreshore. Do come along: http://www.rmg.co.uk/see-do/exhibitions-events/maritime-lecture-series-totally-thames
Blog now up on National Maritime Museum’s website: http://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/behind-the-scenes/blog/hidden-history-thames-%E2%80%93-going-going-goneShare this:
What really lurks beneath the swirling, muddy waters of the Thames? Thanks to squelching along 8 different low-tide foreshores to photograph ‘Thames Discovery’ archaeologists, I now know: layer upon layer of London’s maritime and social history, rapidly being eroded by tides and the powerful wakes of hydrofoil ferries. Tantalising glimpses of London’s previous life as a major port and shipbuilding centre can be seen whenever the tide goes out. From the Tudor/Stuart jetty of the Palace of Placentia at Greenwich, to the royal shipyards at Deptford and the vast slipways used to launch Brunel’s Great Eastern at Millwall, fascinating remnants of over 5 centuries of history are laid bare in a constantly shifting layout.
But this is transient and vulnerable archaeology. Tasked with surveying the whole foreshore, the ‘Thames Discovery Programme’ (TDP) archaeologists have gathered together an enthusiastic band of trained volunteers to help them record and promote this largely ignored part of London. Time is the enemy — they only have about 2 hours either side of low tide to explore and do their calculations before mud and water cover it all up again; plus the pace of erosion is speeding up. The Thames is a mighty river and each tide wears away at the foreshore but the churning wakes of hydrofoils are now adding to this destruction.
I would highly recommend that you grab your wellies and go and see this unique history before it’s all swept away downriver forever. Go on one of TDP’s excellent walks, or better still join up as a volunteer – as the saying goes: ‘Time and tide wait for no man’.
Greenwich foreshore: Thames Discovery site coordinator, Helen Johnston, explains the layout of what remains of the Palace of Placentia’s Tudor/Stuart jetty to a guided walk.
Greenwich foreshore: now an English Heritage ‘Site of National Importance’ to try and protect it.
Cannon St. foreshore: TDP volunteers examine layers of historical debris swept in on the tides to try and work out how London’s old port would have worked. Archaeologist, Nathalie Cohen, explains their work to visitors, whilst a hydrofoil ferry creates its wake in the background.
Cannon St. foreshore: Archaeologist, Eliott Wragg, and a TDP volunteer work fast before the tide turns.
Bermondsey foreshore: Once the site of a prosperous ship-breaking yard in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Bermondsey foreshore: Maritime history specialist, Eliott Wragg, explains the original function of massive nautical timbers and how they are eventually washed away down river.
Deptford foreshore: Here, 5 centuries of history are laid bare at low tide — Henry VIII founded the first Royal Dockyard, Samuel Pepys often visited as Chief Secretary to the Admiralty in the 17th Century and Rupert Murdoch’s News International imported paper from Sweden until 2001.
Tower Beach foreshore: After several warnings from TDP that the medieval foundations of the main river wall by the Tower of London were exposed due to erosion and that it was in danger of falling down, rock reinforcements were put in place in 2013. So far, they have held. However, ….
… you can see how much further erosion of the foreshore there has been since then, by how far the beach level has dropped below these massive bags of rocks.
Isle of Dogs foreshore opposite Greenwich: it’s amazing what you can discover about London’s unique history with TDP archaeologists, Nathalie Cohen and Eliott Wragg.Share this:
What’s going on with religion in The City of London? Intrigued by the extraordinary concentration of Wren churches and other places of worship in The Square Mile, I decided to find out. How do these historical beauties survive today? Are they still a spiritual force? How do they work as non-parish churches without resident congregations? And how do they relate to the financially-obsessed community surrounding them? What exactly is the contemporary clergy up to?
Quite a lot, as it turns out. Already, in my new ‘Religion in The City’ photo-project, I’ve come across a diversity I never expected — pop-up art exhibitions, huge wet fish displays for Harvest Festival, a Chinese choir rehearsing, high-calibre debate about policing in Britain today, jazz bands leading congregations into hidden gardens to eat jerk chicken…
Over the next year or so, my aim is to capture as much as possible of the spiritual life of The City and the day-to-day work of its clergy – so far, all I can say is that modern-day ministering appears to be both thriving and full of surprises.
‘St. James Day’ Service at St. Katharine Cree with The Rev’d Oliver Ross, Lloyd’s Choir and ‘Fascinating Rhythm’ – all heading off to a jerk chicken supper in the garden. http://sanctuaryinthecity.net/
Billingsgate fish merchants raise money for charity from their magnificent display at the St. Mary-at-Hill ‘Harvest of the Sea’ Festival. http://www.stmary-at-hill.org/
Bo Wang rehearses with the London Chinese Philharmonic Choir in St. Mary Abchurch. http://www.london-city-churches.org.uk/Churches/StMaryAbchurch/index.html
The Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, creates lively discussion with guest speaker, retired Metropolitan Police Superintendent Leroy Logan MBE, at one of her monthly ‘Thursday Conversations’. http://www.stmary-at-hill.org/
Post ‘St. James Day’ chat in the vestry. http://sanctuaryinthecity.net/
Pop-up ‘Colourblind’ exhibition by Marine Lewis, for one night only, at St. Mary-at-Hill Church. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005322098680&fref=ts
The popular Rev’d Bertrand Olivier celebrating his 10th Anniversary at All Hallows by the Tower. http://www.allhallowsbythetower.org.uk/Share this:
How do I take photographs? When invited to judge not one but two photo-competitions and come up with some ‘Top Tips’ to guide participants, I suddenly had ask myself that question and take a detailed look at how I think and what I actually do to try and capture good images. It’s been both fascinating and fun to pinpoint the thoughts and techniques that I’ve been instinctively using for many years. Turns out that there’s no magic formula, of course, just a series of general principles that might be useful to keep in mind, whatever you are photographing. So here’s what I came up with for those snapping away at either horses or Kiwiana to enter Foremost Currency’s two very different photo-competitions. The only thing I haven’t been able to convey is that wonderful buzz you get in the solar plexus when you know you’ve got that perfect shot.
Remember when Trafalgar Square was one big pigeon park? Often it was so crowded with birds that it was hard to find a way through them all – as this gentleman with the stick was finding:
‘Pigeon walker, Trafalgar Square’ 2001. http://www.nikigorick.com/photo.php?photoId=320
Back then, going to Trafalgar Square meant buying a cup of birdseed from the man in the little hut and then doing your bit for feeding London’s huge pigeon population (whilst dodging their airborne excrement):
‘Brooding lion, Trafalgar Square’ 2002. http://www.nikigorick.com/photo.php?photoId=318
The immediate winged bombardment could be alarming:
‘Pigeon feeder, Trafalgar Square’ 2001. http://www.nikigorick.com/photo.php?photoId=391
But now, all is calm and pristine clean. Not a pigeon to be seen – only the occasional brave duck:
‘Spring morning, Trafalgar Square’ 2015. http://www.nikigorick.com/photo.php?photoId=506
And all because very early in the morning the ‘birdman’ cometh:
‘Hawk arrival, Trafalgar Square’ 2015. http://www.nikigorick.com/photo.php?photoId=508
Since 2003, Harris Hawks have been let loose to cleanse the ancient square of its famous winged inhabitants, frightening them all off to feed elsewhere. There’s no more man in the hut with the birdseed and woe betide you if you disobey the no-feeding signs — the hawks are waiting:
Hawks waiting, Trafalgar Square’ 2015. http://www.nikigorick.com/photo.php?photoId=507
Over a decade of hawk flying has succeeded in transforming this central landmark space into a no-fly zone for other winged beasts but you can’t help feeling a little sorry for these hungry predators. Once they were guaranteed a snack of stray pigeon but now it’s meagre pickings – and with Hans Haacke’s ‘Gift Horse’ on the Fourth Plinth to rub it in:
Just occasionally there’s a hint of how it once was: I spotted this solitary pigeon surveying the scene from the National Gallery with the tourists – very sensibly, he moved on quickly.
It was a real thrill to be invited onto BBC London yesterday to be interviewed by Robert Elms about my City Guides exhibition on his superb London-focused show. I took along Peter Twist, one of the 26 Guides that I photographed for the exhibition and a specialist in fascinating Smithfield Meat Market tours. Robert’s perceptive and probing questions soon had us chatting in depth about the challenges of photographing this eclectic bunch of London obsessives. Do have a listen to this 15 minute discussion. We start at 01.32 into the show and end at 01.47.
I knew I’d met my match when Peter Twist invited me to rise before dawn so that he could show me the delights of Smithfield meat market. Who else but a complete London obsessive would repeatedly volunteer to give up his well-earned lie-ins as a retired policeman to enthusiastically guide people around this cold, bloody but completely fascinating London institution. And he wasn’t alone. Every one of the 26 City of London Guides that I’ve photographed for my latest exhibition as Artist-in-Residence at the Guildhall Library exuded the same obsession with celebrating The Square Mile’s many and varied facets — and there was I thinking that I’d cornered the market in high-octane enthusiasm for London.
City of London Guide, Peter Twist, taking a tour group around Smithfield Meat Market.
For this particular project, my compulsion to keep photographing The City found a new, wonderfully-illuminating focus — I became guided by the Guides, following them as part of their tours and capturing this multi-faceted part of London through their expert eyes. From architecture to literature, the Romans to Jewish history, art to gardens, Mansion House to St. Paul’s, schools to Mary Poppins, financial to ghosts, each tour gave a fresh viewpoint onto The Square Mile.
City of London Guide, Amber Raney-Kincade, doing her ‘Mary Poppins’ tour of The Square Mile.
The hardest part was choosing only 26 out of such a talented pool of Guides. The final choice was governed by my aim of showing as many themes as possible, including important locations such as the Guildhall, St. Paul’s and Mansion House, showing a balance of both sexes, as well as the diversity of age and ethnicity in the Guides, plus capturing the many different types of groups guided, from Chinese students to the blind and partially-sighted, from school children to vigorous retirees.
City of London Guide, Matt Gedge, by Mansion House, doing one of his ‘Liar, Liar’ tours.
On a practical level — and in keeping with my trademark style of photographing London candidly, with no posed shots — I needed to create the images by following Guides on their normal walks, without disrupting their flow in any way. Just being part of the group was essential, as was first gaining permission from other walkers to include them in the photographs (no problems there, once I explained that I was primarily interested in the Guide and that the images were for an exhibition commissioned by the Corporation of London). I would then ask them to ignore me, which, again, was no problem, as they soon became far too engrossed in the fascinating talks by each Guide to notice me clicking away.
City of London Guide, Tina Baxter, doing a tour of The Square Mile.
It’s been hugely exciting to discover a whole army of people with an infectious enthusiasm to show others The Square Mile from all sorts of viewpoints in multiple ways. City of London Guides are truly Ambassadors for their unique patch of London.
Go see the exhibition at the Guildhall Library from 24th November 2014 to 14th March 2015 and let them inspire you to explore more.
Then go to the City of London Guides website and book a tour:
I’ve now created two exhibition Photo-sets as Artist-in-Residence at the Guildhall Library, with a third scheduled for November and more to come. It’s a fantastic opportunity to take a really close look at different aspects of the City of London. In each one, I choose a different theme — so far, it’s been ‘City Life’, ‘City Workers’ and ‘City Guides’ — aiming to give as dynamic and interesting an overview as possible, in just 26 prints. I say ‘just’ 26 because there are many more images that don’t make the cut. When I’m taking the photographs, I am out to capture as many different viewpoints on the subject as I can but then a strict and not always straight-forward editing process takes over. Before I even start, advance publicity demands the all important ‘lead’ image. This must illustrate the subject in an immediately eye-catching way and entice people to want to see more and actually come along to the exhibition:
‘City deal overlooking Mansion House’ – the publicity image chosen for the ‘City Life’ exhibition Photo-set because of its strikingly simple graphic lines and the intriguing possible scenarios for the two figures.
‘City workers on the move’ – the publicity image for the ‘City Workers’ exhibition in which a building grid carried through suited gents is an arresting sight and perfectly illustrates the subtitle of ‘Hard Hats & Uniforms keeping The Square Mile moving’.
When choosing the other 25 images to include in the actual Photo-set, I’m looking for a dynamic mix with a variety of content, perspective and form. Most of these separately framed images of different shapes and sizes are not the standard rectangular 3:2 aspect ratio and so a major factor is whether an image will work when cropped to fit a particular space within the overall layout. But with this apparent restriction comes an unexpected freedom to find exciting new pictures within the original photograph. For example, it’s fascinating to see how the contrast of the different types of walking men and their horizontal movement is dramatically highlighted when the ‘City workers on the move’ image shown above is cropped to become a slim panoramic for the photo-set itself:
Like a giant jigsaw puzzle, the Photo-set finally clicks into place. It’s a strangely intuitive and very satisfying process. I look forward to creating many more.
Do go along to the Guildhall Library to view the ‘City Workers’ Photo-set, showing until 19th July 2014. http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visiting-the-city/archives-and-city-history/guildhall-library/exhibitions/Pages/City-Workers-Hard-Hats-and-Uniforms.aspx
‘City Life – The Square Miles’ many Faces’ was exhibited at the Guildhall Library from 6th January to 11th April 2014.
The next Photo-set exhibition ‘City Guides – Ambassadors of The Square Mile’ opens on 24th November 2014.Share this: