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: