On the Sunday afternoon that tens of thousands of runners were racing or stumbling their way across the finish line at the London Marathon, the Sikh community in East Ham (east London) was celebrating Vaisakhi – a festival which commemorates the birth of the Khasala.
A Nagar Kirtan – a procession around a community with the singing of holy hymns – led by by the Panj Piare (the five beloved) wound its way around East Ham and down Green Street and past Upton Park – the home of West Ham Football Club.
There are several processions held in Sikh communities across London during April with a celebration in Trafalgar Square on the 5th May.
It was both a family event…
…and a protest against imprisonments in India…
… and a social occasion…
It is a tradition to share food with those in the procession and the bystanders watching it…
…and everyone coming along after the procession has passed, even if that means standing in the middle of the road to flag down passing motorists and give them fruit…
To my shame, in 20 years of living in London I have never been to watch the London Marathon. It involves getting up early on a Sunday morning for goodness sake! But, after the events at the Boston Marathon, I thought it was time I gave London my support.
Not being a huge fan of crowds, I and a friend headed down to Rotherhithe – not a great tourist spot – so we were guaranteed a good view, and also mercifully close to an easy-to-reach tube station – Canada Water.
Our enthusiasm knew no bounds. We cheered everyone – including the pace setters – shouted out the names on the front of runners’ shirts until we were nearly hoarse and clapped till our hands hurt.
But we had not come to see the pace setters and the man in a gorilla costume or even Neil, Nick, Paul, Peter, Emmy, Jenny, Sally, Sanj, Tom or Tim… we wanted to see the stars of last year’s Olympics and we were not disappointed.
But the biggest draw of all was Mo Farah. Oh the excitement!
But for me, while seeing the big names at an event is great fun, it is the spectators, marshalls, police and support staff who make it a great day out.
I haven’t posted for ages. Other things have taken over in my life. This has left me with a backlog of photos to post. I’ve been out in Soho again, looking through windows and this time some of the people I have photographed have looked back.
I have processed a few photos in black and white and I thought I’d share them. The top one is my favourite, though I’m annoyed with myself that I didn’t get the composition quite right and chopped off the lamp but I had to get it quickly once she had looked up – to capture that expression on her face. I also like the reflections of the illuminated Hix restaurant sign.
I particularly like the reflections in this image and the fact that his face is partially obscured by the reflections.
And his photo is all about the activity
When you think of Docklands, you think of skyscrapers and bankers – and that’s not rhyming slang. But a lot of the old London docks that went through regeneration in the 1980s are residential areas. Some already were residential – the homes of the dockers. Others have been gentrified, with huge “luxury” blocks of flats which are set apart physically and financially from the old docklands homes – rows of terraced houses, low rise council flats.
Many of the residents of those areas of Silvertown, Custom House and west Beckton look across the road to the luxury flats, the Excel Centre, hotels and a new university which have been built to look over the water of the old docks. When you walk along these roads that divide the new from the old, the divide between “them” and “us” is palpable.
One area which did do well out of the regeneration was Beckton. It now boasts treelined streets of family homes, schools, health centres, cheap supermarkets, parks, allotments and walkways away from the traffic. The open space should feel welcoming in what was once a very industrial area. But it feels desolate, souless and uncared for. And even on bright days, you meet very few people using the walkways and parks.
On days with the slightest of breezes, these open areas turn into wind tunnels. Walking across the park can be a bracing experience.
You get the feeling whoever planned the regeneration of Docklands meant well didn’t really have any idea about the needs of people.
I have been going back through my library of photos and I have found some that I like but haven’t shared on my blog yet.
These two were taken in November in Richmond Park one Sunday morning. The mist caught the sun streaming through the trees in Barn Wood in the Park. It really was breathtaking; a glorious morning to be out with my camera.
And when I turned these into black and white, the structure of the trees and the contrast of the sun and the dark trees really came to life.
No photos of the snow I’m afraid. I haven’t been well enough to go out in it or had to work to earn a crust instead of galivanting around with a camera. But I’ve been wanting to share these photos that I took before Christmas.
I took this in Mayfair – one of the most exclusive areas of London. But that doesn’t stop it having disused buildings. This poorly lit street has a sense of foreboding. This photo could have been taken at any time in the history of photography (though obviously not in colour).
In trying to convey that sinister sense of foreboding I converted it to black and white. I think the black and white gives it something but I’m not sure that it has a more foreboding atmosphere than the colour photo; it is probably less dramatic but more timeless.
I’d love to know your thoughts. Which do you prefer – the black and white or the colour?
I have become quite a voyeur! I now walk along with my head constantly turned to one side, looking through all the windows! I do like to see what is going on inside though the one above is a little different because I wanted to capture a silhouette against the light of the windows.
Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention and the short days and dark evenings and the fact that I have to do things other than photography for a living, mean that at the moment I only really get out with a camera during the hours of darkness.
And so the window theme will continue…
I took the shot above on the same night as the first one. it was the way the cafe was lit that caught my eye. I like the four lights in a row, the back lighting on the wall and the way the light falls on the glasses and shiny surfaces.
Then another thing caught my eye – the television in the corner. The breaking news being announced is that the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) is pregnant. Well this is one way of recording history. I could stand outside cafes with televisions on 24-hour news channels for hours to see if something happens!
And here’s another cafe with the telly on – not much on this time. This is round the back of Piccadilly, I suppose you could call it Mayfair. I like the window frame splitting the man’s head in two, making one half of him look shorter than the other half! There is also a lot going on. The trouble with looking through cafe and restaurant windows is that often people are just eating!
Continuing my series on looking through windows. I took this one outside a hotel in the west end of London on New Year’s Day. Trying to get her framed by the railings was difficult. I don’t like the window box thing in the bottom left corner but it was impossible not to get it in the shot. I wanted the railings to frame her and I think sticking my lens through the railings might have attracted her attention.
This roasted chestnut seller on Oxford Street was not busy despite there being quite a crowd on Oxford Street, shopping on New Year’s Day. While at an ice cream stand a few yards up the road, the crowd was three-deep. It wasn’t very cold but wasn’t exactly summer either and yet people wanted ice cream rather than hot chestnuts. Eh, there’s nowt so queer as folk.
I took this yesterday at Portobello Road Christmas Market. Taken with my iPhone I’m afraid so I can’t adjust the white balance which is a bit blue – still it was a very overcast day. And a bit of fill-in flash wouldn’t have gone amiss either. But at least it’s festive!
I’ve been peering through windows again – this time in Old Compton Street in Soho. It is an interesting street with some old fashioned shops like the Algerian Coffee Shop above and the Camisa Italian deli, coffee shops, patisseries, offices of media companies and gay clubs and bars.
At about 5pm on a Friday night it is beginning to get busy – which means clicking the shutter at just the right moment so that you don’t get people and cars you don’t want in your shot – but not so busy that you can’t see the shop fronts for people. The only problem I had while trying to get shots of the Algerian Coffee Shop was that the window attracted a lot of browsers, so getting a photo without people in was impossible.
I was waiting around for this man above to move on so that I could take a shot without people when I noticed the woman in the room above.