Whether you’re a Londoner born n’ bred or you just love living in or visiting the capital city, there’s something special about the Museum of London’s latest portrayal of this great metropolis.
London Nights is a major photography exhibition revealing a side of the city most of us sleep right through – that spooky, beautiful or unknown part of the enormous urban expanse that exists after dark. There are 200 images in total, dating from the Victorian era all the way up to contemporary photojournalism and artworks, and much of the exhibition’s impact is achieved through the inevitable contrasts inherent within London through the ages.
“’London Nights’ will explore everything from the twinkling lights and buzzing nightlife to the darker, more uncomfortable vulnerability that sometimes arises in the urban or suburban night environment,” says Anna Sparham, Curator of Photography at the Museum of London.
You’ll catch some of the best city photographers’ work including Nick Turpin, Rut Blees Luxemburg, Tish Murtha, Bill Brandt and Alvin Langdon Coburn. Images of wartime – the Blizt and Blackouts – sit strangely alongside photos of the evening commute, glittering club scene and those eerie darker sides of any major city: the underbelly of its glamour. From the heart of central London to its outermost reaches, this exhibition allows viewers to explore this noctural London without actually losing any sleep. Until you go and see the pictures yourself, it’s almost impossible to believe that a scene depicting trolleys in an empty car park could be quite so evocative, suggestive of a weird other-worldy London that somehow resembles ‘the Upside-Down’ in Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things. (For those who haven’t watched this, the upside-down is quite literally the alternative reality that exists beneath the surface, a macabre and threatening place where some humans get stuck.)
Here the London darkness is examined in three main segments. First, there’s London Illuminated, which explores the bright lights of the capital from the 19th century to today and reflects on how artificial light can transform the aesthetic of the city after dark. Next, there’s Dark Matters, which takes visitors deeper into darkness, and explores themes of threat and vulnerability, both real and imagined. And last, there’s Switch on Switch Off, which is more about people interacting with the nighttime, whether that be following commuters on their way home or heading to work or into the fast-paced world of London’s nightlife.
There are also two free displays that go with the exhibition: Dark Corners, which, in collaboration with British Journal of Photography, exhibits winning entries from a competition revealing North, South, East, West and Central London at night and from new perspectives; and Night Visions, which explores nocturnal imagery by post-graduate photography students from the London College of Communication and Royal College of Art.
The exhibition runs until 11 November, tickets from £10 with late opening 9.30pm Fridays.