Public Transport in London

A Photographic Subject to Explore

Using public transport in London is a matter of course for me. If I won the lottery tomorrow (I haven’t got a ticket so I won’t hold my breath) I would still much rather travel by train than by cab both for the opportunity to people-watch, and to visit some of the stations which are a work of art in themselves.

The London Underground and public transport system are an ongoing subject for me, and one that I get a surprising amount of inspiration from

London is Red

I didn’t realise how prevalent red was in London until I lived in Manhattan for a while, where the visuals seem to hang on the contrast between dark grey and the bright yellow of the ubiquitous cabs. The contrast is particularly good after rain; there’s something very beautiful about it all. But for London, red is the main event.

This prevalence is due to the public transport system – the red buses, the red circular element of the tube station signs and the Santander Cycles. But red is also the colour for post boxes and telephone boxes, and is also an important colour in many of the uniforms you’ll see like Horse Guards, The Queens Guard, and the Yeoman Warders at the Tower of London.

Public transport in London isn’t just tubes and buses; there’s the river boat service too, and there are also the bikes. The river boat is great for commuting between The Tate and Tate Modern and you can get some more unusual views from it.

Above: Santander bikes, Below: views from the river boat service

When taking these images I was doing some work on self portraiture and was also becoming aware of the importance of soundscape, and experimenting with making recordings to accompany still images. The green in the second of these images was a result of the advertising image on the wall opposite me as the train was pulling away from the station.

One of the photographers I researched on my degree course was Thomas Ruff; I looked at the work he’d produced about 9/11 and that led to me creating my own work on images that had been degraded, using a shot taken on Westminster Bridge that included a London bus.

Sometimes the station escalators are a subject in their own right. There are those stations where they are so steep that if I don’t look down at the floor I can feel like I’m falling backwards. Is that just me? I really liked the shot of the man in grey trousers, so this was one I posted on Instagram. I even took some film as it seemed like such a typical view.

There are a lot of strong leading lines and symmetry to look out for.

You can also try experimenting with reflection, night images, movement, details and unusual angles.

Then there’s experiments with glimpses of buses, taxis etc near the iconic landmarks of the city. These are perhaps too much glimpse and not strong enough, but I like the idea so I’ll retake some of these next time I’m visiting.

3 thoughts on “Public Transport in London”

  1. I love the Big Ben and Southwark station photos. Also your idea to “degrade” the iPhone image is very inspiring and came out looking great!

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    1. Thanks Melissa. There’s a photographer I want to mention here who took some amazing images on London Transport buses, just so I can say ‘have you seen the photos by….’ but I can’t recall his name! I’ll add it to this when I remember because they’re worth a look.

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  2. Really enjoyed these. I like your experimentations! I love the London Underground; as a feat of engineering, the art and design, it’s history, the nostalgia it evokes. Always has to be part of any visit to London. 😊

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