There’s a reason, apparently, that great photo- graphers get shots you never will. They’re prepared to do things you never would. Like getting up before 5AM to get out and on the Tube by 6AM to catch St. Paul’s Cathedral before dawn and before the crowds. But as Tosca said, “Visi D’Arte”, so that’s how I found myself London Metro’s first customer on the first full day of my mini-vacation. It was worth it.
I’ve been to St. Paul’s many times having studied for a year in London and visited many times since. But it was amazing how much of St. Paul’s I HADN’T seen before when I fought my way through screaming school groups, Japanese tour groups and hordes of other visitors. At 6AM, it was just me and the guy who was hosing down the steps on the front entrance. I circled the Cathedral taking pictures until the sun came up and it started threatening rain. Not only did I feel I had the freedom to get better shots, but I discovered the power of tripod. If your camera is on a tripod, even a cheap one like mine, people assume you are a professional photographer. Even people rushing off to work detoured around me or waited patiently while I got a shot before they walked in front of me. A few asked me what magazine this picture was going in. (In the future, I’m digging out my old television press pass to wear around my neck. Or maybe I’ll have my graphic designer friend Rob make me a new set of credentials from “Two Terrier Publishing”.)
After slipping in and taking in a service, I toured St. Paul’s interior until the tour guides brandishing umbrellas started swarming. So after playacting as a photographer, I set off to see a real one. The V&A is doing a large scale special exhibition of the photography of Lee Miller — the muse, Surrealist, war correspondant and iconoclast. Well worth it. If you are in London before January 6, catch it. If it travels to the US, find it.
Finally, from the sublime to the ridiculous. For me, the Victoria & Albert is not really about art. It’s about kitsch. It’s the world’s largest eccentric aunt’s attic. Most museums can manage to show you what is commonly accepted as art. Only the V&A can show you such oddities as a sculpture of a cow with a huge cauliflower-like growth coming out of its head. Or Tippoo’s Tiger, a large mechanical music box that shows a British soldier being savaged by a tiger, and features mechanical arms that wave in terror and a hidden organ that simulates groans and screams. How about an onyx and marble statue of a Peer’s faithful Newfoundland trampling a serpent (and helpfully titled “The Friend of Man“.) Of course there is art at the V&A including Constables, Turners, William Morris textiles and much much more. But it’s much more fun to seek out the bizzare, the strange and the items of questionable taste. You don’t have to look too hard. The kitsch takes pride of place next to the masterpieces at the V&A.
NOTE: Sorry about the funky spacing on my posts. Somehow my template got corrupted and it will take me a week or two of pouring through my HTML for Complete Bonehads to figure out how to correct it.