Welcome to my new website. I have changed my site from just a website displays my images to a site that tells photo-driven stories about my travels. Each month we’ll visit a different city, usually at dawn, and explore through stories, experiences and of course photos.
Our first story, with accompanying photographs, is from my new book East London at Dawn. Inspired by my other books and projects on cities at dawn, I was commissioned by Leman Locke to create a limited edition photo book about my favourite part of London.
Join me as I wander East London – photographing the ancient streets of the city, the old dock yards, the street-art filled areas of Hoxton, the vibrant life of the early morning markets and constant clash of history and with the brash shiny new – all around the earliest hours of the day.
The silent city. Dawn is the time when the city stops and rests, taking a long, silent, well-needed breath. This is the time in East London when there is a break in the intensity of noise, the scent of near-chaos and the overwhelming feeling of the human presence.
The silence feels almost heavy and unnatural, so used are we city dwellers to the constant throb of cars, of the sing-song of voices swimming through the air, the jolt of unexpected noise – car horns, shouting, the near misses of collisions.
At dawn the world feels empty. A blanket of silence falls in the deepest of the night, only to break when the sun bursts through the dark blue-black sky with its magical colours.
The inky black night sky feels endless, broken only by the interruption of lights from lone cars driving through vacant streets, or the moon hanging large and full and glowing in the sky.
The air feels thicker before sunrise, heavy with night, but also with a sharpness of cold, even in summer. As the run rises and brings us warmth, it pushes the cold air forward, creating a short breeze.
Sunrise is a constant reminder that the ending of things is always followed by a beginning.
When we wake before dawn it feels as though we are entering an unspoilt day. Possibility hangs in the air. Breathe in this overwhelming feeling of newness and opportunity as you watch the sunrise, even if you believe that your day will be no different from all those before it.
Daybreak brings a feeling of connection to the eternal timelessness of London. The glory and magnificence of dawn is an invitation to look up and glance around us, as we notice the magic of this wild and chaotic city.
This city, about which Henry James declared:
“It is difficult to speak adequately or justly of London. It is not a pleasant place; it is not agreeable, or cheerful, or easy, or exempt from reproach. It is only magnificent.”
“You may call it dreary, heavy, stupid, dull, inhuman, vulgar at heart and tiresome in form. […] But these are occasional moods; and for one who takes it as I take it, London is on the whole the most possible form of life.”
The streets of East London are always brimming with energy: the vitality of its people in constant motion, creating their lives, building new futures, forming new, overlapping communities.
East London has that mix that is so unique to this city. It is not one type of architecture or people, it is ever-changing as you move from neighborhood to neighborhood, from street to street even.
This area has a vibrancy and aliveness that is exciting in a way that the rest of London can’t be, and perhaps no other city is. We get caught up in the friendly chatter of the early morning markets, the swish, cool deliciousness of the cafés, the feeling of the expanse of history in so many of its streets, occasionally being peeled back to reveal lives of years ago. And today, the past being swept away for the new and the now and the fresh.
Words by my beautiful wife and fellow traveler/ inspiration seeker Diana Bird.
Please join us on my travels by subscribing to my weekly, rich with photography and inspiration, newsletter using the box below.