London: Portrait Of A City
Following up their truly spectacular read on a major city dear to my heart, their New York: Portrait Of A City (see my review here), Taschen offers another Reuel Golden cityscape, London: Portrait Of A City. With captions penned by the always succinct Barry Miles, the five chapters here span specific decades: 1837-1901 “The Monster City,” 1902-1938 “Modern Times,” 1939-1959-as you’d expect-“Consequences of The War,” “The Party and the Morning After,” and 1960 to early 80s and 1982-to Present “Day New Perspectives.” As always with a Taschen book there is lots of information, delivered in three languages, but it is the photographs that make these beautiful big tomes special.
There’s lots of buildings, some squalor, and arresting pictures of the early underground and a filled-to-the-rafters Haymarket Theatre in The Monster City section; it’s not hard to feel this amazing city on-the-run and rise in Modern Times as we see cars taking over and there’s a great color photo of the iconic “Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese,” an establishment I have actually been to!
Sleeping Londoners litter a tube station, there’s devastation but also business as usual with a woman stepping over rubble to mail a letter and a barber painting his sign, in the post-war 3rd section but that infamous round Coke sign in Piccadilly Circus, shots of The Beatles and The Stones, and that sexy infamous picture of Christine Keeler sparks the swinging London scene in “The Party and the Morning After” (I especially love the candid shot of Stanley Kubrick at work on a Clockwork Orange included here).
The last section opens with a startling inside/outside shot of the Great Court circular reading room of the British Museum and flows into modern London, not the very most interesting section of the book I’m afraid, but one that does complete the history of this wonderful hardcover.