Saturday, 9 March 2013

npg photo portrait of the year exhibition; shard view

On Saturday 26th January, with Bethan's dad, we visited a photo portrait of the year exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in the morning and went up the Shard in the afternoon.

The portrait exhibition was interesting in that it was hard to work out what constituted, in the competition's terms, a good portrait. Sometimes you thought the photo was unremarkable but of a striking subject. Actually a lot of the photos felt unremarkable, and seemed to have paid little or no attention to the framing or distracting or extraneous details. Sometimes the photos were unremarkable in both composition or content, but given their meaning or strikingness by the information in the caption, which seemed to be a bit of a cheat; it's not the photo in itself, it's your background knowledge of the photos.

We had got free tickets to go up The Shard, preview tickets for Southwark residents from the library, before the selling tickets opening dates. We both queued up and got four tickets, so we gave the morning ones to friends at work. In some ways I'd have been happy to go twice, as both times had drawbacks. It was I think less hazy in the morning and less cloudy, with some actual sunshine, but on the other hand in the afternoon we were able to see it get darker, which was frustrating at first since you lost the light for photos, but then as it got darker the lights of London started to come on and you got a whole diferent view, though not really one you could take photos of with my camera at least. The tickets aren't time limted, so you can stay as long as you like, and it would be lovely to stay up there all day (with your sandwiches), but I don't think there are toilets up there, probably for that very reason.

The view was really like seeing London from an aeroplane, without going in a plane. It was slightly disappointing at the start, because I was very focussed on getting photos and thinking I wasn't getting very good photos, because of the haze and the windows not being as clean as you might expect (in the morning they had the kick of seeing the window cleaners up at their level, but that did mean that the windows were damp and streaky). In fact I started to enjoy it a lot more when I got to the end of taking photos and then just started looking at the view and the patterns and teh shape of London. The first viewing level was probably marginally better for taking photos; the upper level had the novelty of being open to the sky, so you were out in the cold air. I don't expect we'll ever go up again, unless we get free tickets again. The price is almost thirty pounds pre-booked and a hundred pounds on the door.