I was going to use the image above to promote a new project I'm working on with a writer from Brisbane, that we're just about ready to launch as a blog on Tumblr, but which is ultimately intended for publication as a luscious coffee table book of text and image.
It fits with the title of the blog as it currently stands, but wasn't an image I necessarily felt would inspire a piece of writing from my lovely friend. And as I want to keep the majority of images I create for that project solely for that project (though the first one will be recognisable from my blog, Flickr, an issue of F-Stop Magazine, and my website), that worked out nicely, thankyouverymuch.
However, on looking up the actual name of the building on Google Maps, also specifically trying to ascertain if what I was told was correct in regard to the occupants of the building, I have to admit, I descended into rant mode.
Because, like so many other photographers in London, I've now become just a statistic in the "I'm a photographer, not a terrorist" debate that still, unfortunately, rages here.
I didn't get into a barney with the guy; it didn't get heated; I didn't have anyone threaten to confiscate my camera, my memory card, or threaten to call the police. Hell, the guy didn't even ask my name, and didn't ask to see the photo I took.
I'm guessing because he'd seen me take the photo of the ceiling in the outer entry of the building, and that was okay; but taking a photo aimed at street level wasn't, so he came to stop me at that point.
And on one level, yeah, I can kind of understand the paranoia of "You can photograph the building at a distance, above ground level, that's okay, but no images of entrances, the ground floor, etc".
I have been alive long enough to witness planes flying headlong into the World Trade Centre, the removal of all bins in major London train stations, and so on.
This gentleman's reason for me not being able to photograph the building, on this occasion, is that apparently this building houses a Metropolitan Police office. Funnily enough, there was no sign screaming this to me, I had no idea. To me it looked far too fancy for them, but maybe that's because I've watched The Bill for too long: I expect The Fuzz to be all about bleak and grey.
But this building: it has character. I only saw one section of it, close up. The rest I barely saw as we only passed by on our way from Tate Modern to Southwark Station, and I was wary about lingering too long after being berated.
And looking the building up online tonight to find it is the Palestra building, I thought about the architects. How pissed would I be, as an artist (because architects are, mostly), that this fantastic design is not able to be interpreted and recorded by other artists as a pretty interesting and stylish building?
I'm sure if Gaudi were alive and heard that power-hungry security guards were banishing photographers and artists, rendering any section of his fantastic buildings out of bounds for interpretation, he'd have a fit.
You don't create elaborate, highly decorative buildings simply so a select few* can see them. At least, that's not how I understand it. In metropolises that often harbour ugly, dated, oppressive buildings, shouldn't we be celebrating those that stand out from the crowd, not cordoning them off from bystanders?
*okay, so the entire population of London isn't a "select few", but compared to the world's population, it's kinda piddling.