John Davies: Highways at the Museum of London
John Davies (born 1949) is a British photographer best known for his landscapes. Throughout his career he has captured both urban and rural scenes, in Britain and further afield in France and Japan.
His latest exhibition, Highways, features six large scale prints taken from his project Metropoli, which was originally commissioned by the Museum of London in 2000. The project focused on London’s major roads, capturing them before the introduction of the congestion charge which was applied in 2003. The pieces in Highways portray six different areas within the city among them iconic thoroughfares such as St Pancras station, Bank and Hyde Park.
The subject of the photographs is as much the architecture and human presence, as the roads themselves. Captured in sunlight, the pieces appear to celebrate mankind’s ability to populate and transform the places they occupy, whilst also leading the viewer to consider how the increased rate of expansion in our cities comes at a costly price to the environment.
The photographs challenge the viewer’s own relationship with the city. As a pedestrian, it is easy to overlook the green-spaces and to maintain a mental image of the city composed mainly of crowded streets. The photograph Marble Arch and Hyde Park (2001) therefore comes as something of a shock as the majority of the image is filled by parkland and trees which stretch right to the horizon.
Blackwall Tunnel Entrance (2001) reflects the ever-changing urban landscape. The rusting gas tower echoes the industrial revolution, whilst a single mock-Tudor pub stands forlornly in the midst of a tarmac wasteland.
Another thought-provoking piece is Hammersmith Flyover (2001), which captures the city’s blend of commercial, domestic, old and new structures: from the tower blocks in the distance to the slightly shabby mid-Victorian terraces which stand before the London Ark building.
In his photographs Davies captures the lively nature and character of the city. The exhibition gives viewers an opportunity to inspect London from a different viewpoint and allows them to emerge with a fresh perspective of the spaces that they pass through daily.
Photos: John Davies