London Nights at the Museum of London
Being in this city at night is an experience that we often take for granted, but it’s also one that is unique, powerful and complex in many ways. London Nights at the Museum of London is a new exhibition of photography that features scenes of the city after dark, evoking sensations of wonder, menace and voyeurism.
Bringing together over 200 works, the exhibition reflects on many diverse aspects of London life, from the excitement of the lights of Piccadilly Circus to the forgotten underside of the M25, via the city’s suburban reaches. The show is divided into three distinct sections. In London Illuminated, we are introduced to early attempts to document nocturnal scenes (a difficult technical feat) and the effects of living in a permanently illuminated urban environment. Highlights include pieces by the amateur photographer Mercie Lack, whose lantern slides focus on touristic locations, while subtly raising questions of what it means to be a woman photographer working at night in the 1930s. A recent series by William Eckersley offers a very different but equally powerful perspective, capturing lit-up spaces that are devoid of human life, such as a trolley-strewn supermarket car park.
In the section entitled Dark Matters, the show points to the feelings of fear, threat and vulnerability that can be evoked by the city after dark. Emotive responses are elicited by artists such as David George, whose photographs capture areas associated with the director Alfred Hitchcock and are imbued with a Hitchcockian sense of menace. Lewis Bush’s Metropole series is similarly disturbing, using multiple exposures to highlight the overwhelming ubiquity of unidentified office blocks in London.
The final section, Switch On Switch Off, draws together a complex web of associations regarding work and play, commuting, and the night-time economy of cleaners and sex workers. Nick Turpin’s 2014 series On the Night Bus captures evocative snapshots of commuters leaning against steamed-up night bus windows, while Tish Murtha and Karen Leslie’s 1980s collaboration intimately captures the night-time sex trade in Soho.
Presented in a space devoid of natural light, London Nights evokes a nocturnal environment, which will be further enhanced by late-night openings on Fridays, appropriately allowing visitors to make exhibition-going one of their evening activities. As the show’s curator Anna Sparham puts it: “We want visitors to leave the realities of daytime behind as they enter the exhibition to explore the light and dark aspects through the varied approaches of image-makers; emerging back into the city’s night with freshly enthused eyes.”
Featured Image: From the series Dark City by William-Eckersley, 2011
London Nights is at the Museum of London from 11th May until 11th November 2018. For further information or to book visit the museum’s website here.