This is London in fact, built to function like
Milton Keynes. People are supposed to behave
themselves in this environment, controlled
by the planning process itself. But the
enlargers of the passers by give another view.
Suddenly people don’t look so comfortable.
Suddenly we’re in the world of CCTV and other
surveillance, and suspicion is the order of
the day. It is the juxtaposition of the two that
gives these pictures their drive: not properly a
narrative in the city, so much as the propagation
in the viewer for a wholly artificial desire
for there to be such a narrative. We see personal
stories, in the lost gaze and in the isolation
of the enlarged faces. But the historical
stories are powerful too. Much of this environment,
placid as it seems, bears witness to
extraordinary levels of violence. The famous
‘gherkin’ office tower rises on the site of Baltic
Exchange bomb, and reminds us that long
before 9/11, Londoners have been (perforce
is the word) used to a level of public violence
that has at times been close to permanent.
St Paul’s Cathedral, seen in the background
of another view, famously survived the Blitz
more or less undamaged when all around it
was smoke and rubble. The illusion is all that
the city is offered while history is brought to
more Milton Keynesian levels of tidy respectability.
In such an environment, people may
be a threat (and the ever rising number of
cameras in the city suggests that this is how
officialdom regards them), or they may be