REVIEW- Victorian London in Photographs | the Exhibitionologist

Originally posted on the Exhibitionologist.

This daguerreotype photograph, looking south down Whitehall from Trafalgar Square, was taken in 1839 and is thought to be the oldest photograph of London. The hustle and bustle of carriage and pedestrian traffic has been blurred by the several minute-long exposure time (©London Metropolitan Archives)

When it comes to an exhibition where I am sold on the title alone, then this has to rank right up there. Regular readers of the exhibitionologist will know, photographs – particularly old, scratchy, black-and-white ones- and the history of London constitute two of my special areas of interest. So the Victorian London in Photographs exhibition at the London Metropolitan Archives constituted a must-see, as it surely does for those with similar interests to mine.

It is testament to the scope of the Victorians’ ambition and industriousness that Victorian London feels, to some extent at least, something that still exists today. As Londoners we are surrounded by Victorian buildings, from the icons like Big Ben and Tower Bridge that have come to define the city, to the majestic town houses that a large number of us live in. While the underground city which the Victorians built we still rely on every time we travel to work by tube and every time we flush the toilet. Yet, as illustrated very simply and effectively by the large photograph on the wall that see as we enter this exhibition, the London of the 19th century looked completely different to the London of today. Dominated by the instantly familiar dome of St Paul’s this view of the City of London skyline may be, but besides for one other church steeple in the foreground, there are no buildings that form part of today’s skyline (a photograph of which is displayed alongside). A large number of buildings in this particular part of the capital were destroyed during the Blitz, and the buildings that were either built in their place during the postwar period or have come along more recently have completely changed the character of the area. However, as this exhibition reminds us, the Victorians themselves were responsible for a sizeable…

via REVIEW – Victorian London in Photographs | the Exhibitionologist.