Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Belly of the Beast

As a few of my photo-chums know, I’ve just spent what for me is a buttock-clenching amount of money on a new compact digital camera.

One of the main reasons why I picked it up is that it packs the widest-angle lens currently available on a compact. Wide-angle compacts are thin on the ground because a) for technical reasons they are expensive to make, and b) most people are much more interested in telephoto lenses. I think that’s at least partly because long lenses appeal to the voyeuristic side of human nature.

However, most interesting pictures, certainly the most interesting photo-journalistic images, are usually taken with wide-angle lenses. That’s because to use a wide-angle lens effectively you have to get close to and become involved with your subject and even when you do there is still a lot of space that can be filled with context. Good wide-angle pictures tell a story.

So, for example, when I got up early this morning and went for a stroll around Vauxhall to take some test pictures with my new wide-angle camera I was able to include a discarded copy of
Hard On magazine in the foreground and the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (very popular with readers of Hard On magazine) in the background...

Subject and Context


But there’s a lot more to Vauxhall than pavement filth and eye-wateringly aggressive gay drinking establishments. There’s the fabulously expensive new solar powered bus station




and the area is also littered with the latest manifestations of the Metropolitan Police’s ongoing campaign to deal with people’s perception of crime as well as crime itself. Because, as Commissioner Ian Blair so frequently reminds us, people’s fear of crime is rising even though crime itself is falling…



Leave it on show

Expect it to go



Chaucer would have been proud

Of course, Vauxhall’s most notable landmark is not the solar-powered bus station or the
Royal Vauxhall Tavern or warmly reassuring posters about street crime it’s…


Old Spooky


and what’s really cool is how you can stand in what presumably is the MI6 building’s alfresco party barbecue area/ mock pagan temple and line up Millbank Tower (ex Labour Party HQ), Thames House (Meye5 central) and the Houses of Parliament


Millbank Tower, Thames House, HoP



When it comes to being in the Belly of the Beast Vauxhall sure takes some beating.

Sadly, the old Millbank Prison that once stood on the North Bank of the Thames opposite the MI6 building’s location was demolished years ago. It would have fitted in with the current physical and psychological landscape perfectly…



The Panopticon is a type of prison building designed by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham in the late eighteenth century. The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell if they are being observed or not, thus conveying a "sentiment of an invisible omniscience." In his own words, Bentham described the Panopticon as "a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example


I was particularly gratified this morning to notice that a fellow Pyramid connoisseur and MI6 Building fan had clearly left his mark on Vauxhall Bridge…




and that building does fascinate me. All buildings are an encoded statement of one kind or another. Unless, that is, they are perfectly rectangular and totally utilitarian which even then is a statement of sorts (‘
I’m cheap’, ‘I don’t give a fuck’).

And one thing’s for sure, the MI6 building is saying something. As well as being festooned with all sorts of peculiar little architectural features there is the small matter of the view from above...




Now I’ve said it before but to me it is reminiscent of the owl motif (aka ‘Moloch’) that crops up hidden in dollar bills, the Washington street plan and as the large concrete pagan idol, voiced over by Walter Cronkite, at Bohemian Grove in front of which past and current Presidents and Prime Ministers make mock child sacrifices (weird but true)...




On the other hand, someone has pointed out to me that it also looks like a Transformer Terrabot...



So, I have to concede that the Owl connection is hardly cast-iron

There's another possible connection/ synchronism that did tickle me though, I saw a clip from a restored print of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis a few months ago and the ‘Heart Machine’, the power plant running Metropolis is represented as the flaming idol Moloch, a furnace stoked on human flesh…



and guess what I was reminded of the moment I saw it...


Join MI6 today - it's a hoot...


Well, it was just a thought


.

13 comments:

SteveW said...

ahh Millbank tower.I could never remember what it was called.When I was a motorbike courier,I once delivered a package there.I came face to face with Gordon Brown on the stairs leading to reception.I nearly smashed his face in on the spot.He gave me the kind of look that starts fights in pubs.Like I was a dogturd he'd stepped in.Luckily for him a security guard saw it all and ushered me away whispering.."don't take it personal mate,he's like that with everyone"I've despised him ever since.
Is it possible to supply a link that would give me the low down on this nappy and rocking horse story?
It caught my attention after Webster Tarpley mentioned that two sources had told him Blair and Brown were being blackmailed into the GWOT by their connection to a european elite paedo ring.
Your picture of Millbank tower reminded me of BraveNewWorldOrder.If you don't already know him,check out www.thebravenewworldorder.blogspot.com when you have nothing better to do.Its way out there; 911 as a stargate mega-ritual kind of thing,but its very well done.
Thanks for the blog-I used to live in Brixton and I'm familiar with a lot of the places you mention.You make me laugh sometimes,which is always important.

Wolfie said...

In Greek mythology, the owl was sacred to Athena, the goddess of wisdom. As such it was considered a protector of the Greek armies: if an owl flew over the army before battle, this was believed to be a sign of victory. The owl was also depicted on coins. Because of its relation with night and the moon, the owl was more a symbol of intuitive than of rational knowledge. The Little owl owes its scientific name, Athene noctua, to the Greek goddess. A Greek myth tells how the man Ascalaphus, who betrayed the fact that Persephone had eaten a pomegranate while in the Underworld with Hades, was punished by being turned into an owl.

Shutter said...

It is said that a camel is a horse designed by a committee, well the Puzzle Palace is a building designed by Civil Servants all of whom were allowed to jiggle bits about, add, takeaway as they saw fit.

Just so long as its symmetrical - it is architecture after all. Isn't it ?

I also know where the tunnel under Thames goes to.

paul said...

I like robin ramsay of lobster's summation of the terry farrell monstrosity - a giant fuck you to the general public.

Don't recall the prince of wales disparaging it. Maybe its his kind of architecture

paul said...

I misrecalled
The £200 million (overspend) was a big 'fuck you' to the rest of Whitehall - and the politicians. Whitehall couldn't stop them and didn't bother telling the politicians until it had happened.

link

Apprentice said...

Those photos are fab. Bugger the noise, it really doesn't matter.

Lovely post too, made me chuckle, and as someone else has already said, that's very important. :)

Stef said...

@apprentice: Those photos are fab thanks, that one at Bohemian Grove was a bugger to take

Stef said...

@stevew: the Gordon Brwno Rocking Horse story has been around a fair while and has been given a higher profile on the Net by commentators on Paul Staines' blog...

http://tinyurl.com/2849nk

"The Gordon rocking horse nappy story is, like many legends, something that has been handed down through the years by word of mouth.

The key players in the story vary from story-teller to story-teller. The key components of the story alter and the degree of detail can also alter upon each re-telling.

The unchanging facets of the story involve rocking horses, nappies, the one-eyed-cyclops himself and photos.

The photos are the Holy Grail of this legend. The keeper of the Holy Grail is said by some to be the Great Circus Master himself. In this version of the legend he stores the images deep in the dungeon vaults of News International. In other versions of the story our Trade Commissioner keeps them and in more plausible versions of the legend Prezza keeps them with his little black book as insurance. The latter could explain his grip on office..."

Stef said...

... personally speaking, even if the story is true (and many people would love it to be) and I were Gordon Brwno I'd be a lot less embarrassed by being photographed wearing a nappy than people gradually realising that I'd systematically fucked the British economy and lives of the 'bottom' 99% of the population for at least the next generation

But that's just me

Stef said...

@wolfie - nice quote...

Wolfie said...

Oooh a Ricoh Caplio GX100.

24-72mm 10M pixel 1600 ISO !

Good choice Sir.

Shahid said...

great pics - btw - the builing looks like an owl from the front too....

Stef said...

@shutter:

I also know where the tunnel under Thames goes to.

It wouldn't be in the general direction of Whitehall by any chance?

@wolfie:

I hope so