Walking back to my office from a meeting today, I stopped at my car to pick up my laptop. A middle-aged man was standing outside our car park with a camera in his hand, considering the wall of the parking lot with some interest. As I walked past, he smiled and said he was glad I had come out, as he needed a bit of elegance for his shot.
We got talking and he explained that he was a photographer, and that whilst travelling in Egypt recently had stumbled on the idea of advertising boards and other hoardings being the artistic backdrop of city life. The wall of our car park had been pasted with a light blue paper, which had been painted with graffiti images of people – an artistic effort rather than an act of vandalism, we assumed.
We waited a moment until a good-looking young girl walked past with some coffees in her hand, and the gentleman took his shot. He showed me the image in his digital camera, shielding the view screen for me with his scarf. The composite image of the girl striding past this unusual backdrop was indeed striking. This man was indeed a photographer and a good one at that.
He asked me if I was Irish (the accent is always a giveaway) and said that Seamus Heaney had just inspired him to notice place names, as he had been listening to him on a radio programme earlier talking about Irish place names. We chatted about this, and I said that Irish names mean nothing to others but to the Irish they are really significant and often beautifully descriptive.
The gentleman pointed out the name of the street we were standing on – Valentine Place – and how the name conjured up such a different image in one’s mind to the one he had just captured.
As I made to leave, he tipped his hat to me in an old-fashioned but genuinely natural manner. He extended his had to shake mine as he introduced himself as Barry Lategan, a photographer who took the very first pictures of a young model called Twiggy. I walked back to my office thinking how amazing this part of London is with all its theatres and art houses so close by. Just by wandering about at lunchtime I have bumped into Sir Ian McKellan and now a famous London photographer.
Don’t you just love this city?