Night Scrapes

London looks its best when animated by electric lights

Take a visitor on a stroll through your native city and you are made all too aware of how we take the familiar for granted, even when the familiar consists of buildings as extraordinary as some of those pictured here: the Post Office Tower (since renamed in honour of the privatised British Telecom), Centre Point, Lloyd's and the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras.

Etienne Clement is a Parisian photographer, settled recently in London, who prowls the capital at night. He sees London as few indigenous nighthawks do. His shot of the central shaft of the Telecom Tower is at once familiar yet oddly unsettling. The viewer blinks twice at this curiously-angled image before recognising the steel and glass outline of the famous 620-ft radio, telephone and TV transmitter.

Clement's chiaroscuro approach is not perverse: it is both very beautiful (the quality of his highly crafted photographic prints is a joy) and reminds us that this is a building most of us know only as an abstract. If you walk past, you will surely miss it. Shooting up from a concrete base in the middle of an anonymous block of Government buildings, the tower, as thin as Trish Goff, shoots obscurely into the West End sky. The only way to see it in all its elongated glory is from unlikely, neck-straining angles and from miles away.

Or at night; for it is at night that many overlooked buildings come to life and josh lazy eyes into focus. There is little doubt that the London skyline, or the skyscape of most modernised cities, looks best when the sun has dropped over the concrete horizon and electric light animates streets and embankments, rivers, domes and towers. In recent weeks, Londoners have been rewarded with peerless views of St Paul's Cathedral, the River Thames and the City from the glamorous new restaurant crowning the reinvigorated Oxo Building on the South Bank, between the National Theatre and Blackfriars Bridge (see p50). It is worth the price of a chic cocktail for this view alone; we gawp like schoolchildren on our first trip to the Tower of London.

Night works a special magic, igniting mysterious windows secreted amongst the upper storeys of abandoned warehouses, seedy hotels and offices well past their rental date. Who could possibly be working this late at night in that sad early Sixties office block? Which budding poet or breadline hack is scribbling in that attic above a cornice line defaced by flea- ridden feral pigeons?

Doorways that by day seem innocuous when closed to Soho streets, spell guilt and furtiveness by night as they spill lurid light from bare 60-watt red bulbs onto narrow pavements. Night illuminates the city in ways that render beautiful battered buildings and worn faces - even the deregulated, smoke-spewing double- deckers that foul London streets. In Clement's lens, St Pancras (designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott) becomes the stuff of bat-winged Gothic horror, whilst the Lloyd's building in Leadenhall Street, by Richard Rogers, could be a set-design from Metropolis, and Centre Point, a megalomaniacal concrete bee-hive.

There are photographers employed to flatter architects' new glass buildings by photographing them at night. But Etienne Clement does not give the night-time city a romantic gloss; he gets under its worn and familiar skin and takes us on a film-noirish adventure.

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

    £300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

    KS1 Teacher

    £95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

    HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

    £32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?