Peter Dazeley interview
Peter Dazeley interview
We talk to Coombe-based photographer Peter Dazeley about his new book, London Explored
Peter Dazeley has just completed his fourth book on London, with the photographer keen to encourage people to discover the hidden corners of the capital. We asked him to tells us more about London Explored and what he loves about London.
The highly-respected photographer was awarded a Fellowship by The Royal Photographic Society in 2013 and the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List in 2017 for his services to photography and charity.
What really surprised you when you were undertaking London Explored? As a born and bred Londoner I thought I knew London really well. But I keep discovering amazing places that I have never heard of. So, it is great fun to research and negotiate access for the book.
What challenges did you face? There have been numerous challenges, mostly regarding gaining access to locations. The hardest was dealing with the House of Commons and The House of Lords. I am a great believer in our country’s democracy, but for many years I have been writing to both the House of Lords and the House of Commons, to be allowed to take one picture from their public galleries. I want to encourage people to see how our country is run for themselves. But sadly, my last two letters didn’t even merit a reply!
Where do you love locally? I loved discovering Garrick’s Temple on the Thames at Hampton. It’s a place I have driven past thousands of times and never realised was there. It was actor / theatre manager, David Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare
Tell us about some of your other projects… I absolutely loved producing my book on London Theatres with theatre critic Michael Coveney and a foreword by Sir Mark Rylance. The weird thing about theatres is that we buy our tickets, we sit down, and we look forward in the dark to be amazed and entertained. We never see the beauty of the architecture of our wonderful theatres and their heritage.
What are you working on next? I’m well on my way with my fifth book on London. I have a list of 200 potential locations, and I have already photographed a large number such as: The Air Ambulance at the Royal London Hospital (I really needed a head for heights for this one, being so high up on the roof scared the hell out of me), the amazing Buddhapadipa Buddist Temple in Wimbledon, swan upping on the Thames, behind the scenes at Tottenham Football Club stadium, Twickenham Stadium and Kew Gardens, the wonderful Dennis Severs House dressed for Christmas, the Old Holloway Prison, and so many more wonderful places.
Where are your favourite places in London?
Deciding my favourite places is a bit like choosing your favourite child. But here’s a few:
Crystal Palace Subway – This amazing architecture which features on the cover of my book, takes us back to when the great exhibition moved to Crystal Palace. It was the entrance from the railway. First class ticket holders only, used it as the posh route. A beautiful, isolated relic of a vanished branch line.
Ace Café – on the North Circular Road. Has long been a haven for motor cyclists. Their annual reunion weekend, where they all gather outside, with their impressive motorbikes, then they all ride off for the day to Brighton. So, after taking the picture I’m left sitting there in an empty car park.
God’s Own Junkyard – Walthamstow. The showroom is absolutely stuffed full of neon signs and movie props. You can have a party, rent, buy or commission a neon sign. It also has a marriage licence.
Annabel’s Club in Berkley Square – belongs to my friend Richard Caring. The extravagance of the Club is extraordinary. As you enter Picasso’s ‘Girl with a Red Beret’ greets you. The ladies’ Powder Room has thousands of handmade silk flowers lining the ceiling. Hand carved basins in pink onyx in the shape of oyster shells with gold swan taps.
Crosby Moran Hall – formerly home of Sir Thomas More. Commissioned by Sir John Crosby between 1466 and 1475. Hosted Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII, Elizabeth1, Sir Walter Rayleigh and Shakespeare. In 1910 it was dismantled brick by brick and moved from Bishopsgate to Chelsea. It has now been spectacularly restored.
St Paul’s Cathedral, City of London, is Grade I listed and was completed in 1710 by Sir Christopher Wren. I love the staircase as featured in Harry Potter. Amazingly it just hangs off the walls.
The London Library, St James Square, W1 – been there since 1841. The Capital’s first lending library, where Charles Darwin did his research. Where Aldous Huxley, Virginia Woolf and Ian Foster were all members. A quote from Stephen Fry, who once said of its reading room:“What gyms will do for your body, this magical place can do for your mind.”