An old man bent over his cane walks towards an unknown destination. In the distance is the outline of a Gothic belfry. A swallow takes flight from the spire of a tower with a clock face that is oddly familiar. That’s when we finally make out the statue of Winston Churchill, Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and the imposing Battersea Power Station southwest of the Thames and still awaiting restoration.
With Eternal London, the Italian photographer Giacomo Brunelli (b. 1977) has tried to reinvent the city’s most popular tourist sights. This new series of black-and-white film photographs shot between 2012 and 2013 was commissioned by the Photographers’ Gallery. The result of their first collaboration is a modest but successful exhibition. With only a dozen photos, displayed on the dark walls of the gallery’s basement, Brunelli plunges viewers into pure contemplation, freeing them from the constraints of time. London becomes an entity that is at once elusive and eternal. To achieve this, the photographer has left the photographs untitled, giving no indication as to the identity of the historical monument depicted. Nonetheless, we recognize something in them, even if we’re unable to place them in a particular space-time.
Brunelli shot these pictures during long morning walks, during which he followed random people. His camera, often positioned at this chest, captures close-ups of a fleeting moment, reminding viewers of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment.” The artist is known for his series The Animals I/II (2005-2009), portraits of animals he encountered during his tours of Italy. His affinity for animals can be seen in Eternal London: swallows, horses, dogs and swans are given more prominence than human figure, which is often seen from behind. We also see his peculiar style and his use of deep black-and-white, which makes the shapes in his photographs seem almost imaginary. Brunelli is very attached to his camera, a Miranda Sensomat 35 which he inherited from his father and still uses today.
For hardcore fans of perfidious Albion’s bustling capital, the exhibition runs through April 27th and is accompanied by a book available from Dewi Lewis.
Giacomo Brunelli : Eternal London
February 27 – April 27, 2014
16-18 Ramillies Street
London W1F 7LW
+ 44 (0)20 7087 9300
Eternal London, éditions Dexi Lewis :