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A Sunday afternoon by the River Thames: a walk along the South Bank, May 2004
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A Sunday afternoon by the River Thames: a walk along the South Bank
Report by urban75 editor, 9th May 2004

London's got some of the finest river walks to be found anywhere in the world, with the South Bank section being one of the most popular stretches.

If the spectacular river views aren't enough, there's always free exhibitions and events going on, or you can just chill out on a bench with a beer and watch the world go by.

I took a stroll on a hazy but warm Spring afternoon, and grabbed a few shots on the way with my Minolta A2 digital camera.

Book fair under Waterloo Bridge, South Bank, London
Browser, book market
Situated underneath Waterloo Bridge (right outside the National Film Theatre), this second hand book fair has been going on for years.

The books are piled up in long rows and you can find English literature classics through to the off-beat and out of print, as well as old magazines, maps and prints. It's well worth a visit!

Low tide, South Bank, London
Low tide, South Bank
Today was one of the lowest tides of the year, with the River Thames receding back to reveal more of the shoreline than usual.

Children played on the sandy beach near the Festival Pier, while adults rummaged by the water's edge, hopeful of finding some hidden parts of London's history (on the other side of the river, you can find broken 18th Century clay pipes by the score)

Missing Persons, OXO Gallery, South Bank, London
Missing Persons Exhibition, OXO Gallery, South Bank
The OXO gallery was hosting a photographic exhibition of over 80 missing people to coincide with Missing Persons Month.

Hanging from the walls was a poignant mixture of family snapshots, faded holiday photos and black and white school photos, each with a sad story to tell.

Some of the stories were truly tragic and it's impossible to imagine the pain that the relatives and loved ones must be going through every day of their lives.

In many cases, there's no family argument or obvious reason for their disappearance and some choose mundane moments to vanish: one stepped out to go to the loo and was never seen again.

Perhaps one of the oddest is the case of Graham Wilde, who disappeared in 1984, age 30. Nine months later, his brother was running the Liverpool marathon and Graham emerged from the watching crowds to run the last few miles with him. He then vanished back into the crowd and has never been seen since.


Beggar, South Bank, London
Beggar, South Bank
Taken a few hundred metres from the exhibition.

All along the South Bank, someone had chalked arty slogans. The message seemed somewhat incongruous here.

Turbine hall, Tate Modern, London
'Head to Head', Turbine hall, Tate Modern
The Turbine Hall featured an exhibition of over forty heads from the Tate Collection, created over the course of the last one hundred years in plaster, bronze, stone, lead and steel.

This hand-held, long exposure was taken from the first floor.

Checking out the art, Turbine hall, Tate Modern, London
Checking out the art, Turbine hall, Tate Modern
One of the best things about the Tate Modern is that most of the exhibitions are free, encouraging people to walk in and get a headful of art.

Moving head, still head, Turbine hall, Tate Modern, London
Moving head, still head
The busts are laid out in an open grid allowing visitors to walk between them and see the heads from all angles.

I think I liked the Jacob Epstein and Alberto Giacometti heads best.

I also checked out an exhibition of the twentieth century Romanian sculptor, Constantin Brancusi, whose work involved an evolutionary search for 'pure form', reducing human heads and birds into graceful minimalistic interpretations.

Sculpture isn't usually my thing, but I rather enjoyed the exhibition!


Relaxing inside the Tate Modern, London
Relaxing inside the Tate Modern
The Tate Modern affords fabulous views over the River Thames with distinctive edifice of St Paul's dominating the view.

I stopped off for a coffee and admired the scene before being humbled (once again) by the work of master photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. Damn his genius! Whenever I think I might be getting reasonably good at this photography lark, a quick flick through his archives tell me: Must Do Better!

View from the 6th floor, Tate Modern, London
View from the 6th floor
A lone walker heads for the entrance to the Tate Modern.

Street busker with budgrears, South Bank London
Street busker with budgerigars
Due to its popularity with tourists, there's all manner of street entertainers, buskers and beggars plying for your loose change.

I'll give this guy some credit for managing to come up with something slightly different!

After walking back along the Thames, I ended up back by Waterloo Bridge and took a look at the Canon World Press Photo 2003 exhibition in the Royal Festival Hall.

After my pleasant afternoon of art and talent, reality hit me big-time as I was reminded of man's ability to both create and destroy.

This isn't an exhibition for the feint hearted. There's dreadful images of a soldier triumphantly holding a severed head aloft, a little Iraqi girl with a pink hairslide covered in appalling skin burns, dead bodies, bleeding soldiers and a catalogue of gruesome, barbaric photos of war.

It's important that people see the realities of war - and huge kudos to the impossibly brave photographers who manage to capture these awful moments - but I have to say it left me saddened and depressed. And angry.

And all this is still happening in Iraq and elsewhere right now. And for what?


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