Top urban photographers are often asked to share their most secret locations. The hot spots for urban photography in London and best areas of the city to visit for street photographers aren't hard to find, if you know where to start!
Here are my ultimate places for street photography in London, in no particular order, all selected after countless hours walking this city's streets.
Camden Town is just great. Street photographers from all over have always been drawn to it and Camden Lock with its markets has always been right up there for me. There I shot most of the photos in my Great Londoners series which was exhibited during my solo show at the Hoxton Hotel Holborn last year. The punks may have deserted more recently but it’s still full of quirks. It helps that I live only a few stops from it. Beware though as it sometimes gets so busy that getting the shot becomes near impossible because of the crowds of tourists. My ideal time there is 10am to 11am, just before the madness kicks in.
You’ll be hard pressed not to find that one in any London street photographer’s list. Since I moved to London in 1999, Brick Lane and its surrounding area have completely been transformed. Yet for street photography, Brick Lane remains a place where you’ll find a lot of characters and people generally a little bit more open to the idea of being photographed by a stranger.
SOUTH BANK CENTRE / NATIONAL THEATRE
With its brutalist architecture, the South Bank Centre is ideal for high contrast black and white street photography and minimal street photography with a strong focus on the lines and stark architecture. If you enjoy maximising the use of negative space, this is the place. The South Bank Centre benefits from many light wells and tunnels where light and shade can help create very geometric compositions with high contrast. Better on a bright sunny day to accentuate the shadows.
Another area of London full of characters and which really stands out from the surrounding shopping areas. What once was full of brothels and sex shops is changing rapidly. Many locals aren’t too pleased with the gentrification, but I feel Soho still retains its charm and its status of some sort of oasis in the middle of an otherwise not really interesting part of London.
This is probably the most West you’ll ever find me shooting street photography in London. I never used to even consider photography in the West End but I’ve discovered in the past years that Regent Street, especially in the winter, has a gorgeous light. Just walk down from Oxford Circus to Piccadilly Circus and at the right time, generally early morning, the long shadows cast on the pavement are really quite amazing. London black and white street photography heaven.
For street photography, London museums aren’t always the first place which springs to mind. I have with time learnt to have a little wander through them, especially the Tate Modern and you’d be surprised the amount of opportunities which can arise.
Shoreditch, aside from Brick Lane already mentioned is perfect for street photography. The graffiti and street art of East London provides the perfect backdrop for great London street photography. It's another area like Camden which has suffered from gentrification and a massive takeover form wealthy City workers, but it's still pretty cool.
Barbican is another great example of brutalist architecture. It has a certain vibe and lots of high contrast street photography opportunities, if you wait in certain spots long enough. The place is huge so just walk around it and you’ll be near guaranteed to hit the jackpot.
For a very long time I stayed well clear of these tourist spots across London. Big Ben, the London Eye, Piccadilly all seemed way too crowded. Then it clicked. Tourists make the best subjects. Between their selfie sticks and taking photos with their IPads, trust me... opportunities aren't lacking!
Taking photos of people on the underground? I spend over 600 hours a year on the London underground and so do most Londoners. So why not make the most of that time? It’s a tough place to shoot, that I’ll admit. Ideally a silent shutter will make things a lot easier and save you nasty looks from fellow passengers!
So there you are! Want to see more? Visit my dedicated London street photography gallery!
London is big enough and I'm sure you have your suggestions too!