Thursday, 10 March 2016

Walk with me: Trafalgar Square to Imperial War Museum (btw the Lee Miller exhibition is SO good)



I have a list of exhibitions to visit and I visit them in order of which will finish the soonest. Lee Miller - A Woman's War at the Imperial War Museum finishes on 24th April so that was my pick. SO WORTH IT. And I got a great walk in. For no particular reason, I walked from Trafalgar Square and saw bits of London (both tourist stuff and lovely details) that I usually don't.


peeling bark
These trees are a very familiar London sight for me. I love the clever peeling bark - it's a self cleaning thing, perfect for trees in polluted London! In spring they shed awful fluffy seeds that drive me mad though. They properly get in my eyes and up my nose.


From Trafalgar Square I headed down Whitehall towards the clock tower. A new direction for me! I tend to usually be going either up the Strand or the Mall.



As you walk down Whitehall, you pass horse guards and Downing Street but I didn't join the crowds to take photos, just looked and marched on. (I walk too fast - Stu is always asking me to stop marching!)

I did pause to observe this monument to the women of World War 2 though - and overheard a tour guide explaining that it represents the women and the work they did during the war. Those are uniforms representing the various jobs they did, hanging on pegs all the way round. The hanging empty clothing looks quite disturbing. Intentionally perhaps? A very fitting monument to pass on my way to the Lee Miller - A Woman's War exhibition.



Not sure what this building is (some kind of government building) but it was very decorative!


And these! So many amazing buildings are just everywhere in London. Anywhere in London! But the fanciest are around here I reckon.


Big Ben clock tower - so fancy!


Then turning left to cross Westminster bridge - pretty much the only turn I did, this route is pretty straight. I liked that weird triangular cluster of buildings over there - like a dystopian Mont Saint Michel! The other side of the bridge you can see the London Eye etc but so many people were taking selfies in front of it and rain was threatening to fall.


Past Waterloo and under this big metal bridge with a rather dramatic ceiling.


And straight ahead I found myself at Lambeth North station (where I would normally arrive to visit the Imperial War Museum). It felt quite noticeably more spacious and uncrowded!


The museum is well signposted from the tube station so no more wondering if I was going the right way. I love the different colours of the paving slabs above - presumably the lighter ones are newer replacements for broken ones? I like the effect anyway!


Time to enjoy the little bursts of green growth, chewing gum flatter than pancakes and giant polka dot tights. There is a London artist (maybe more than one) who paints tiny pictures on flattened gum. It's quite amazing and fun to spot them. There were loads of them in Muswell Hill (where we used to live) and sometimes we saw him painting them! Just checked his name - it's Ben Wilson. I should go on a chewing-gum-painting-hunt soon.


Anyway, at the end of the road you reach the gardens of the Imperial War Museum, which is free (yay) although the exhibition is paid. Lucky me, I have an Art Fund card which gets me into loads of exhibitions half price/discounted/free. My parents very generously buy me Art Fund membership for my birthday, which is invaluable when exhibitions and museums are a huge reason that I love being in London! I also use their website to create my exhibition wish list and order it by end date.

The Imperial War Museum
So walk done, I still had plenty of energy for the exhibition. I admit, I wasn't sure I was going to be interested in a war photography exhibition but I had heard good things so I decided to see. Really glad I went. It is war photography but it isn't just photographs of fighting and pictures of soldiers - it's pictures of life, of people, of women and their experiences at the time.

Lee Miller was a model, turned fashion photographer for Vogue, turned war correspondent and her photographs are so human. Her photos are full of feeling and the exhibition brings her to life vividly. She seems as though she was such an amazing person. And she was just really cool. She had surrealist artists for friends and lovers. And she did what she wanted to do. She went into Hitler's house and photographed herself taking a bath in his tub, her dirty boots on his bathmat to show what she thought of him!

She documented mainly women, the work they were doing. She showed how people were suffering even after the war had ended.

Later, she suffered post traumatic stress and depression. She left photography behind and turned to cookery. Although she was a celebrity at the time, her son didn't know about her war career and only discovered her photographs after her death.

People are fascinating, how they live, how they feel and that's what I'm interested in when it comes to history. I lost interest in school history because a) it was always only English history and b) only about war, politics and power play. That's how I remember those classes anyway! Those things are important but I think life and emotion colour and inform history.

If you're in London and you haven't been to this exhibition, I recommend catching it before 24th April!

Anyone else love exhibitions? Do you make lists and how do you prioritise?



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