We’re all constantly searching for new locations in which to produce some great street photography. In this, the first of a series of articles on street photography ‘hot spots’, we expolore London’s Fleet Street, from the Royal Courts of Justice in the west to St Paul’s Cathedral in the east. Once the home of the UK’s newspaper industry (and it still is the spiritual home in my opinion!), Fleet Street retains a unique character and has plenty to offer the street photographer in London.
There’s enough to keep you occupied for a full day here, but where do you start? Well, my plan would go something like this . . .
Start at the Royal Courts of Justice. If you arrive at around 0930hrs, the chances are there will be a big media presence for some important case – and there could well be some interesting opportunities there. Don’t be afraid to shoot anything and anyone; as long as you’re outside the ‘court precincts’ – ie. on the pavement – there are no restrictions on what you can photograph. Look for the lawyers in the robes and wigs, the clerks pushing trollies laden with documents, the anxious parties in the cases. There’s a wide zebra crossing outside the court main entrance (I love using these in street photography) and there will be plenty of buses, taxis, cycles and pedestrians around; consider some motion blur shots using a slow shutter speed – maybe 1/4 or 1/8 sec (but don’t forget to lower your ISO to prevent a ‘white-out’).
You’re now probably ready for some caffeine (my typical day involves far more caffeine than is healthy). Cross the road, walk 100m or so and you’ll come to the Coffee Press (3 Fleet Street). This is a hang-out for press photographers and they sell great coffee and home-made cakes. There’s always a good exhibition of press photography on the walls, so it’s worth a visit for that alone.
Now head the the area behind the coffee shop, known as the ‘Temple’. This is where all the Barristers work and it is a warren of alleyways, courtyards and pretty squares. It’s all open to the public, so linger, relax and soak it all up. You’ll see laywers, their clerks and all manner of expensively dressed people, as well as quirky signs and some terrific architectural detail.
After an hour of so in the Temple, having had your fill of the legal world, get back on to Fleet Styreet, heading east. See how many signs and plaques you can spot which relate to our newspaper industry; much of ther history of Fleet Street is fairly well hidden and you have to look hard for it. Photograph the hustle and bustle of the area – the suits, the mobile ‘phones, people rushing to meetings, people lunching, people looking lost and so on.
Eventually you’ll come to one of London’s oldest pubs, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (on the left-hand side of the street at number 145). The pub was re-built shortly after the Great Fire of London in 1666 (though you wouldn’t think so) and its lack of daylight presents a gloomy and eerie charm. Still the haunt of journalists (perhaps harking after the halcyon days), the ‘Chesh’ is a labrynth of tiny rooms and alcoves, many of them underground. The pub was once the haunt of the likes of Samuel Jonson, WB Yeats and Charles Dickens and you could imagine them there now. Keep your camera handy for those moody shots of people drinking in the candle-light. The beer is Sam Smiths, which tends to polarise opinion, but I find it okay. Don’t expect super-fast wi-fi!!
Coming back into the bright daylight, continue east across Ludgate Circus and towards St Paul’s. There are often good shooting opportunities to be had around the Cathedral (usually tourists doing daft things) and on your left is Paternoster Square, a swish development with some clean lines and crisp pale backgrounds.
In summary, it’s a great area (one of my favourites) – but don’t rush it. Take your time, walk slowly and savour your surroundings. Be prepared to get lost in the Temple and always be ready for a quick grab shot.