After walking the empty streets of London, Simon Norfolk recounts Gustave Doré’s 18th century engraving, The New Zealander, in which, “a lonely traveler in centuries to come sits by an overgrown River Thames” pondering the ruins of a future London.
Gustave Doré, The New Zealander, 1872
Norfolk, whose work has been concerned with, to quote Constantin-François Chasseboeuf, “what are to become of so many productions of the hands of man,” –in series like, Afghanistan: chronotopia, 2000-2001, Scenes From a Liberated Baghdad, Iraq, 2003, and Beirut, with all your flowers, how did you come to smell of smoke and fire?, 2006– now turns his camera towards his home city, London, which for a moment resembles what London might look like right after the blast of a “neutron bomb.”
Norfolk, The Royal Exchange, Lost Capital, 2020 Norfolk, Eros, Lost Capital, 2020
SN: “In photographing ‘Coronavirus London’ I was astonished that by removing from the streets the daily dross of life; cars, trucks, people, suddenly the architecture shone forth. Buildings looked like the architects plans often, unblotted, sharp… I titled the city as being lost because a. this London is lost beneath the cacophony, b. I often got Lost making these pictures, and c. –most of all– we’re all a little lost at sixes and sevens right now.”
Norfolk, River Thames, Lost Capital, 2020
SN: “I felt like I was in a bombed Afghanistan at the beginning of my career, searching a shattered battlefield absent of soldiers, a stage without actors, and me, the New Zealander, scratching for clues. Empty London is a Memento Mori, a Vanitas painting, it shows that this microscopic virus has made proud fools of us all. All our dreams, schemes, and the protections that insulate us from the world were found to be as tough as wet cardboard…London looks magnificent, while looking like it has been hit with a neutron bomb, I never imagined the apocalypse would be so quiet, one would hear in Piccadilly, the sound of a blackbird.”
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