In the first of a series of articles by members of the Woodford and Wanstead Photographic Society, Alan Simpson tells the story behind this image taken at City Hall
I took this photograph a few years ago, before mobile phones were as ever-present as they are now. Such a scene today would possibly not warrant a photograph or even a second glance.
A photo club outing to London’s higher viewpoints included a visit to City Hall (as part of the annual Open House London festival). I therefore took advantage of the only time in the year when the public has access to the viewing gallery on the ninth floor, outside London’s Living Room; this is where you often see the mayor holding forth in television interviews.
Looking over the barrier, I caught sight of these two men absorbed in their phones down below. Unaware of each other, and in a harsh urban environment, the scene of which they were part conveyed a sense of isolation. By using a short telephoto lens, I was able to exclude any distractions outside the frame and focus attention on the two figures and their immediate surroundings.
Of course, the original photograph was in colour, but the slate grey landscape, the somewhat gloomy lighting and the figures’ dark clothing presented a very limited palette. Back home, when editing the day’s images, I decided this one would benefit from converting to monochrome.
I wanted to home in on the two figures even more, so I cropped the image quite dramatically – the picture shown is only about one third of the original scene. With a little lightening of the shadows and a boost to the contrast, I produced the final image you see here.
I hope the photograph conveys some of what I was feeling when I pressed the shutter on that day.