Old and New Soho. Photo & text by Mark Granier (4/5)

Soho, 2010. Photo © Mark Granier.

Mark Granier writes:

My cousin was working in London for a few months, so when I came over from Dublin we met up a couple of times. One evening we went to the ‘Exposed’ exhibition of photography at Tate Modern, concerned with ‘Voyeurism, Surveillance and the Camera.’ They had stretched the theme a little, so that it practically became a history of the art, taking in all kinds of street/reportage/war photography, from the 1930s (or possibly earlier) – Brassaï, Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, etc. – right up to contemporaries such as Nan Goldin. Afterwards, we found a little restaurant in her favourite part of the city, Soho. My cousin is a smoker, so we sat at a table on the sidewalk, talking and watching the variegated street-life. When the place closed we ambled through the surrounding streets.

I love the blurring of boundaries in Soho – music, art, food, sex – the city in microcosm. Just before hailing a taxi, we noticed this doorway, with its eloquent one-word sign, and it was like encountering an annex to the exhibition, an intimate little theatre/Tardis that opened a corridor between centuries. The photograph took itself before I clicked the shutter. The poem, such as it is, took a little longer:


said the handmade sign
(underscored by a red arrow)
inside a doorway one step
from a Soho street. We stopped
just a tick, then longer, as if
we had some business here

other than letting our eyes
travel the strip-lit grey
narrowing walls, torn lino,
lines draining like a sink
to a high arch, behind which
steel-edged stairs further the lesson

in perspectives: the whoosh of
compressed centuries, a lost
hunting cry, razzmatazz, brass
rubbings of jazz, appetite’s
arrows, harnesses, taxies
and here’s one now –

… for The London Column.  © Mark Granier 2011