Jubilee. Photo & text: David Secombe.

Buckingham Palace, 1991. Photo © David Secombe.

David Secombe writes:

In 1991, the BBC produced a documentary to mark Queen Elizabeth’s 40th anniversary as monarch. It was produced by the doyen of BBC documentary filmmakers, Edward Mirzoeff, famous for his Betjeman films and his editorship of the flagship 1980s documentary series 40 Minutes. I was tasked with doing the stills. The access Eddie and his small team had been given was unique, but the stills photographer had to manage as best he could, ducking out of shot (or not ducking out of shot), not treading on the sound man’s heels, and generally trying not to get fired. This picture was taken on my first day of the project, and shows the Queen having her portrait painted by Andrew Festing. The grainy, lightly impressionist tone of the image is largely a product of the fast Fuji film I used for much of the project: more a product of desperation, looking for stock that would cope with the relentlessly low levels of light, than any conscious creative decision. (‘Braille photography’ was a phrase which got used on more than one occasion.)

Stephen Frears film The Queen, featuring Helen Mirren’s acclaimed turn as Her Majesty, opens with a sequence in which the Queen has her portrait painted. The look of the sequence betrays the research the production team invested in Eddie’s film, and some of the details are lifted from the above picture (when the image first appeared, I remember being asked a lot of questions about the Queen’s silver shoes – this obviously made an impression on Frears’ team). I have heard that Stephen Frears denies ever seeing Eddie’s film. How sweet.

… for The London Column. © David Secombe 2012.


Underground, Overground. Text: Andrew Martin, photo: Tim Marshall. (5/5)

Bakerloo Line. © Tim Marshall 1992.

Andrew Martin writes:

There are the books full of Underground ghost stories. An invisible runner pounds along the platforms at Elephant & Castle; children scream in the basement of what used to be the surface building of Hyde Park Corner, and which became Pizza on the Park. (They continued to scream it was said, even while the Four Seasons and Margheritas were being rolled out.) William Terris, an actor murdered in 1897, manifests in Covent Garden station. The best one I know of was sent to me in a letter a few years ago. Late one night a Piccadilly Line driver was running his empty train into the depot at Northfields when he heard a knock on his cab’s connecting door into the carriage. He turned and opened the door, saw no one there but noticed that all the connecting doors of the carriage were open, as though someone had walked along the length of the train. The driver refused to continue, so another man was brought in to close the doors and take the train into the depot. Shortly after he started the train he heard a knock … and all the doors were open again.

The text is from Underground, Overground: a passenger’s history of the Tube, published by Profile Books (also available here). The photos are from Tim Marshall’s series When a Tube train stops.