In this week’s City Perspectives series, native New Zealander, Adrienne Pitts (@hellopoe), shares her unique perspective of her adopted home city of London, England.
How long have you lived in your city and what is your profession?
I’ve lived in my adopted city of London for the past 8 years. It was never meant to be that long of a stay, but this city, the opportunities, and the lure of being able to easily travel through Europe has made my stay a little longer than anticipated!
I’m a photographer and art director, who shoots a lot of travel and portraiture work for a variety of clients. I also have a background working in publishing, and have a love of design which will never go away.
If you could capture the essence of your city in one word, what would it be? Why?
Unpredictable. You really can’t ever define what “London” is, as it’s so many things to so many different people. I always tell people who come to visit that they can have any kind of London experience they want, it just depends what they are into. You can go west to Kensington and Chelsea and Mayfair and see the movie version of London with spotless mansions and pristine streets. Or you can head East and be inspired by the street art and the creativity which is so vibrant there. You can cruise along the Thames and get out of the City in Greenwich, or you can people-watch in Soho and see all walks of life converge in front of you. It just depends what you want to see – because it’s here!
How would you describe the locals in your city?
I’m very much an outsider looking in and after almost 8 years here, I’m okay with that. I’m happy being a visitor in this city that I love – I really hope that childlike sense of wonder I have about this place never leaves. I would say that there is a stereotype that London is large and bustling and hectic – and I do agree with that. But if you take the time to slow down and consciously get to know people here, they will reveal a level of kindness and generosity that the hectic facade often belies.
Describe the first place you’d bring an out-of-town guest. Why would you take them there before anywhere else?
This is hard! I usually ask people what kinds of things they like, and that will guide me as to what I think they will enjoy in London. But before that even begins, I bring them to my favourite cafe. It’s in North East London, near Old Street. It’s called Ozone Coffee Roasters and holds a special place in my heart. First and foremost, it’s a New Zealand cafe, so you know that you are going to get one of the finest coffees in the city. And it’s got lots of little NZ touches: some Kiwi wait staff, Lamingtons on the menu, cushions emblazoned with familiar place names, and just feels like home whenever I walk in. I used to live and work 5 minutes away from this place, so I would be there all the time. It’s where I bring all my out of town guests, so they get a sampling of New Zealand here in London.
Is there a tourist attraction that even locals (perhaps secretly) love?
Columbia Road Flower Market. It’s an institution, and rightly so. The great thing is that whilst there are of course tourists who visit, the overwhelming majority of people who go to the market seem to be locals. East London is a bustling and vibrant part of the city, and its inhabitants spill out onto the streets to rummage through the various stalls, drink great coffee, and watch the street musicians. Oh, and we like to stick around until at least 2pm, when we know those flowers will be almost half the price!
How do you think that the beat or style of the city has informed your style as a photographer?
It’s funny – it’s been pointed out to me that for someone who lives in London, my images of the city feel very quiet and are often devoid of people. That’s something I hadn’t really noticed before. I think the city has informed my style in that it has reinforced my love of wide open spaces, of green parks, and of being near the water (the Thames is an okay substitute!) Being from New Zealand, I definitely appreciate a slower pace of life, and one with a lot of nature and greenery around me. So in a way, I think I deliberately seek out those types of places in the city: slightly calmer little pockets where I can sit and drink a coffee and close my eyes and listen to the world passing by. I think my images are often quite observational – the viewpoint of an outsider standing back and watching – and I like that. I live my life in this city and I’ve immersed myself wholeheartedly in it; but I also like to stand back and try and observe what it is that makes it tick, and try to understand my place in it.
What’s the best season to visit. Why?
Anytime but winter! It’s horribly cliche but very true – London can get grey and rainy. So best to try and avoid the worst winter months and come when the city will truly shine! Personally, I love summer in the city. People on the streets are smiling, the parks are all full of people picnicking and sunbathing, and there is definitely a feeling of optimism in the air. Having said that though, autumn is also a beautiful time that offers a fantastic chance to head into the parks that the city hosts. A walk through Hampstead Heath on a crisp Autumn day with all the fiery oranges and reds always makes me happy.
What’s your favorite activity for a rainy day?
The museums and galleries! Hands-down, this is one of the best cities to get inspired by art. The Tate Modern is my favourite place in the city, but a very close second is the National Portrait Gallery. It houses work in so many mediums, and the Taylor Wessing Prize (for photographic portraiture) is the one show a year I will never, ever miss.
What’s your favorite restaurant or place to eat? What is on the menu that shouldn’t be missed?
Bone Daddies in Soho. It’s got some of the best ramen in the city, and the small size and cosy atmosphere means it’s a nice respite from the hectic pace just outside the door. I’m guilty of always ordering the same thing there because I love it so much – the Tantanmen. It’s just that good. Follow it with a glass of their chilled plum wine and I’m in heaven.
Where’s the best spot to see your city from above?
I’m a fan of the view from the Paramount Bar. You need to make a booking to go up there, but it’s free to do so and the cocktails are great. Once you get up there in the lift, walk up that extra flight of stairs and wander around the perimeter for a 360 view of London. Pick which view you like best, grab a seat, and watch the sun go down over the city. But the views are also gorgeous from the Duck & Waffle, The Shard, and the London Eye – some are a little touristy, but totally worth it for the views over the city!
Part II of this series.