I thought I’d continue my theme of London bridges by writing about this fine art print of Tower Bridge, which I consider to be – along perhaps with San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge – the most iconic bridge in the world. It’s certainly the most famous bridge in London, although in the UK maybe both the Humber Bridge and the Forth Bridge would give it a run for its money.
There’s a story often told that when the McCulloch Oil Corporation of Los Angeles bought London Bridge in 1968 for almost $2.5million, they were most disappointed when London Bridge turned up, as they were expecting Tower Bridge. This is a completely made up story. London Bridge needed replacing towards the end of the sixties, and a former journalist who was serving on the committee responsible for the maintenance of London’s bridges, Ivan Luckin, came up with the idea of putting it up for sale. For a long time there were no takers, but eventually Robert P. McCulloch of the aforementioned McCulloch Oil Corporation stepped forwards and purchased it. It was moved, brick-by-brick, to Lake Havasu in Arizona. I can’t even start to imagine the complexities of rebuilding a massive bridge, and indeed it wasn’t until the end of 1971 that it was completed. The bridge is now a major tourist attraction, and capital from the sale still earns London’s Bridge House Estates almost $300,000 a year to pay for the maintenance of the city’s four major bridges.
Anyhow, back to Tower Bridge in London. It is such an iconic image that people tend to think that it’s been around for centuries, so it surprises them to learn it was built between 1886 and 1894. This makes it a baby in comparison to most of the other famous landmarks in the UK’s capital. It was built in response to the increased commercial development of London’s East End, when it was decided that the River Thames needed a new crossing. Over fifty designs were submitted to the design committee (including some that thought that a subway would be a better idea), before the plans drawn up by Sir Horace Jones were approved. The idea of what is known as a bascule bridge (i.e. one that opens up in the middle) was devised by the engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry. Work began in 1886 and the bridge was opened on 30 June 1894 by the then Prince of Wales, the eldest son of Queen Victoria who would go on to be King Edward VII.
For this shot, I tried to compose it from a unique angle. When you’re photographing a landmark that has been pictured hundreds of thousands of times, it is really difficult to gain a different perspective. I tend to sometimes think that Tower Bridge photographs normally just record the bridge’s iconic shape. I decided instead to concentrate upon one of the magnificent towers itself. It really is an amazing bridge to walk or drive across. The incredible size of the towers makes you feel you’re entering a gateway into a different kingdom, instead of just moving from one bank of the River Thames to the next!
I also love the way that with this art photograph only one end of the bridge is pictured. It adds that little suggestion of mystery – you know where the bridge is coming from, but where is it going to?