My beautiful picture

A tube station somewhere on the Bakerloo-Jubilee line. (ETA: Charing Cross.)

People who have grown up in the age of digital cameras might not be aware that a roll of film used to consist of 24 or 36 exposures, and once you had taken those 24 or 36 photographs you would have to rewind the film, take it out of the camera, and get it developed somewhere. You could develop black and white negatives yourself, if you had the equipment, but colour transparencies were more complicated and most people had to take them to a professional developing outfit, where the process would take from a few hours to a week, depending on where you went and how much you were prepared to pay.

It seems inconceivable now, but you had no way of knowing what the photographs would look like until you got the film back from the developers. Of course, you would have a vague notion, but there was no way of seeing what you’d taken and correcting the exposure or adjusting the framing accordingly, as you can now do with digital cameras. (Theoretically, this should mean there are no more failed photographs, though in practice there seem to be just as many, if not more.)

Since the developers would charge you the same for developing a half-taken film as for a finished one, you often found yourself using up film before taking it in. Some of the photographs in this selection were almost certainly end-of-roll exposures. I photographed the “double entendre” signs to send off to the magazine Men Only, which paid a small amount of money for such things. In the early 1980s, when these photographs were taken, I lived in The Oval, which explains why there are several photographs taken there.

Others are complete mysteries to me. I think the shop windows were in Brighton, but I’m not 100% sure.

My beautiful picture

Tottenham Court Road.


  1. Also, I AM A VANDAL is my new favourite graffiti photo. ‘Vandal’ is such a Seventies word: my dad told me that one of the first coherent sentences I ever put together was “Look at what the vandals did, daddy” while pointing at some graffiti.

  2. Thank you! Ages since I’ve been to The Oval – have they spruced it up? I expect it’s quite a fashionable area now; I bet all those nice little Georgian terraces have been snapped up. I was living here during the brief but glorious reign of the London Transport Travelcard, which was too good to last; the Tory government had to abolish the GLC to get rid of it. Which bus do you take?

  3. I like the way I AM A VANDAL has almost completely obliterated poor ARCHIBALD. That’s a nice name, isn’t it. Does anyone ever get called that any more?

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