July 25, 2004
A Trafalgar Square of thumbnails

Last week I went to photograph a plastic rocket in Trafalgar Square, and you know me. I took some other photos. I really like tourists, now that I've found a way to exploit them, and most of these pictures are of tourists of one sort or another. In fact I rather think all of them are. Many are members of the Billion Monkey tribe. They illustrate many facts about the Billion Monkeys which are becoming pleasurably familiar to me, as I get to know them and their habits.

They keep their bags with them at all times. They don't put them down while photo-ing. On the contrary, the bags hang down in clutches, like ripe fruit, often from the same arm as is holding the camera.

The Billion Monkeys hold their cameras in a special way, and make remarkable shapes with their fingers. This is ensure that they don't get their spare fingers in front of the lens and spoil the picture. It comes of the cameras being so small, such that they can only be held between two fingers, which leaves the others either to get in the way or be held out of harm's way, as if holding a tea cup in Jane Austen world.

The Billion Monkeys hold their cameras out in front of them, so that they can see the picture they are taking on the little screen.

While they are taking their pictures they stay still.

There are no pictures here of any Billion Monkey groups all studying the same picture, like Soviet Workers all entranced by the same issue of Pravda in a propaganda photo, or like groups in old paintings gazing enraptured at the Baby Jesus, lit up by his divine light.

But the best thing about the Billion Monkeys is well illustrated by several of these snaps, which is that when they are taking their pictures they are so busy taking their pictures that they don't realise I'm sneaking up beside them until it is too, and on the whole they don't care even when they do realise it. I'm not shooting to kill, any more than they are.

Click on any square you fancy to get the big picture.


The little black girl and her dad were not using a Billion Monkeys camera. Theirs was a Real Camera, of the sort that required film to be wound on with a little handle. I know this because they asked me to take some photos of them with their camera.

I am aware that these pictures have many technical things wrong with them. Crowds of people are hard to frame, and/or crop satisfactorily. Inevitably, someone gets cut in half, and I don't like that. The light was beginning to fade towards the end, and several of them could have been better focussed. Objects in the background need to be very big or very small, either big enough to be one great big solid background, or small enough to be a patterned background, like wallpaper. In between sized shapes distract, and people behind someone you are photo-ing is often in between sized.

But I had a good time.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:53 PM
Category: LondonPhotography