Whenever the City of London puts on its pomp and ceremony, off stage, frantic preparations are taking place, and now some of those preparations have been revealed.

For the past few years, an official photographer has been trailing around various City of London traditions taking photos from the other side of the curtain.


The back of The Queen’s hat might not seem that interesting until you realise you are looking at the same scene her Maj was looking at only a few seconds earlier. Liverymen caught in that transition from ordinary office workers in suits into the garb of ancient uniforms and losing their individual identity behind the garb of officialdom.

A lone pair of boots waiting for their owner.

Watermen in their formal dress relaxing in a shabby waiting room after a hard day’s parading.


It’s a curious collection, as curious as the City of London itself can at times become — a grown-up school play as adult men don strange clothes and enact out ancient rites, in the heart of the modern metropolis.

As a photographer myself, chances to take “behind the scenes” photos are a wonderful opportunity to share what is hidden from the public, concealed behind building hoardings and plastic covers.

This exhibition is a chance to see behind the scenes of what goes into making city pomp work, or for some, a note-taking exercise about ceremonies we might not have known about.

As a collection, it’s a delightful glimpse into the paddling that goes on under the water, as the swan glides serenely past.


Unusually for the Guildhall Art Gallery, this exhibition is not free, and costs £5, as I found out when I paid, and then was told it would close for the evening, in 25 minutes. Although that is just about enough time to take in this display.

The exhibition, Unseen City is open daily until 31st July.



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  1. Andrew says:

    It was open for free last Friday and Saturday evenings, during the Shakespeare son et lumière. OK for free, but it would not have been worth paying for, in my view. The new Visscher print, and the Shakespeare exhibits in the history gallery, were more interesting.

  2. Martin says:

    I was under the impression all Guildhall Special Exhibitions were paying, while the main gallery was free.

    • Ian Visits says:

      None of the recent temporary exhibitions in the space have been chargeable.

    • EBGB says:

      They state on the website that some exhibitions are payable, but yep, not all of them are.

  3. EBGB says:

    I appreciate that not everyone is happy to pay for photography exhibitions, but IMHO it makes sense to cash in a (fairly tiny) bit on this. Because it’s not *just “an official photographer”; it’s Martin Parr, of international repute, and the president of Magnum. So I can’t blame them for charging for this one – there’s going to be a lot of cross traffic with the new Barbican exhibition that he’s curated on how foreign photographers see the UK.

    (I think he sums it up rather well thus: “We still have an issue with photography in Britain, […] I sell a lot more prints abroad in, say, Paris than in London. It’s unusual for me to have a big show here.” From http://www.telegraph.co.uk/photography/what-to-see/martin-parr-if-i-knew-how-to-take-a-great-photo-id-stop/)

  4. Patrick Dennison says:

    I looked in at the exhibition on Wednesday 9th March and it is £4.00 for seniors. The photographs are interesting.

  5. Lukas says:

    Martin Parr is trending! He will have a show in Barbican as well:

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