Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tourists + Phone box

Maybe it's because of living in a city, but it's always interesting to watch tourists taking souvenir snapshots near famous London landmarks. There are certain scenes which you see again and again... people posing next to a horse-mounted guard in Whitehall, on the lions in Trafalgar Square, by the gates of Downing Street or with a uniformed policeman. Or by a classic red London Routemaster bus (though there's hardly any of them left now, sob sob...). Or next to a red phone box.

The red phone boxes are classics, originally designed by Gilbert Scott in the 1920s and '30s. Good things to pose with, to show you've been to London. But there is one particular phone box in Parliament Square which is really popular with tourists. I think it's because from a certain angle you can also get the Houses of Parliament in the background too... I guess I should test this theory really.

But some tourists go one better with their photos ... why not be snapped coming out of the phone box, posing with one hand on the open door? That's much more interesting! An original take on a classic tourist landmark! Well, it's a funny thing, but other people have had the same idea too. I've seen exactly that pose before, hundreds of times over the years. Always the same phone box, different people but same pose, same excited look as they take the photos. There must be so many people all over the world with exactly the same picture in their photo collections, just different faces, clothes and weather. It could go back decades... mind-boggling.

I almost wish I'd taken photos of them taking their photos by that phone box. It would be a very large and quite strange visual record of tourists in London. But instead, I just watch briefly, vaguely amused to see the same behaviour again and again, year after year, and feel pleased that people like visiting London.

So in case you feel the need to add that particular pose and landmark to your holiday snapshots, here's the location. It's the phone box on the corner of Parliament Square and Whitehall, facing the Houses of Parliament, SW1. Or wait and watch ... you'll soon see what I mean!


Mathias Klang said...

The phone box is a cultural icon. This applies especially to the English red one. It is also an endangered species since mobiles are taking over.

One of my favourite street artists, Banksy, has created an interesting installation symbolic of the demise of the phone box - see it here.

claire said...

Yes, I agree. Phone boxes seem to be used mostly as urinals and by people who put up prostitute's cards these days... actually making a phone call from one wouldn't be a very pleasant experience now. And I really hated the BT ones - very bland.