We caught the train to Charing Cross and walked towards The Photographers’ Gallery, just off Oxford Street. Yes, this was a ‘photography exhibition’ day out. Arrived to find a queue outside and duly joined the end of it. A group of people strolled up and walked straight into the building. Voicing my concern about why we were queuing, my daughter, Chris retorted, ‘Because we are British’ and walked into the gallery. The queue dissipated and we went to the first floor and started enjoying an exhibition about cross dressing. Yes, you read that correctly. Initially, the plan was missing it, but we were enticed by the historical element of the photography. Absolutely fascinating.
The exhibition is taken from the archives belonging to the collector Sebastian Lifshitz from the period 1880 – 1980s in Europe and the USA. The apparel and behaviour noted was traditionally observed in members of the opposite sex and often an expression of freedom and transgression. Both men and women wanted to deviate and explore different identities to rebel against mainstream society.
My curiosity derived from of the period of the forbidden pictures. Not only that, most of the interest was the cross dressing of women. The emancipation of women compelled them to dress as men in order to propel themselves into a male environment and temporary liberation.
What is particularly remarkable, is the reference to feminism. According to the exhibition, Alexandre Dumus first coined the word in 1872 to describe the emerging women’s rights movement. Women were accused of endangering the social order. Some professions became available to women but most were forbidden until the 20th century.
During the 19th century, women started to wear comfortable clothes at college. This was to embrace the new educational opportunities. They were even photographed in suits and smoking cigars whilst socialising. The photography is mesmerising because it is so unexpected. Europe had yet to see this new liberating cross dressing behaviour and it must have challenged the strict code of conduct of the period. Every generation thinks it breaks new behavioural ground, but of course, most of it has already happened.
Also, Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2018 exhibited ground-breaking photography exploring visibility. Loved the black and white elements of contemporary photography and really worth a look.
After this excitement, we walked towards the Getty Images Gallery (just off Oxford Street) which had a cafe nearby suitable for lunch. I had located it online, Ethos Restaurant, and thought it would be somewhere different and, as it is a vegetarian place, an unusual option.
Cannot tell you how impressed I was with this place. The decor is innovative and the food beautifully arranged and delicious. You help yourself, then go to the counter where they weigh the food and you pay by weight. All very clever and efficient. We were very impressed.
Next stop, was a look around the Getty Images Gallery. This was unexpectedly small but captivating. Again, the focus is on women, but in a more creative, modern way. The exhibition is called ‘The Female Gaze’ and a response to current events. It encapsulates women and is focused on recent sexual harassment scandals, marches and campaigns.
After this, we wandered around Oxford Street and enjoyed looking at the new fashions. I bought a couple of vibrant, cotton shirts for myself and during this time we went back to Ethos for cake, drink and a break.
Later wandered around the Oxford Street area, stopped for a glass of vino, as is necessary on these trips and then made our way to the french restaurant which was booked for 5.15pm because nothing else was available. Now I have frequented the restaurant, I can see why.
The restaurant is called Brasserie Zedel and is superb. What luck we had, that day, with the eateries. This place has a large dining area and when we arrived it was not particularly busy. By the time we left, it was packed which is always a good sign. We had Beef Bourguignon, which was divine and lemon meringue for sweet, also splendid. The food and ambiance is beautiful and I shall certainly return.
During the day we took copious photos because it was such an brilliant day. Our travels took us all over the West End, including Piccadilly, Oxford Street and around the Charing Cross area. Can recommend this day trip to anyone who loves London and photography, as I do.
Finished the day with a bottle of wine and a hilarious, merry natter at a pub called The Chandos, near our station. What a fabulous day it was. Nothing like a day out to cheer yourself up. We chatted and laughed about everything and cannot wait for our next day out.