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Mind the Gap Hardcover – 3 Sep 2001
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How many times have we heard the over-familiar words that give Simon James the title for his wonderful book of startling photographs? Mind the Gap, Michael Palin reminds us in his foreword, is also testimony to what the French philosopher Derrida would probably call a trace, an admission of error written into the very being of the tube. "Mind the Gap" means the trains don't quite fit the stations. Londoners, and all London's visitors, know the tube is synonymous with travelling the capital but is it merely a utilitarian thing that gets us from A to B, from home to work and hopefully back again? Simon James thinks not. He has paid a visit to every one of the tube's multi-fold stops and produced a book of beautiful, strangely haunting and empty, bright and colourful yet oddly nostalgic and gently melancholic photographs that entirely fulfil the photographers remit of making us look anew at the familiar and seeing it again for the first time through renewed eyes. James knows that if we look closely the tube does not actually quite fit our expectations of it, doesn't quite fit the image we have in our minds. He shows us history (surreally capturing a sign for a "Secret Nuclear Bunker") and often impressive architecture, suburban hinterlands and the proximity of the countryside (surely in most minds the tube's radical "other"), and reminisces about offices, platforms, walkways and cuttings. This is the tube as you've never thought you've seen it before. --Mark Thwaite
Photographer and writer Simon James has visited every last one of these quasi-mythical places, capturing on film London's suburban hinterland, that no-man's-land that is not quite city nor countryside, but a utopian combination of both - with their overgrown railway cuttings, litter-free stations, time-warp parades of shops, indistinguishable Acacia Avenues, pipe-and-slippers '30s architecture, and occasional, bizarre, even menacing incongruities - such as James' photograph of the 'Secret Nuclear Bunker' near Chipping Ongar Combined with numerous tube facts, figures and fantasies accumulated by the author on his travels, Mind the Gap is the book of the great unknown, the great adventure that awaits all Londoners. Michael Palin has kindly agreed to write a foreword to Mind the Gap, and has authorised his name to be printed on its front. He is the perfect person to endorse the book, not just because its photographs are as amiable, quirky and English as he is, but also due to his status as a traveller of renown - not just on the obvious globe-trotting level, but also in his capacity as chairman of the pressure group Transport 2000.See all Product description
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The photographs are stunning, simply oozing quality and atmosphere - all taken on that great rangefinder camera, the Mamiya 7.
Some of the touches of the production are just so clever. Potted histories of the various lines have a background colour as used on the Underground map. Clever that !
James spends much time investigating the far flung ends of the lines - unknown to most who use the Tube.
Lines which are no more, stations which have been closed for nearly 100 years.
A very entertaining read.
Glyn Edmunds EFIAP
But it is not just the humour and sharp observation of the now "anoraked" writer that make this book so compelling. There are snippets of facts thoroughout that enlighten the viewer as to the long and distinguished history of the world's oldest subterranean transport system.
The photographs are excellent and convey far more than a cursory glance might lead the reader to expect.
In the end, you are left with a warming affection for the tube we all love to hate. Whether that was James' intention I cannot say. I will though turn to this book over and over again.
Certainly a worthy addition any collection of Underground books, and a nice alternative for one that already includes the other fine books of photographs of the Underground and its stations.
In this case his vision of The Tube, a transport system that he shares with millions of commuters daily.
I was and still am fascinated by these beautiful pictures. I keep looking at them and memories flow back to me of some station I have used.
The colours perfectly well represent the reality of everyday life in the Tube; bright colours that bring a bit of life on a dull rainy day.
This is a must have for any Londonner...
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