Sunday 10 November 2019 11:54 pm

Six pictures that show the City of London skyline like you've never seen it before

Photographer James Burns has been hauling his camera to the top of London’s tallest buildings for the last 10 years.

He sees the story of London over the past decade as one of skyscraper proliferation.

“When I started photography, London’s skyline was a little bit boring. I used to take photographs with the intention of making it look more interesting,” he says. “Now, I don’t have to do that at all.”

Born in Highbury and a lifelong north Londoner, he took to the rooftops in search of new views of the city. His favourite buildings are the Cheesegrater and the Shard.


“I used to cycle from Wood Green to Elephant and Castle. Sometimes I wouldn’t even get to university because there were all these amazing parts of London I would explore,” he says.

Tower Bridge Sunset: Some things never change, and nor should they. For all the towering growth either side of this frame, London does a very good job of protecting sight lines of its heritage buildings. Captured from Canada Water in 2014
Purple Haze: This foggy dawn view from the Broadgate Tower is a picture of serenity but 160-odd metres below, it’s a hive of activity as the City gears up for business a few days before Christmas 2016.
Hunter’s Moon: If one image in the exhibition captures the intensity of recent development in The City, it’s this one. Zooming with a long lens from a rooftop close to Hyde Park, the skyline appears as a curtain of cranes and skyscrapers with the moon emerging behind the core of 100 Bishopsgate.
Centre Point Sunrise: With new architecture comes new photographic opportunities but this was a shot I had to bide my time for. When viewing the City from Centre Point in the West End, for a few days of the year only, the sun now rises between the sloped silhouettes of the Leadenhall Building (aka the Cheesegrater) and the Scalpel, like a modern day Stonehenge.
Bolt from the Blue: One wild night in July 2017, Londoners were woken by dazzling thunderstorms that rumbled through the night. Captured from Lauderdale Tower at the Barbican, there was some debate over this image at the time. Was the lightning striking one, all, or none of the skyscrapers?

“I won’t stop, I love what I do.” So will there be a Fifty Years of London Rooftops collection? “Yes there will,” he says.

London from the Rooftops — A Decade of Change, will feature large format prints as well as an in-depth slideshow taking viewers through the decade.

The exhibition will be held from 19–21 November at the Steel Yard’s City Bar.

Image credit: James Burns

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