NEVER TIRED OF LONDON

date. 2015 - 2020

city. London

portfolio. The following portfolio of 20 images is an extract from the book "Never Tired of London",

foreword. Michael Neale

 

Some two and a half centuries ago Dr Samuel Johnson, the Sage of Lichfield, made two observations that could well apply to the ethos behind the creation of this book. The first was: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” And the second: “A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man to see.”

 

Alessandro Griccioli is an Italian so intrigued by London that it is inconceivable that he will ever tire of it—even after his recent return to manage his family’s ancestral estates in Tuscany.  I am an inglese so fond of Italy that I choose to live here in my retirement rather than at my alternative base in London. Thus, like me with a foot in both camps, so to speak, it seemed fitting for Alessandro to ask me to write this foreword. I am honoured to do so. A city that has become one of the world’s major financial and cultural centres was after all originally founded by Italians, as Londinium, two millennia ago. It was long an outpost of the Roman Empire. This photographic paean by a modern Italian to the big metropolis and its 21st century eccentricities is truly striking in every detail. 

 

Working in the field as a foreign correspondent for Reuters news agency in Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia and Africa I came to admire the techniques of some of the finest news photographers of their day, such as Larry Burrows, Horst Faas, Eddie Adams, Don McCullin and Henri Huet. Alessandro is not a professional photojournalist. But as a gifted amateur he shows in his work, to my eye, every bit as much skill in the craft of photography, and above all dedication to its art, as a professional.

Alessandro acknowledges an attribute that other talented photographers may share, namely entropy, meaning that he can see beauty in decadence and disorder.

 

Over the centuries many writers besides Dr Johnson—such as Montaigne, Goethe, Byron, Stendhal and Norman Douglas—have extolled the virtues of this Mediterranean land. I too as a foreigner from the North can sing the praises of Italy, and in particular the region of Tuscany and its province of Siena, where we both live. When it was a grand duchy, Tuscany was the world’s first sovereign state to abolish the death penalty. Many would argue that Siena is its loveliest province with its highest quality of life. Siena can claim other superlatives too—such as the finest wine in Italy and the most exquisite olive oil, of the kind produced by the Monte Chiaro estates of the Griccioli family since the 18th century. I was first enchanted in my youth by its landscapes that reminded me of the Himalayan foothills of Kashmir where I was born. A Moghul emperor of India once exclaimed of the vale of Kashmir: “If there be a paradise on earth. It is this! It is this! It is this!” The same could be said of the vales of Tuscany.

 

But beautiful views are not enough. Many unemployed young Italians do not see their country as a rich and glorious museum of idyllic landscapes, art, fashion, design, architecture, gastronomy, archaeology, culture, and la dolce vita. They have no use for Italy’s ancient history and renaissance as a fountainhead of Western civilisation. The economy has floundered since Italy was strait-jacketed by the Euro in 1999, a predicament compounded by bureaucratic impositions from Brussels and erratic government from Rome. Politicians are corrupt. Mafias still thrive. Institutions such as the educational system have become defective. Italy was most cruelly hit by the Chinese virus pandemic when unemployment was already chronically at its highest levels. Small wonder that many Italians have fled to places offering better opportunities. Recently no country has attracted more Italians than the United Kingdom, with London as its main draw card. At last count in 2020 the population of Italian citizens in London alone was double that of the sparse 66,000 British citizens living in the entire country of Italy. The latter is only a small fraction of the 1.3 million Britons living on the continent as a whole.

 

Alessandro Griccioli’s photographs help to explain why it is that London, with its warts and all, is so alluring to Italians who feel stifled by the stagnation of their homeland. Italian expatriates there give every indication of feeling exhilarated by the dynamics of London’s cosmopolitan vibrancy, conducive to a more liberated, more rewarding style of life and occupation. The images of his affectionate portrayal of London deserve to endure as a lasting record of aspects of life there in that period.

 

MICHAEL NEALE