Railways James, Simon Mind the Gap

ISBN 13: 9780007114474

Mind the Gap

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9780007114474: Mind the Gap

With a foreword by Michael Palin, Mind the Gap is a warm, nostalgic, eccentric book about London’s tube lines, and particularly the ends of the lines – exotic destinations such as West Ruislip, Uxbridge, Upminster and Cockfosters.

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.

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Review:

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

From the Author:

Mind the Gap started out almost by accident. I moved to London from the midlands in late 1996 determined to try and make a living as a photographer. Gradually work came together and on days when I wasnít being paid to take photographs I would travel, from picture desk to picture desk, around London on the tube looking for more work. These journeys, as anyone regularly travelling on the tube knows, punctuated by the electric litany of the Tannoy systems: stating the name of the next station and the ultimate destination of the train. Like thousands of other tube travellers Iíd never been to any of these mysterious places at the ends of the lines and eventually curiosity got the better of me. Camera in hand, I set out to discover what these places actually looked like. Mind the Gap chronicles my trips out into the buddleia-strewn hinterlands at the edges of London and some of the things I found there. I canít claim itís a journey quite on the same level as the one to the source of the Nile, or discovery of the New World under sail, but itís a start and itís certainly ignited the travel bug within. For my next trip Iím itching to journey beyond the safe confines of the twentieth century car park sometimes known as the M25: Slough, at the very least beckons. I hope you enjoy the pictures in Mind the Gap

Simon James

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Simon James, Michael Palin (Foreword)
Published by Harper Collins (2001)
ISBN 10: 0007114478 ISBN 13: 9780007114474
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Published by HarperCollins Illustrated (2001)
ISBN 10: 0007114478 ISBN 13: 9780007114474
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