London, Then and Now (1927 to 2013)

Filmmaker Simon Smith came up with a clever way to show how much (or little) the city has changed over the last century.

Filmmaker Simon Smith has come up with a clever way to show how much (or little) London has changed over the last century.

In the 1920s, Claude Friese-Greene filmed his travels around Great Britain for a project called The Open Road. He used a film coloring process based on the one his father developed, exposing black and white film through color filters. Claude's project still captivates viewers today; the British Film Institute eventually restored and re-released it for a 21st century audience. 

The London portion of The Open Road inspired Smith to make his own, matching version. In his six-month project, titled London In 1927 and 2013, Smith re-shot each of the scenes Friese-Greene documented 86 years prior. He then lined it up with the 1927 footage for comparison.

Smith says his film "revealed how little London has changed." But in reality, it shows bits of the city have evolved quite a bit. While Petticoat Lane looks just as chaotic as ever and red double-deckers still cruise city streets, we can't help but think long-deceased Londoners would be caught off guard by all the traffic lights and new skyscrapers.

A screenshot from Smith's film shows us how the act of crossing London's streets has changed.
We can't imagine Londoners of 90 years ago ever dreamed their skyline would have something like the Gherkin.

Red, double-decker buses are definitely still a thing. 

Shopping on Petticoat Lane can still get crowded.

After watching Smith's incredible project, it may be easy to forget that Friese-Greene's footage stands on its own quite beautifully too. Thankfully, the London Screen Archive has a restored version for easy online viewing:

About the Author