March 9, 2013 § 4 Comments
Of all the bridges in London, Battersea holds perhaps the greatest resonance for me. Although I didn’t set foot on it until I’d already been living in London for several years, I already knew it well, through the work of one of my idols, James McNeill Whistler.
Although the current Battersea Bridge isn’t the vaporous Japoniste fantasy that Whistler conjured up with lithographic ink or with oil paint thinned almost to the consistency of watercolour, I still love it. My boyfriend lives in Battersea and the bus journey to his place from north of the river takes me over the bridge: at dusk or after dark, with the lamps illuminated, it’s one of the most magical places in London.
I’ve been wanting to photograph the bridge and its stretch of Thames ever since I got my Diana, but weather and weekend engineering works conspired against me for months – until a few weeks ago, the morning dawned clear and bright. I had a roll of slide film in the camera, which further upped the chance factor: it’s been cross-processed, and I had no way of knowing what effect it would have on the colour.
A happy effect, as it turned out. I don’t know whether Whistler would’ve approved (I actually like to think he would have made some cutting and witty remark to that effect) but I think it’s my best roll of film so far…
Albert Bridge from upriver
Boats below Battersea Bridge
Sky and masts through a buddleia bush
Battersea Bridge from the embankment
The bridge from the riverbank. I hadn’t checked the tide tables before I set out, but I struck lucky: the tide was far enough out that I was able to clamber down the steps (warning: stone steps covered with wet algae are treacherous!) onto a pebbly patch of shore.
This one was pure luck – a flock of gulls burst into flight and I just had time to grab the camera and take this before they scattered.
Sands End seen through the ironwork on the bridge. Not entirely successful – I’ll have to try this one again!
I had intended to use my last shot in Cremorne Gardens – or what’s left of it. The sprawling, louche pleasure garden where Whistler painted golden rockets shooting across a black sky is still there – or at least, the original gates are, standing in the midst of a quiet, near-deserted patch of green scattered with crocuses, with a cobbled path leading to a pier jutting into the river. The silence was only disturbed by a young family, the two small children toddling around the grass.
Then my eye was caught by the view upriver toward Wandsworth Bridge, and it was so stunning that I ignored all the rules about light sources, pointed the camera right into the sun, and took this shot.
Sometimes rules are made to be broken.