Fenton’s Thames

Westminster from Waterloo Bridge, c. 1858, Salted paper print (30.3 x 42.2 cm)

Yesterday evening, as I waited for the printer to finish toiling, my eyes drifted to the bookshelves to pass the time in those last few moments.

More often than not, I reach for All The Mighty World, The Photographs of Roger Fenton, 1852-1860.

I look to Fenton’s work, not really for inspiration but as a reference; an anchor. At this stage in my life, I guess you could consider him my main photographic influence along with O. Winston Link.

I enjoy looking at how Fenton worked as I feel there are many parallels to be drawn with regard to both approach and methodology.

It’s been a while since leafing through these particular pages, not least because I’ve been on the road so much of the year.

This time, I got a bit of a surprise on seeing the front cover. So, while we’re in Thames mode, I thought I’d share it with you…


All The Mighty World, Roger Fenton


For some reason (which I’ll never fathom) whilst I was working along the Thames in April and May, it completely slipped my mind that Roger Fenton had also made photographs along the Thames.

After his famous documentation of the Crimean War, Fenton spent the late 1850s largely travelling the British Isles making architectural photographs.

He too worked with Wet Plate Collodion but made glass negatives rather than the positive Ambrotypes that I make. Fenton would then produce salt prints from those negatives and, later, he moved onto albumen prints.

His photographic career was surprisingly short but he achieved so much in that time despite, to my mind, being so preoccupied with the competition.

All The Mighty World, Roger Fenton
Westminster from Waterloo Bridge, c. 1858, Salted paper print (30.3 x 42.2 cm)
There’s a lot to say about Fenton but, for the moment, I’d just like to share with you that it’s added a new dimension to my memory of the Thames.

It thrills me to know that he made photographs in the same area over 160 years ago using very similar working practices.

In fact, I even made a plate of Waterloo Bridge — the very spot where he once stood…

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
Freshly-made on the pavement of Victoria Embankment, my plate of Waterloo Bridge (photograph by Jonathan Knowles)…

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
The view looking West from Tower RNLI, London, Wednesday 29th April 2015, 12×10 inch Ambrotype

The Lifeboat Station Project by Jack Lowe
The view looking East from Tower RNLI lifeboat station, London, Wednesday 29th April 2015, 12×10 inch Ambrotype


LIMITED EDITION PRINTS

Just 50 limited edition prints from each of the Thames plates are now available with a special opportunity to buy any three prints from the Project at a special price:

BROWSE PRINTS


All the Mighty World: The Photographs of Roger Fenton 1852-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Published by Yale University Press

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