I have my Dad (an excellent amateur photographer) to thank for making me much of the photographer I am now. I’ve recently found some old prints from film cameras I’ve owned over the years and would love to share some with you – just for a change!
When I was a teenager living at home in north London, my Dad was the person who (during the summer holidays – he worked for a newspaper in Fleet Street doing shifts), would take me to different places around London where I could merrily take pictures with the camera he’d given me – a 35mm Canon Sureshot. He knew a lot about the city and its history and as well as photography, I’ve picked up my love of London and its history from him as well. During one of these trips, we came upon Butler’s Wharf, part of the old London docks on the south side of Tower Bridge (I loved dereliction then and I still do – don’t know why!) I was in my element and began snapping away at the crumbling warehouses with their ancient walkways, long since useful to anyone. But Dad would stop me occasionally and ask me things like, “Why are you taking that shot?”, “Why don’t you get down low to make it look more dynamic?” and “What about getting some foreground interest in that shot – it’ll look much better”. Because of Dad, my snaps became much (I think) more interesting and it made me think about viewing scenes from different angles before taking the shot – not just shooting the first thing I saw. Every shot used to cost money with film – not like digital where you can hammer out 50 shots and choose the best one – for free.
A few years later and Butler’s Wharf is a magnificent regenerated development so the old buildings I loved when derelict, I still love now because they’ve been saved for years to come – the history is still present within them. Dad passed away in 1996, but a lot of times when I’m at work shooting weddings and engagements I can hear him, guiding me, “do you think there may be a better angle to take that shot?”
So here are some old images of Butler’s Wharf from around 1983 and the figure you see in some of these images is Danny, my Dad, who said, “I’ll stand in some of your shots so people get a sense of scale from the buildings” – I’d never thought of that, either!
I’d been shooting this scene through gates to the right of this but Dad spotted the old crate and suggested I use it to add foreground interest and a sense of scale to the scene.
There were posters all over this wall, made to look old – Butler’s Wharf was used a lot for filming things like Jack the Ripper and period dramas. Some of these posters are made to look like news bulletins, mentioning the battle of Waterloo (1815).