The Great British Stink – New Exhibition for WaterAid | 6th June – 31st July 2015 [UPDATED – Exhibition dates extended]

Thomas_Ball_WaterAid_IMG_8273

After two months traveling the country working on a project for WaterAid – a public exhibition of my images has opened on the Thames Pathway at London Bridge City Pier. It runs from the 6th June to 31st July (note: originally advertised as ending on the 2nd July), with plans to move to Manchester and the House of Commons later in the year.  See details and directions to the exhibition on WaterAid’s website here. Some of the images from the series are now live on my website here – with more to come.

Thomas_Ball_WaterAid_IMG_8208 Thomas_Ball_WaterAid_IMG_8275

My images focus on the history of water infrastructure and sanitation in Britain. The issues that Victorian Britain faced 150 years ago with water borne disease and a lack of basic drinking water and sewerage infrastructure mirror life in many of the world’s poorest countries today. This project seeks to highlight these similarities and to push for greater investment by the British Government in much needed water infrastructure in developing countries.

It has been a fascinating and challenging project for me to work on.  The time scale for production was short but thankfully I had the assistance of some amazing people around the country opening the doors to difficult-to-access locations and helping me to finding interesting and relevant stories.

20-minute exposure of The River Irk, Manchester. This Irk was one of the main arteries of early industrial Manchester. By the early 19th century its banks were lined with fulling mills, dye works, chemical factories, abattoirs and tanneries. It was an open drain for both industrial and domestic waste. Friedrich Engels described it in 1845: “At the bottom [of the channel] flows, or rather stagnates, the Irk, a narrow, coal-black, foul-smelling stream, full of debris and refuse, which it deposits on the lower right bank. In any weather, a long string of the most disgusting blackish green slime pools are left standing on this bank, from the depths of which bubbles of miasmatic gas constantly arise and give forth a stench unendurable.” Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845)
20-minute exposure of The River Irk, Manchester. The Irk was one of the main arteries of early industrial Manchester. By the early 19th century its banks were lined with fulling mills, dye works, chemical factories, abattoirs and tanneries. It was an open drain for both industrial and domestic waste.
Friedrich Engels described it in 1845:
“At the bottom [of the channel] flows, or rather stagnates, the Irk, a narrow, coal-black, foul-smelling stream, full of debris and refuse, which it deposits on the lower right bank. In any weather, a long string of the most disgusting blackish green slime pools are left standing on this bank, from the depths of which bubbles of miasmatic gas constantly arise and give forth a stench unendurable.”
Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845)
Like my previous commission for FotoDocument and Photoworks on Sustainable Water last year – it was a challenge to balance important historical stories and facts with strong and interesting visuals from today. Often it was difficult to weigh up whether to include a really strong story with a weak visual or vice versa.  Sometimes the story is just too important to leave out and sometimes you have to leave out a great image because the story behind it does not fit.

Moreover, WaterAid requested that I shoot the entire series on large and medium format film – which presented challenges and opportunities in equal measure. Sometimes large format is perfectly suited to a time and location.  When I hiked to the top of Raven’s Crag which overlooked Thirlmere Reservoir in Cumbria, there was no other camera that I wanted with me.

View of Thirlmere Reservoir  from Raven's Crag.
View of Thirlmere Reservoir from Raven’s Crag.
However, when I was photographing Lydia Zigomo in a sewer in Farringdon or Hugh Bonneville at Crossness – with multiple setups in low lighting conditions and working to a very short timeframe – shooting large format adds a variety of extra challenges!

Setting up lighting to photograph Hugh Bonneville at Crossness.
Setting up lighting to photograph Hugh Bonneville.

Hugh Bonneville at Crossness. He had an amazing ability for standing perfectly still for 2 second exposures
Hugh Bonneville at Crossness. He had an amazing ability for standing perfectly still for 2 second exposures
It has been a real pleasure to work on this project with Neil Wissink and Laura Summerton and the rest of the team at WaterAid. If you have the time and you’re in London I hope you can go see the exhibition in London Bridge. You will learn lots about the history of water infrastructure and sanitation in Britain and about the incredible work that WaterAid does around the world today. Please add your name to their #Makeithappen campaign.  They are hoping to collect 100,000 signatures to ask the UK Government to make sure the Sustainable Development Goals includes a target to reach everyone, everywhere with taps and toilets by 2030. Sign the petition here.

Lastly – a reminder that I have another exhibition on Water on show.  My work on sustainable water in Brighton & Hove is still being exhibited on Hove Promenade until the end of July 2015.  Go check it out while you can.  Details here.

Series of Sustainable Water for FotoDocument / Photoworks, by Thomas Ball. 2014
Series on Sustainable Water for FotoDocument / Photoworks
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s