I have so many photographic obsessions, and one of them is the mud on the Avon banks, especially around the blocked up lock at the entrance to the Cumberland Basin. The silt has banked up here in corrugations, with lines where water has flowed meandering through it. It’s fascinating in every kind of light, but my favourite moments are when the sun is low, making the water on the surface turn to silver. The ridges and lines look like landscapes – mountains and rivers and hills. And on windy days the light changes so fast, as clouds whip across the sky. I made a film of that in the summer, and I need to go back and try it again in winter light.
Ellen Southern is a vocal artist, whose Site Singing project includes visiting lesser-known heritage sites, and making vocal pieces responding to the spaces, alongside drawings, photos and writing.
I met Ellen when she was performing a piece under the Avon Bridge, as part of a walk, and I was delighted when she invited me to come and visit one of her sites, Over Bridge. This is a beautiful, abandoned bridge to nowhere on the River Severn in Gloucester, and we explored the space together, while she told me more about the bridge, and why she loves it.
Ellen also talked about using her voice in her art, and using her voice to explore spaces. I’m really grateful to her for sending me some of the pieces she recorded on our trip, that are included in the podcast.
While we were there, I took photos with my medium format and 35mm cameras, and my mobile phone, and you can see them in this Flickr album (click on the first photo to start the slideshow).
You can find out more about Ellen Southern on her website, and follow her on facebook and twitter. Her Site Singing project is documented on her blog, with writing, drawing, and of course, music, and there are also recordings on Bandcamp. There’s also an interview with her about the project on South Art Text.
There’s more information about Over Bridge on the English Heritage website.
You can download this podcast directly from the Avon Stories Soundcloud, and sign up for all the future podcasts via the Avon Stories RSS and subscribe on iTunes or Soundcloud to make sure you hear all the future stories. You can also follow the project on twitter and instagram, for regular photos of the rivers and water in Bristol.
I’ve got various collections of photos from walks I took this autumn, and never got around to blogging – exploring the Malago, and the Avon at St Anne’s and the Greenway. Full photosets under title links, and if you mouse over the top photo, it should turn into a slideshow.
I’ve walked along the Bedminster sections of the Malago, down through the parks, but for some reason I’ve never gone past Parson Street before. This was a babywalk with Cee and her son, and Vik, and I loved getting to see this area I’ve looked at on maps, and passed in the car. And it’s beautiful!
We walked through the parks from St John’s Lane, then down Hartcliffe Way, and then the sidestreets. We’d passed the river as a little stream, overgrown with plants, a treecreeper on a tree as we turned into the park.
When we talk about community development in Bristol, the neighbourhoods of Southville and Bedminster aren’t the first that come to mind, because they’re generally known for gentrification.
But behind the soaring house prices, there are still really diverse communities, and some pockets of deprivation – and some really interesting community development approaches.
Ben Barker has been at the heart of this work for over 25 years, involved in everything from projects that look tiny and have no budget, right through to things like the Business Improvement District that has helped the local high streets remain vibrant.
I always enjoy talking to Ben, so I wanted to find out more about his approach, especially to areas like social isolation, and projects impacting on elderly and disabled people, including making the area more accessible.
When we talked, we were referring to the Greater Bedminster Partnership, which has since been re-named Action Greater Bedminster!
Find out more about them on the Action Greater Bedminster! website. They’re still in the process of migrating to their new site, so some of the things we talked about aren’t up on the new one yet, but check back soon. You can also sign up to their newsletter there to find out the latest happenings in the community.
Links to specific projects and initiatives we talked about below:
I’ve been blogging walks I took in November, and there were some glorious sunny days, but I need to remind myself, most of it looked like this.
Actually I’m lying. That looks picturesque, and most of November was too grey and drizzly and nasty to even get the camera out. Days where the sun never seemed to rise, and the rain wasn’t heavy enough to be good for puddle photos, but was somehow the kind where every drop soaks down to the bones, freezing as it goes.
But it did mean there was a lot of this:
I’m sure that cormorants live on other rivers, in other cities, but they feel so Bristol to me. I’ll never stop grinning at them looking like miniature pterodactyls, or overgrown vampire bats. Definitely worth standing in the rain for a photo!
It took me a long time to be happy with the fact that a lot of my practice involves repetition and re-visiting places to see how they look at different times. I think part of this is doing a photography degree, where no project lasts more than 5 or 6 months, and each time it’s about doing something new. But one of the things my final project – and even more, my post-uni life – taught me was the value of the everyday, and how re-visiting can add depth and value in ways that continually jetting off to exotic new places can’t.
When I walked from Sea Mills across the M5 motorway bridge and down the Avon with my friend Tracy Homer in the summer, we talked about how we should definitely take that walk again, and see how it looks in different seasons, and what else we can discover. So last week we did it again, with changes – our November walk to see how the autumn looks.
Map, and click on the flickr album to see more photos, taken with my DSLR + 50mm lens and my Olympus XA2 35mm film camera. Below I have a selection of my favourite photos and thoughts about the day, along with some mini films and some sounds I recorded.
Back at the start of the month I was taking the kind of walk I do a lot of in winter. I get SAD, and I’ve been freelancing, so I have to make a conscious effort to leave the house sometimes. One thing I do is order books from the library, so I have a continual reason to be out, dropping off read books, taking out new ones. They start off as functional, deliberate walks, rather than explorations, or leisure, but they can lead into more.
This time I started getting fascinated with the wooden structures that are built into the silt banks along the stretch of river between Bedminster Bridge and the former entrance to the Harbour at Bathurst Basin. They look so botched together, straining at the pressure of holding up the weight of the banking, and on their last legs. I wonder when they were built, how long they will last, and what will happen when they fall – and that makes me think about how so much of the New Cut has been so badly maintained, and seems like one or two big storms away from collapsing. It’s an unnatural river, and should need constant upkeep. Without it, it won’t last another 50 years, let alone 100.
My photos were bad – grey November day, just my iphone, and 200iso in my 35mm, but I love them. I hopped over the fence to look at the mechanics of the outlet that lets the Malago into the Avon, as I’m always intrigued as to what everything is. It’s this kind of view I like best, and these are the moments the functional walks turn into something more.
And it’s a continual obsession to take the same photos with multiple cameras, to see how the view changes – here’s the river from an unusual viewpoint, phone & 35mm.
The composition is better on the mobile, the colours better on film – but neither are great. I wish I’d had my medium format or DSLR with me. But I love them for the memory, and because I can’t remember seeing this view before. I want to see what it looks like in winter, and spring, and summer. Golden hour and frosty morning light, and everything between!