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For a long time I’ve wanted to photograph something of London – nothing in particular just a need to redress the mountain of mental images collected over time. A lucky opportunity came my way recently and whilst there we walked into town along the south bank of the Thames – it proved a truly fascinating way to see the city unfold.

From the relatively rural setting of the London Wetland Centre we soon found ourselves in Wandsworth where developments crowd the river bank and skeletal cranes pierce the sky. I’m not sure exactly what caught my eye here …. something to do with the shapes on the skyline, the steely blue colours and ruffled expanse of icy water. It seemed an almost two dimensional scene, a painting – and I had to stop.

Painterly image of Wandsworth riverside

Walking on towards the houseboats I found myself contemplating the irony of the place; these days, particularly so in the UK, river barges summon thoughts of rural leisure and on first impressions they looked a little out of place moored up in such an urban environment.

Barges moored at Wandsworth in London

Ironic considering that they were once the very epitome of industry and the lifeblood of the city. Where the fancy bars and restaurants now are, their river terraces bustling with gin sipping city slickers, the waterfront would have been thick with labourers, black with coal and ripe with the lingering odours of graft and poverty – once a place to be avoided it is now the place to be!

(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)

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