Archives for posts with tag: history
© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

A couple of days ago I was searching through my photographic archives to find some slides I took in Australia a few years ago, before the digital age. A client wanted pictures of western Australia and I knew I had some beautiful slides.

At the bottom of the file box was a couple of long forgotten plastic sleeves with black & white negatives from a backpacking visit to Indonesia 21 years ago. I had never printed or scanned them and they have never been published. I simply processed them and put them away.

So I was excited to delve back into my past.

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

At first I couldn’t remember where the pictures were taken. The temple was as mysterious as the start of a Scooby Doo cartoon. I’d traveled extensively in South East Asia in 1992 when I was 24 and thought at first it was northern Thailand as I remembered touching a Buddha’s feet (a statue anyway) through the holes in the bell shaped domes. Thailand is a Buddhist country and so my hypothesis had some merit.

I searched the internet, but turned up a blank in northern Thailand. So I spread the search and found a picture on Google image search of the same bell shaped domes. It turned out to be the ancient temple of Borobudur on the Spice Island of Java. And then the memories rushed through time like a hand from the past slapping me across the face. The desolate ruins in the rainforest mountains appeared in my mind. It rains a lot there and the day I visited was no different. I remember the loneliness of the place. Just me, a couple of traveling companions and our driver who sat in his car in the carpark. We had the place to ourselves. The sky was a flat grey, the stones wet and mirror-like in places, it was like liquid silver had been tipped across the temple.

We wandered around the temple so old and exciting that Indiana Jones wold have felt at home. You can find out more about it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borobudur.

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

A day or so later I was on a rickety bus heading to an old harbour near the city of Jakarta with a guy from Brazil.  The harbour was a step back in time. The cargo boats were all sail driven, small and the hustle and bustle around them was infectious. It was a great place to spend a few hours watching the men carrying huge planks of wood, bags of rice, potatoes and any other pieces of cargo.

When I got home I must have processed the films and put the negatives away for later printing. I probably didn’t think it would be two decades before the pictures were seen. Although now, the pictures will be seen by more people than they perhaps would have done. After all how many pictures taken 21 years ago have you looked at lately?

You can see the full collection in the gallery on my website at www.gavinparsons.co.uk/pages/rediscovered.html

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A dive back in time

 

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

© Gavin Parsons. All rights reserved

This week’s ‘behind the picture’ apart from being a day late (Bank holiday in the UK) is a shot I took while on a commission for the Port of London Authority. It was, surprisingly, taken in the Docks area of East London. The Docklands Museum was having an events day and the Port of London Authority and the Historical Diving Society collaborated to create a commercial diving attraction. They had modern commercial divers going in the water and historical divers as well.

The old Siebe Gorman helmet was synonymous with commercial diving through a great deal of the 20th century, but now very little of the working kit remains in use.

This was an opportunity for me to get an unusual shot. The water beneath about 5cm from the surface was pitch black so I decided on a half and half style shot. Although, in the end, I settled more for a ¾ ¼ image as the few centimetres had just about enough visibility.

I wanted to portray the diver just before he submerged which was what I got. It wasn’t quite so difficult as this was a volunteer from the audience who, understandably, hesitated before he finally stuck his head under.

 

Unknown to the majority of people in UK’s capitol, let alone the outside world, London is the host to the oldest rowing race in the world. Started in 1715, the Doggetts Coat and Badge race is as historic as it is ceromonial.

Each year up to six Apprentice Waterman of the River Thames compete for a rather plush Red Waterman’s Coat and a silver badge.

As part of an ongoing project to document the life around the River Thames, the Port of London Authority asked me to photograph the preparations and start of the race at London Bridge.

The start occurs adjacent to Fishmongers Hall on the north side of London Bridge which is where the competitors prepare their sculls (the small one person rowing boats).

It was quite popular this year with a photographer from the New York Times and Channel 4 film crews around to film the event. I can only imagine what it will be like when the race hist 300 years old in a couple of years time.

I worked in Black & White to capture the event as a small story.  It’s hard to capture the 298 years of history when essentially you are dealing with a modern scull race, so I opted to record the moment for what it was rather than what it stood for.

The day was fairly cloudy and the light was pretty flat, which suited monochrome. Occasionally we got a blip of sunlight, but also quite a few rain showers, but the build up was calm and light -hearted.

Passers by on the river must have wondered what was going on though as Fishmongers Hall, the home to the Fishmongers Company, one of London’s 12 great Livery Companies, put on a bit of a show and delighted the public with free fish and chips and London Youth Rowing held their own static Thames race on rowing machines. It was a great spectacle that even attracted the Lord Major of London (Not Boris, but the other fella who can trace his job back to Dick Whittington and beyond).

The race started pretty quickly and in a couple of blinks of an eye the competitors were gone. It takes a mere 20 minutes to row the four mile course from London Bridge to Cadogan Pier in Chelsea, but it would have taken me a lot longer by road, so I didn’t get to the finish. However the race was won by the brilliantly named Merlin Dwan.