Food, Glorious Food!

 

Last November, I visited the arches to the north of South Bermondsey and became aware of an expanding stretch of “foodie” arches that traded on Saturdays... Time for a revisit?

Dynamic Vines in the old Spa Station arches was the first stop. I had pre-visualised the shot here, and Laura and one of her customers, Guillaume, were happy to sample a wine or two with me clicking the shutter. A great shot that I’m particularly pleased with. Next, to the Ice Cream Union. Again a positive response and a fine image captured as Sara offered us a free cornet (yummy!) for being involved. Thanks Sara.

At the Dockley Road arches, the customers and tourists were plentiful on this sunny Saturday morning. I’m constantly aware that I have to vary my photographs, and Jonah and Chun were willing to chat away with their heads appearing behind a graphic display of Kernel Brewery bottles. Just next door, a big queue –“Wait here to be served” – at The Ham and Cheese Company. I lurked until the composition looked just right... Click! Another candid shot taken adjacent at Crown & Queue who sell cured and prepared meats. Then to The London Honey Company where Charlie was not happy at me recording his display of honey jars until he had re-arranged it all! We learnt a lot here about how their different honeys are sourced. A great stretch of arches and some superb scenes captured.

Kernel Brewery – the essence of micro-brewing.

Kernel Brewery – the essence of micro-brewing.

Next to familiar territory as we walk along Enid Street… and find another new micro-brewery. The punters were outside enjoying a beer in the sunshine at BB№ (Brew By Numbers). Again, candid shots here worked best.

Then a surprise revisit to Scooterworks. Their café has only been open a few weeks, in the adjacent arch to where all the scooters are sold and repaired. I knew immediately that this café was going to make a great photo location, and the two young lads serving, Kyle and Vicente, beavered away whilst I reeled off a few frames using the Pentax 67 on the tripod.

Then on to Druid Street, which was busy as it was lunchtime and the foodie and brewery outlets were thronging. At Ropewalk we lunched in the arches at the St. JOHN Restaurant. I’ve mentioned previously the need to vary my shots, and here was another opportunity. I asked the maître d' if he and the two waitresses would pose under their chalkboard menu. Jose agreed, and Lucy and Rosie joined him. A lovely atmospheric shot that adds the visual breadth that this project requires.

Glowing with oven pride – St. JOHN Bakery and Restaurant.

Glowing with oven pride – St. JOHN Bakery and Restaurant.

 

Back to Black with Brandt...

 

I recently received a catalogue from Sotheby’s for their upcoming Made In Britain auction on March 16th. The front cover features a Bill Brandt photograph, Bermondsey Policeman c1930–39, but this is not the image as I know it... or is it? This Sotheby’s image is 1000% “Bill Brandt Black”.

Over the last few years I’ve collected every Lilliput magazine that features Bill Brandt’s work and I’ve catalogued it all. In the May 1946 issue, Brandt produced an eight-image photo-essay: Below Tower Bridge – a collection of photographs taken in and around Limehouse, Wapping, Bermondsey and Shadwell. And there it is: the policeman standing in Horselydown New Stairs, Bermondsey; but this photograph appears to be taken in daylight, shows a fair amount of detail and mid-tone grey, and is a reverse of the Sotheby’s catalogue version, which was printed in the early 1980s.

And now I know why...

When Brandt and other photographers worked for Lilliput (and also Picture Post), they were told to under expose their shots. This was because both Lilliput and Picture Post were printed using photogravure methods, and the presses simply couldn’t handle deep solid blacks. I read that this really jarred with Brandt, and he had to grin and bear it until the early 1970s – when he started to become a better-known photographer, have his own exhibitions and his work published in his own books. And those books were printed using photolitho which allowed the use of deep, solid blacks.  At last, he was able to control how his printed and exhibited work appeared – mega-contrast, burnt-out whites and 1000% Bill Brandt Black...

Bermondsey Policeman . Bill Brandt, c1930–39

Bermondsey Policeman. Bill Brandt, c1930–39

 

Dog Day Afternoon...

 

I'm visiting north-west South Bermondsey! It’s the run-up to Christmas and so I’m expecting to have to make a few revisits when the arch occupants are less busy. The Olive Oil Company and The Urban Flower Firm in Raymouth Road SE16 are such cases.

At the old Spa Road Station building, I meet Pauline at Dynamic Vines who shows me around their vast arches – the walls are stacked with wine bottles – a great backdrop for my photographs. I’ll return on a Saturday during their wine tasting sessions. Next Partizan Brewing and The London Honey Company – both future revisits.

Once the railway ticket office, now Dynamic Vines.

Once the railway ticket office, now Dynamic Vines.

I’m nearly back to previous shooting territory at Enid Street and Rope Walk in Bermondsey. At LASSCO I meet Jasper, who featured in my candid LASSCO flooring photograph. Nice chap!

On Druid Street I find the arch at Rima & McRae open. They produce bespoke finishes for smart interiors. This is a perfect scene for capturing my images.

Lastly, walking along Crucifix Lane, I remember that Dallas and Angel at the DnA Factory in Herne Hill have some of their sculptures showing in a gallery here. I pop into Underdog Art and meet Sammy and Lee, and Sammy's dog, Henk. All three of them are very willing for me to shoot in their superb cavernous gallery space. Using both my Nikon FE and Pentax67, I roll off many frames… a great ending to a long day.

Underdog Art – art with a real dog!

Underdog Art – art with a real dog!

 

You Visualise It. We Can Create It...

 

Probably my last shoot of the year as we head south-east from London Bridge to Deptford – my intention to walk back ‘up’ the line to Bermondsey.

At Resolution Way, next to Deptford Station, another first: this time an Art Suppliers, ArchDeptford. Paul, the owner, is very obliging and chats as I snap away.

Almost next door, a stainless-steel sculptor.  ‘Don’t touch a thing in here,’ Simon tells us quickly. ‘Everything is covered in metal dust!’ His studio is a scattering of both finished and unfinished works interspersed with odd bits of metal off-cuts. Some lovely reflections captured here on the Pentax 67.

Deptford – arch, after arch, after arch...

Deptford – arch, after arch, after arch...

The stretch of railway arches running north-west from Deptford recedes into the distance with the Shard ever-present in the distance. Arch after arch, row after row… After a few hundred yards we come across a life-size model horse propped up against the railings, and some ‘scenery’ dumped outside some arches. Something interesting here?

Horses park free outside Arteffects, Deptford

Horses park free outside Arteffects, Deptford

A revisit to Arteffects will be required, but next door, Michael Whiteley welcomes us into his four arches where he produces stage props for the TV and entertainment industry. ‘You visualise it, we can create it’ his business card states boldly. Perfect! Whilst I shoot away, Michael and his team work furiously on 180 multicoloured polystyrene stage blocks to be delivered to Channel 4 the next day.

Our next find is Pedibus, who make and hire out pedal-powered vehicles for tours around London – eight seaters with twice as many pedals. Amazing!

Lastly, Tom at London Bronze Casting is working outside his arch glueing layer upon layer of latex sheets onto a model face and bust, ultimately to have bronze cast over it.

The light is fading and it is only 3.30pm. Off to the tube, and home…

 

Return to Maltby Street

 

The return visit to Maltby Street and Ropewalk; this time for the weekend market where this short section of arches is transformed into a ‘foodie’ street that is thronging with people.

Ropewalk Food Market, SE1

Ropewalk Food Market, SE1

My photographic aim was to capture this transformation – blokes in aprons serving food, where, during the week, floorboards are being sold.

On the ‘other’ side of the tracks, Druid Street plays host to a vast variety of arch activities. Peter at the Southwark Brewing Company was particularly helpful and enthusiastic about my project. I will return when his arch is busier…

Druid Street, SE1

Druid Street, SE1

 

Two’s Company

 

For my next trip ‘Under Tracks’, my wife Susan came with me – not for photographic reasons, but because we first went to the National Portrait Gallery to see the John Singer Sargent exhibition (now that’s art!).

We started off in Vauxhall and immediately received a much warmer welcome than in the East End. After explaining my project, we were invited inside the VauxWall Climbing Centre premises… ‘Shoot what you want!’ etc, etc from the manager. From Vauxhall to Bermondsey – Enid Street, Maltby Street and Ropewalk.

The guys at Scooterworks were friendly and helpful – just brilliant! The boss had used Nikon FEs whilst serving in the New Zealand Air Force. I realised here that Susan was my ‘foil’. A couple turning up gives a different first impression than a single bloke. Then after my introductory chat, she engages the subject(s) in conversation, whilst I snap away.

At Ropewalk, LASSCO (the London Architectural Salvage and Supply Co.) have leased a section of arches to themselves. I shot a timeless image here, LASSCO Flooring, which I'm pretty pleased with. This section of arches host a weekend ‘foodie’ market. We would return.

Timeless... LASSCO Flooring, Ropewalk,SE1

Timeless... LASSCO Flooring, Ropewalk,SE1