Crossness Pumping Station Open Day

Thames Tides, Crossness Pumping Station
Sunday 23rd October was Open Day at the Crossness Pumping Station. The ‘Thames Tides’ installation, created by Susi Arnott and I, screened throughout the day alongside the mighty beam engines. You can still catch the show this Friday 28th Oct. Details and photos below.

Crossness Pumping Station. Friday 28th Oct. 2016

Crossness Pumping Station
The Old Works, Thames Water S.T.W. Bazalgette Way, Abbey Wood, London SE2 9AQ

Friday 28th Oct. Public guided tour from 10am-1pm. Booking is required for this – through Eventbrite on the Crossness website. Cost is £12 and includes tea and biscuits.
Parking available outside site on Bazalgette Way. Walkers/cyclists gain access via the pedestrian access pathway – at end of Bazalgette Way on left BEFORE thames water security gate.

Thames Tides at Crossness Pumping Station

Thames Tides, Crossness,Susi Arnott,Crispin Hughes

Thames Tides is screening alongside the beam engines at the ethereal Crossness Engine House. The huge building combines ponderous machinery and delicate filigree work to astonishing effect. Its function was to pump London’s sewage up above the level of the Thames and release it on an outgoing tide. What better place to screen Thames Tides?

Here are the details:

Crossness Pumping Station. Sunday 23rd Oct. and Friday 28th Oct. 2016 10.30am-4pm.

Crossness Pumping Station
The Old Works, Thames Water S.T.W. Bazalgette Way, Abbey Wood, London SE2 9AQ

Sunday 23rd Oct.
is an Open day from 10.30- 5pm (last admission 4pm). There is no need to book, visitors can just turn up. Ticket prices are £6 for adults and £2 for children under 16.

Friday 28th Oct. Public guided tour from 10am-1pm. Booking is required for this – through Eventbrite on the Crossness website. Cost is £12 and includes tea and biscuits.
Parking available outside site on Bazalgette Way. Walkers/cyclists gain access via the pedestrian access pathway – at end of Bazalgette Way on left BEFORE thames water security gate.

And here are some more photos:

“To know hunger, work illegally, and be anonymous.” (Attributed to V I Lenin)

With thanks to all the photographers of the Displaces project


On   previous ‘participatory photography’ projects, we’d give people good compact cameras, and some practical and conceptual training. Then they’d return to their families, communities or neighbourhoods, and take pictures.

The results could be revelatory; expressive as well as documentary, giving insights into lives and identities which might not be apparent to a professional photojournalist.

But working in the Calais ‘Jungle’ challenged this process.

I’ve been working in the camp with Dr Marie Godin, from the University of Oxford’s International Migration Institute, on the ‘Displaces’ photo project.  We wanted to take a critical look at the use of participatory photography there.

We met people living in temporary conditions, in a place which they do NOT own – culturally, legally, socially or visually. The camp represents everything they want to escape from. Handing cameras to refugees and demanding they document their lives there, risked producing images reinforcing their sense of abjection.


This is compounded by not being able to show most people’s faces.

Those who want to come to the UK need to stay invisible.
They must not make any trace of their existence in Calais and risk compromising their asylum claim, if and when they get here.

So they often choose to anonymise themselves.

But anonymity is also part of their oppression, and is continually imposed. Those who want to keep them out of the UK de-humanise them as a ‘swarm’. Those who want to help get them into the UK also anonymise them, albeit with best intention.

Both are dispiriting and undermining. Rubbing out someone’s face does not feel good. Asking them to do it themselves is even worse. They have to turn themselves into non-people. Collude in their own oppression. A photo project makes it all very literal and obvious.

Pixellated pictures appear to criminalise refugees and the right to seek asylum.

Many participants were even more aware than us, of this problem of identity and representation. They responded in various ways, perhaps the most interesting being aspiration.


In particular, people took pictures of themselves not as refugees but as individual citizens. Participants portrayed themselves as human beings (teachers, engineers, mothers and fathers, cousins) with aspirations to have a better life.

An engineer from Darfur keeps his suit hanging in his shelter.


Some photographed themselves standing outside bourgeois houses. One group posed in front of Rodin’s ‘The Burghers of Calais’ (a sculpture about self-sacrifice in the face of arbitrary power).

These photos were often taken not for the project, but for their families back home, with no attempt to hide themselves. I find these bland touristic photos more interesting and telling than the images taken in the camp.
But how can they be shared more widely?

I’ve anonymised this set of ‘aspirational’ images using a different cultural, visual code; by ‘ghosting’ whole bodies, not just pixillating faces. I hope the results question the way settled citizens ignore or look right through refugees – without criminalising or victimising them.


Thames Tides moves to the Bartlett School of Architecture


We’re on the move again

Thames Tides will be showing at the Bartlett School of Architecture on Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th September 2016.

140 Hampstead Rd.NW1 2BX. (Room G02, Ground floor)

Free entry 10am – 6pm. Please email or give us a call ( 0207 207 0608) to arrange entry.


Here are some photos and videos taken before we wrapped at the Brunel Sinking Shaft:


Thames Tides, Brunel Museum, Brunel Sinking Shaft

Thames Tides at the Brunel Sinking Shaft

Our Thames Tides installation has opened at the weird and wonderful Brunel Sinking Shaft in Rotherhithe. Only running till Friday 16th Sept. so get along quickly!
Details here:


Thames Tides, Brunel Museum, Brunel Sinking Shaft

Thames Tides at the Cinema Museum

‘Thames Tides’ launched at the Cinema Museum in Kennington, London on Sunday 4th September. See the Thames Tides website for more details and upcoming screenings.


Thames Tides

Thames Tides Susi Arnott & Crispin Hughes

A large-scale, 5-screen projected installation, created along the tidal Thames in central London

This is my latest collaborative show with Susi Arnott.

Twice a day, the Thames rises many metres to fill secret, enclosed spaces in central London.

Cameras and stereo microphones, held under wharves, jetties and office-blocks, recorded four distinct audio films. Starting slowly, the water rises inexorably to take and drown each camera in the confined space of its man-made, built environment; stereo sounds of traffic, birds, humans and boat-wash are replaced by burbling inundation and the buzz of propellers. The films are not ‘in synch’; the chaos of their rhythms means nobody walks into the same exhibition twice…

To find out more go to the Thames Tides website here.


Sunday September 4th 2016

Thames Tides will premiere as part of the 2016 Totally Thames festival

Sunday September 4th 2016 at The Cinema Museum,
2 Dugard Way (off Renfrew Rd.), Kennington, SE11 4TH

Anytime from 2pm till 10pm. Free entry. There’ll be a bar, café and plenty of space to mingle and talk. – alongside the multi-screen, stereo experience to wander through.


Tuesday 13th-Friday 16th September 2016

Thames Tides will be on show 10am – 5pm everyday at the astonishing Brunel Shaft by the river in Rotherhithe. Free entry. Donations to the museum gratefully received.

Brunel Museum, Railway Avenue, Rotherhithe, London, SE16 4LF.


Totally Thames Festival



Through Positive Eyes Durban 4


Yvonne’s family live without piped water or sanitation but they own three Smartphones, one tablet, a laptop and a TV. Far from being luxuries these devices are likely to be their way out of poverty. Her two oldest daughters are very clever and technologically able.


Yvonne works at the Gugu Dlemini AIDS Foundation. She says:

It took me a long time to come out of that shell that made me less confident, but eventually I thought to myself that it was something I had to do. In my community many people suffer from these situations. It’s also because we are less educated, so we see no reason, or feel ashamed to speak about these kinds of things. We still live in a community that is dominated by men, making women feel less adequate.


As a woman this also affects me. I am also HIV positive, and I am deaf too. This has brought a lot of misunderstandings and difficulties for myself and other people. People find it hard to communicate with me. Some people think that there is something wrong with me. I misinterpret what they are saying. This causes me to distance myself from people. It has also caused problems with my relationships with men in my life as they take advantage of me.

Continue reading “Through Positive Eyes Durban 4”

Through Positive Eyes – Durban 3


(See here for the background to this project)

Thulile, Simiso and Jennifer are currently presenting their work at the Durban Art Gallery as part of the Through Positive Eyes show, coinciding with the International AIDS Conference. The show has been designed by Stan Pressner and Carol Brown to enable the participants to tell their stories and interact with projections of their work.

Here is an extract from Thulile’s story:

‘I have been living with HIV for 25 years, I was born with it.

As a kid they told me I would not live past 7. When I lived past 7 years old they told me I wouldn’t live past 10….

When my neighbors found out, they stigmatized me.
I discovered I could do things to help myself. I am strong. I am beautiful. I am a positive woman. I won’t let anyone discriminate me. I have survived.

When I don’t feel well I talk to my virus. I say ‘don’t misbehave! If I get sick you won’t have anyplace to live.’ I must love myself and be positive to myself. I am a hero. We are all human, we all need love. We are strong. We are beautiful. We are positive.

Continue reading “Through Positive Eyes – Durban 3”

Through Positive Eyes – Durban 2


(See previous post for the background to this project)

Elizabeth is currently presenting her work at the Durban Art Gallery as part of the Through Positive Eyes show, coinciding with the International AIDS Conference. The show has been designed by Stan Pressner to enable the participants to tell their stories and interact with projections of their work.

Here is an extract from Elizabeth’s story:

‘Hello, I’m Elizabeth. I was diagnosed HIV+ in 2008.
At birth I was taken away from my mother, she was mentally unstable. I grew up in the Homes. I had fun growing up with my age group, with only one or two housemothers we had lots of freedom to interact and live.

As time went on I was put in a foster home. I was abused badly at this place. It was a difficult time for me, the hardest time in my life.   I felt like my childhood was taken away from me.

I spoke up and eventually was removed from this home.

In 2008 I found out I was HIV+. I actually had many friends around me who were positive. I asked them questions and I’ve learned to live with it.

I moved on. I continued to use alcohol and drugs. I had two children. The first I gave up for adoption. The second, I decided to keep. The day the doctor put her in my arms, I fell in love.

New Year’s day last year, I decided to change my way. I’d been going around and around in circles. I want to find myself.  I decided I wanted to pull myself together.

I’ve decided to come out about it all, especially living with HIV.   Now I want to encourage young girls to love themselves, to trust themselves, to speak up….’

Through Positive Eyes – Durban

Silungile-Through Positive Eyes-Durban-1301Photo by Silungile
I’m just back from working on the final chapter of this international arts and advocacy project, in which HIV+ve participants photograph their lives to combat stigma.

I teach photography, and co-edit the work with the participants, alongside Gideon Mendel and Prof. David Gere’s team from the Art and Global Health Centre at UCLA.

A major exhibition featuring work from all ten cities has just opened in Durban to coincide with the 21st International AIDS Conference, which begins on the 18th July. The HIV+ve photographers will work as guides and speakers at the show.

I’ll post work from the Durban group during the conference, starting with Silungile.


Silungile is a sangoma or traditional healer as well as an educator, HIV activist and grandmother. Here are a selection of her photographs.

A London Bangladeshi Wedding

I was delighted to be invited to my neighbour’s London Bangladeshi wedding.  The walima (reception) was huge with around 800 guests and four photographers equipped with drones and smoke machines.

The day after the wedding I was asked round to photograph the preparations for the ‘bride feast’. A way of welcoming the bride to her new home.

Displaces. A photo-project in the Calais ‘Jungle’.

This mysterious photograph of the Calais ‘Jungle’ is the work of 18 year-old Esyas (his name has been changed), an artist from Eritrea. He is taking part in the Displaces photo project set up by Prof. Corinne Squire.

I’ve been working alongside Gideon Mendel, teaching photography and editing the results of a two day workshop. We’ve left cameras with refugees to document their lives in the camp. I’ll post more images as the project progresses.

Esyas’ photograph conveys the atmosphere of this place which is not a place. A landfill site full of people, now partially bulldozed back into the ground. There is a stark simplicity to the landscape which makes it feel like an allegory: the camp, the fence, the road, the police, and the bulldozers. Yet everywhere there is a flickering of different lives and cultures: the scraps of possessions burnt or ploughed into the earth, the Eritrean church, the mosque, the library, the cafes and the figures playing football or just staring at the horizon.

Darbishire Place, Whitechapel

An ongoing commission for Niall McLaughlin Architects: to photograph the flats and residents in this Stirling Prize shortlisted Peabody block.

Much architectural photography has an arid and ghostly or post apocalyptic feel. The buildings are presented without people, in creepily perfect weather and light, as though they subsist for and of themselves. We are hard-wired to respond to faces; the moment one appears in a photo the building recedes and becomes the setting for a particular human drama. If and when they do appear, most people in architectural photos are faceless figures performing unremarkable and predictable functions serving the building, rather than vice-versa.

In discussion with Niall we decided to try and photograph the flats with the residents in situ. A housing block is nothing without its inhabitants, and this elegantly low-key, unpretentious building is designed around their lives and needs. Unlike boutique designs for wealthy clients, these flats must adapt themselves to a wide range of cultures, tastes, religions and cuisines. They concentrate on getting the fundamentals right: light, space, movement, air, sleep and so on.

I have tried to show the residents using the depth of the space, sometimes looking out of the frame, to make us consider the rooms’ shapes and limits. I want the viewer to see them as individual people, using and enjoying the architecture rather than just being in it.


Work, Climate and Donkeys

For donkeys as well as people, the brick kilns in India are dangerous and unhealthy places to work – but unemployment is worse.

At the RAJ kiln near Agra, accommodation for donkeys and their owners lies empty. Unseasonal rains have waterlogged the brick kilns and there’s no work for them here.

Back in the home village of Madhupur, 16-year old Archang wakes early to begin looking after the unemployed men of her family.

The family have to feed themselves and their donkeys, whether or not they’re earning.

Families who also own a cart can occasionally earn some money hauling a load.

But most of the men and their animals will be out of work until the kilns dry out again.

Climate change makes life more precarious.

Home Lives of the Donkey People

Donkey owners – problem or solution?

Itinerant donkey owners working in Gujarat’s brick kilns spend 24 hours a day with their donkeys. They live, work, play and abide together. The donkeys’ welfare is entirely in the people’s hands. So who are they, and how do they live alongside their animals? I hope these photographs from MA Ambapur kiln near Ahmedabad will help show how these two societies live together.



Seven people go into a room and eight people come out.

Anaesthetists don’t just work with unconscious patients. This expectant mother is being guided through a magic trick. Sitting beside her, the anaesthetist asks questions, tells her what is happening, and what she can expect to feel and hear. His team help bridge the gap between her emotions, and what is happening to her numbed body.





Patient Experience

From my own experiences, I’m aware of the intimacy and vulnerability in handing yourself over completely into the care of someone else.

Everyone remembers having a general anaesthetic. They won’t remember the operation; but they’re likely to tell their friends all about the process of slipping into unconsciousness. The anaesthetist is their guide and protector into and out of this netherworld. For the clinicians the process is routine, yet the anaesthetists and nurses I photographed were always aware of the importance of this moment to the patient. They used charm, humour, calmness, eye contact and a genuine interest in the patient to help them navigate what is at the very least a disorienting experience.


Consciousness is a tricky subject, debated by philosophers and scientists for hundreds of years. But anaesthetists turn it on and off and otherwise manipulate it every day. Photographing people losing consciousness is an odd thing. Like a benign and reversible death. One moment they’re there talking as I snap away and the next minute they’re absent, yet still the centre of attention. They are there and not there.
My commission for the Royal College of Anaesthetists took me to hospitals around the country to photograph all aspects of anaesthesia.
I’ll cover other aspects of this extraordinary profession in future posts.