Untitled Document

London’s Riverscape Lost and Found - Charles Craig + Graham Diprose + Mike Seaborne

Date: 12 July – 24 September 2004


The 1937 panorama was made for the Port of London Authority (PLA) by the commercial photographic firm of Avery Illustrations. The 1997–1999 panorama is the combined effort of three photographers, Charles Craig, Graham Diprose, and Mike Seaborne.

London Riverscape and The Arts Institute: ‘London’s Riverscape’ suggests a singularity. It is an exhibition of a contemporary panorama of the Thames below Tower Bridge and compared to one completed for the Port of London Authority in 1937. However, the work is also an example of topographic photography and part of a tradition of practice which occupies an important place in the history of photography. The capacity of photographing to describe and represent the world was a key stimulus to the early development of the medium. The outcome has been a rich archive of visual references to our material past. These provide a creative record demonstrating equivalent craft and artistry to be found in the tradition of topographical and panoramic painting.

The 1937 panorama was commissioned by the Port of London Authority (PLA) which engaged a firm of commercial photographers, Avery Illustrations, to photograph each bank of the River Thames from London Bridge to Greenwich. The exact reason as to why these photographs were required is not known, but one possibility is that they were taken to record PLA controlled wharves to see if they were being used for illegal or unsuitable purposes.

In 1988, London's Lost Riverscape was published, based on the 1937 PLA photographs. The book was very successful and inspired three photographers, Charles Craig, Graham Diprose and Mike Seaborne, to carry out a similar exercise in order to record how the riverscape of London has changed in the intervening years. It was decided to replicate the original panorama as closely as possible and work began to re-photograph the same stretch of river early in 1997. Subsequent updates take the visual record right up to the end of 1999.

The new book is 250 x 275mm, landscape, and comprises 176 pages. It is fully indexed and reproduces the entire 1937 panorama together with the corresponding photographs of the river as it is today. The sections of the old and new panoramas are shown one above the other so that they may be compared directly, and there is a lively and informative text by River Thames experts, Chris Ellmers and Alex Werner, authors of the 1988 book. The foreword is written by Ken Livingstone MP, Mayor of London.

(Download PDF for full essay / text)