Chasing Clouds in Greenwich: A Journey East Along the Thames, a set on Flickr.
On July 11, as part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, I decided to revisit a journey I had made last year, when my wife’s sister visited from Scotland and we went cycling along the Thames Path from Greenwich to the Thames Barrier, out to the east on the border of Greenwich and Woolwich. On that occasion, I had been delighted to borrow my wife’s camera to take photos, and it undoubtedly provided a spur for me to get back into photography, a passion since adolescence, which I had neglected since becoming a full-time writer and researcher on Guantánamo six and a half years ago. My wife then made it a reality by buying me a camera last Christmas.
It then took a while for me to come up with a project that enabled me to make the most of my awakened interest in photography, but in May, after I had begun cycling around my neighbourhood with my son over the preceding months, regularly taking in not just Brockley, but also Nunhead, Forest Hill, Greenwich and Deptford, and after we had the rainiest spring in living memory, I found that I couldn’t stay in the house on the first sunny days in what seemed like an eternity, and, as a result, I took to my bike, repeating those trips with my camera, and then travelling further afield. Very swiftly, I decided that it was so good for my body, my mind and my spirit to cycle regularly, to explore the city that has been my home for the last 27 years, to get to know it and to feel it and to understand it, and to photograph the aspects of it that were of interest to me, that I would embark on a project to cycle the whole of London and to photograph it.
Since that day — May 11, 2012 — I have been on long and short journeys by bike almost every day, come rain or shine, and although my project is many, many months away from completion — at current estimates involving perhaps 10,000 photos and lasting at least another year — I have begun to absorb London, getting to know how it all fits together, in ways that I hadn’t before, as though it were an instrument, or as though my brain and the city are becoming intimately related, like echoes of each other.
I have so far uploaded about 550 images of London, which should be searchable on a map here, or by tag here, or through my sets or collections, but I have many hundreds more — at least a thousand more — to upload, mostly from journeys I took in the month before my visit to Italy, in the middle of August, and some from the week since my return, covering south, east and central London.
Although I knew, when I set out from Brockley for Greenwich on July 11, that I would reprise my previous bike ride along the Thames Path to the Thames Barrier, a journey in which old Greenwich gives way to the new developments on the peninsula, and then to the surviving riverside industries in east Greenwich, I was unsure how much further I would go, but it was so captivating that I continued, along the Woolwich shoreline, past Woolwich Arsenal and all the way to Thamesmead, returning via Plumstead and then meeting the river once more and retracing my steps as darkness descended.
I had never previously cycled beyond the Thames Barrier, and I had also never visited Thamesmead, so this was a great adventure, and one that was hugely rewarding as I discovered places of great resonance that I would not have previously imagined. I hope you stay with me for the whole journey, which I’ll be publishing in four parts, as this first part only covers Greenwich and the Greenwich peninsula. It was only, in the end, a round trip of 15 to 20 miles, but it felt like I had travelled to another world.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Maria McAllister wrote:
Great photos Andy x
Thanks, Maria. Glad you like them. Hope to see you soon!
Leonardo L Larl wrote:
Andy i like also the way of the description of photographs.
That’s good to hear, Leonardo. Being a writer as well, I can’t just let the photos speak for themselves! But also, of course, my eye as a photographer remains intensely political, even though sometimes what I’m in search of is something more poetic. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, of course, but in my writing on Guantanamo for six years the poetry has been hard to come by …!
On Facebook, I also posted the photo entitled, “The giant cloud over Canary Wharf” and wrote:
This is my favourite photo from the set I just posted. I think it looks like some colossal creature of the air about to devour Canary Wharf. It was ephemeral, of course, but while it was there it dwarfed those below it, thinking that all there is to life is making much more money than any decent person could possibly need. Clouds can put us in our place!
Toia Tutta Jung wrote:
Your pictures are really great, Andy. I´ve been too busy to comment, but I´ve seen them and especially the “green” pictures were delightful to see, very relaxing and inspiring.
Toia Tutta Jung wrote:
Think someone can be so busy…it´s a sign of the times…the mentality of the employers is “take the blood from those who have work because there are so many who don´t have work”…
Thanks, Toia. It’s lovely to hear from you, and I’m delighted that you like the photos. As for employers, yes, I think that’s right – those with work are being made to work too hard; in addition, absurdly and cruelly, those without work are being punished.
Jennah Solace wrote:
WOW. I am very impressed by your decision to rediscover your lost talent (only lost because unused) and by your poetic and artistic self expression! I don’t think this experience is far from your passion for Guantanamo either, clearly as you’ve demonstrated through these photos — injustice exists everywhere. We pass by it on the street everyday, from the injustices we do to our own bodies and souls (by neglecting them) to the injustices of society as a whole (as we neglect those as well!) Some of these injustices are intentional, some are not — but they all add up to imbalance. I believe deeply that we were created imperfect on purpose, that we are made that way to learn and grow from those innate imperfections around and inside us. Sometimes those imperfections make us hate ourselves or each other; they drive us to acts in ways that we hope will end in gaining satisfaction, self love, admiration, ease, happiness or self-fulfilment of self interest. BUT, are we happier as a whole? I would say not. I would say that these self interest driven goals are only causing a greater sense of discontent in the world. Such discontent spurs the creation of such things as the ‘war on terror’ and the ultimate creation of places such as Guantanamo.
Thanks, Jennah. I’m delighted to see that you’ve been taking a lot of photos too. And you’re right – the same impulses are driving me as they have done with Guantanamo for the last six and a half years. As for the big malaise in society, I think that people don’t know what they need. They’ve been encouraged to be self-obsessed and relentlessly materialistic, but materialism is an empty pursuit and self-obsession is only useful if you’re a psychopath – for example, those in politics or business, and in many parts of the entertainment industry, who only relate to other people to the extent that they can be used.
Zilma Nunes wrote:
London is always cloudy … sometimes fog or cloudy, right? sf is like this both cities are close to the ocean..nice picture..
It’s rarely foggy, Zilma, unlike San Francisco, but it’s often cloudy in a dull way – not like in these photos, but overcast, so there’s not enough light and the whole sky is a dull grey. My favourite days are when the sky is completely clear, or when there are clouds like in these photos.
Jennah Solace wrote:
I like your point, “I think that people don’t know what they need.” Yes, very true. People are told, from early on, through all kids of messaging – what they need. And they are missing a sense of ‘inner truth’ much of the time, so they look to others as an example. Unfortunately, there are many bad examples leading them!
Thanks, Jennah. Yes, very true, and what that meaning might be is something that our leaders don’t want us talking about, unless we do it safely through religion. They certainly don’t want us thinking and agitating about political perspectives, and solutions to our materialistic, atomised malaise.
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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