Julia Fullerton-Batten / Old Father Thames, 2018
The River Thames is not even the longest river in the British Isles and a mere pygmy in comparison with many other rivers in the world, yet its significance to British and world history is immense. The river starts as a small trickle in hills to the north west of London and travels for nearly 450 km through the south of England, the centre of London and thence out into the North Sea via the Thames Estuary, meandering its way through some of England’s most picturesque towns and villages.
The Thames has been a fascination for me ever since I moved from Germany to live in Oxford as a teenager and now in West London, both times close to the River Thames. Its constantly changing face with the tide and the seasons, the activities on and around the river are for me compulsive viewing and inspiration.
I am not alone in my admiration of the glories of the river. Notably, it has been an inspiration to many painters. Monet painted the river repeatedly. Turner too captured the working river revealing the early nineteenth century fumes and smoke from the city’s factories and river traffic. Whistler was yet another. In the 1860s and 1870s he painted the bustling, rapidly changing urban neighbourhoods close to the river.
But it is the history of the Thames along its entire length that appeals to me as a story-telling photographer. There are an infinite variety of stories encompassing birth, baptism, death, flooding, forgotten leisure activities, as well as the stories of the ‘Ladies Bridge’, messages in a bottle, Dickensian ‘Mudlarkers’, prostitution, damaged masterpieces, and countless other whimsical, idiosyncratic and tragic happenings. My fascination with the Thames has transcended into a major project. I am now two years into an opus of a work, selecting, researching and photographing historical and cultural narratives from along its banks. The result to-date is my still unfinished work – Old Father Thames,
Julia Fullerton-Batten is a worldwide acclaimed and exhibited fine-art photographer. Her use of unusual locations, highly creative settings, street-cast models, accented with cinematic lighting are hallmarks of her very distinctive style of photography. She insinuates visual tensions in her images, and imbues them with a hint of mystery, which combine to tease the viewer to re-examine the picture, each time seeing more content and finding a deeper meaning. These distinctive qualities have established enthusiasts for her work worldwide and at all ends of the cultural spectrum, from casual viewers to connoisseurs of fine-art photography.
Fullerton-Batten has won countless awards for her fine-art work, is a Hasselblad Ambassador and has a Fellowship at the RPS. She was commissioned by The National Portrait Gallery in London to shoot sixteen portraits of leading people in the UK National Health Service, which are held there in a permanent collection. Other of her images are also in permanent collection at the Musee de l’Elysee, Lausanne, Switzerland. Her work is featured in professional photographic magazines around the world; she is also sought after as a speaker at international events and as a judge for prestigious international photographic competitions.
Julia was born in Bremen, Germany. Her early life was spent in Germany and the USA. At sixteen she moved to the UK where she completed her secondary education and subsequently studied photography at college. She assisted professional photographers for five years before a first commercial assignment kick-started her professional career in 2000. She first gained recognition as a fine-art photographer in 2005 with ‘Teenage Stories’. She has now completed thirteen major projects and is progressing through her large-scale project ‘Old Father Thames’, illustrating historical stories, customs and traditions to be found along the entire length of the River Thames from its source to the Thames Estuary at the North Sea. She has published two books*. Julia lives in London with her husband and two young boys.
* Teenage Stories: Actes Sud, 2007; ISBN 978-2-7427-6833-2
The Act, self-published, 2017; ISBN 978-0-9934199-1-1