Last Thursday Jane Spooner (Tower of London Historic Buildings Curator) was kind enough to show me around the Byward Tower. This tower houses the medieval wall painting seen in this blog’s banner. Like many places in the Tower of London the Byward Tower is a patchwork of different periods of the buildings history. I spent a couple of hours in shifting, disappearing light attempting to make sense of this space.
The first visit to a site is an uneasy and unpredictable time, you know that these first frames will be clumsy, often obvious, as you respond to the immediate experience of the location. As I stood there looking at the surrounding room, the winged figures of the medieval painting stared down, almost daring me to try and make a picture without them in it. It’s like standing in a room with Natalie Portman and trying to think how you will photograph her dining room table.
The experience of using film to photograph such an intriguing space is captured well in these words from Tod Papageorge’s Essay on the work of photographer Robert Adams:
‘As anyone who has used a camera should be reminded, this process is essentially a blind one and initially, a matter of faith: a photograph is, upon exposure, only a latent image (necessarily unviewable, therefore mysterious) until a negative is produced. But even then, that negative represents something that any photographer, no matter how experienced, can only insecurely imagine as he exposes his film; that is, the reduction of the blooming, often febrile, world caught in his camera into a bloodless picture’
Below is a selection of images from the films I exposed in the Byward Tower, the images have been scanned directly from the photographic contact sheet so the quality is fairly low.