More images for Umbra Sumus

Posted on April 24, 2014


Out again this morning shooting early. It is quite tricky to get the shots I am looking for. I was up at 3.45 am and in the car headed for London just after 4 am. An hour later I was parked up and on my way to my location for the morning – The Highway. 45 minutes later the sun was up and the window for making the shot I had planned was over.

I have had to be quite conscientious in planning my morning shoots. I keep a careful check on times for Nautical Sunrise (the start of twilight) and Sunrise. I also check out my shots during daytime and on some occasions by using Google Street View. For today’s shot the GSV image looked like this:

Google Street View - 29 The Highway

Google Street View – 29 The Highway

My photograph made at 5.30 am this morning is below:

Every third man at the least might be set down as a foreigner ©Keith Greenough 2014

Every third man at the least might be set down as a foreigner
©Keith Greenough 2014


My inspiration for this photograph was a essay by Thomas De Quincey from the mid-1800s in which he recounts the story of the Ratcliffe Highway (today The Highway) Murders of 1811. De Quincey was a self-confessed opium-eater and quite a racist. He remarked how along the Ratcliffe Highway ‘Every third man at the least might be set down as a foreigner’ and went on to declare that ‘it is well known that the navy is a sure receptacle of all the murderers and ruffians’. Since most of the foreigners were sailors his inference is clear.

I am beginning to wonder if one approach to linking text to the images might be to create an abbreviated text from my source reference text and use this as the title for the image. This seems to be the approach that Sharon Boothroyd is using for her on-line prayer series ‘They all say please’, see here. I have tried this out for the image above. Given that the viewer will know from the statement for the work that each image is linked to an historic event related to the history of immigration in the East End, a title such as this might be all that I need to prompt the imagination of the viewer.

In some ways I feel more comfortable with this as the longer texts seem to dominate the image/text pairings. But it does mean that meaning of the image/text pairings would be much more open. I will return to this question when I present my thoughts on Umberto Eco’s ‘The Open Work’ which I am currently studying. More to think about….