THE TALES OF OLD FATHER THAMES

JULIA FULLERTON-BATTEN

Fascinated by all the stories that the River Thames has to tell, fine-art photographer and Hasselblad Ambassador Julia Fullerton-Batten set out to bring these tales of life and death to light with the Hasselblad H6D-100c.

Originally from Bremen, Germany, Julia made the move to England almost thirty years ago where she has always found herself living near the banks of the River Thames. As the second longest river in the UK, the Thames has historically been the major line of communication, transportation, and nourishment for not only London, but seven different counties in England. As a great provider for the English people, it’s no surprise that the water source has the nickname ‘’Old Father Thames.’’

Forging a connection with this mighty river, Julia became fascinated by its history and all the tales it had to tell. “That of the Thames is chequered with many interesting individual stories.

The stories encompass birth, baptism, death, suicide, messages in a bottle, riverside scavenging youngsters, quaint ancient boats, prison ships, and … other melodramatic episodes of life and death …”

Using the Hasselblad H6D-100c, Julia embarked on her project, Old Father Thames, to bring to life various stories and situations that have taken place along the river’s banks. Known for her choice of curious locations, inventive concepts, relatable subjects, and distinctive cinematic lighting techniques, Julia’s projects contain mysterious elements that draw the viewer to take more than a second look.

Camera: Hasselblad H6D-100c
Shutter Speed: 1/30 Sec
Aperture: F/9,5
© Julia Fullerton-Batten

Ophelia

The Hogsmill River, a tributary of the River Thames, was the setting for John Everett Millais’ iconic painting of Shakespeare’s Ophelia. As part of the Thames’ history, Julia recreated the scene down to the last detail in this beautifully dramatic photograph. Julia commented, ‘’I was able to shoot the scene on the exact spot where he [Millais] created the first part of the painting in 1851. Furthermore, … I replicated in my image every single flower present in the painting. In addition, I ensured that my model had similar features, hair and skin colouring.’’ 

Bathers at Tower Bridge

At its height, the banks of the River Thames next to the London Bridge proved to be a place of entertainment where all members of society, especially women and children, would bathe. But due to high tide, which was every 3-4 hours, swimming and sun bathing were usually cut short. With this image, Julia portrays a 1950s setting along the Thames with women and children in one-piece bathing suits, the male figures wandering about, and food stalls and other entertainment set up for a quick escape from the tide, all with the Tower Bridge in the background.

Camera: Hasselblad H6D-100c
Shutter Speed: 1/80 SEC
Aperture: F/16
© Julia Fullerton-Batten

Camera: Hasselblad H6D-100c
Shutter Speed: 1/125 Sec
Aperture: F/9,5
© Julia Fullerton-Batten

Swan Upping

“Swan upping” is a practice that began in the 1100s along the River Thames where valuable mute swans were rounded up in order to mark their beaks and indicate ownership. Julia’s photograph recreates this traditional ceremony, which still takes place every year on the third week in July. Nowadays, this is done to take a census of the swan population.

The Grain Tower

Grain Tower, an off-shore fort constructed in the mid-19th century, was built to protect the River Thames against invasion from the French. It’s located 600 metres out to sea, making it accessible only by boat during high tide and a raised path, or causeway, during low tide. This photograph recreates a story from The Times newspaper in May 1867 where Marie Eugenie, the youngest daughter of Captain E. F. S. Lloyd of the Royal Engineers, had died, possibly due to tuberculosis or a lethal accident. Julia’s piece reenacts the officer carrying his dear daughter down the causeway to a mainland grave.

Camera: Hasselblad H6D-100c
Shutter Speed: 1/250 Sec
Aperture: F/13
© Julia Fullerton-Batten

© Julia Fullerton-Batten

Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson, the first female pilot to do a solo trip from Britain to Australia, was lost to the waters of the River Thames. Caught flying in bad weather, Amy used a parachute escape, but to no avail. Julia’s photograph represents the awful death of a heroine whose body was never found in the deep waters of Old Father Thames.

Behind the scenes

Watch behind the scenes material by Genevieve Stevenson

About Julia Fullerton-Batten

Julia Fullerton-Batten is a worldwide acclaimed and exhibited fine-art photographer. Her body of work now encompasses twelve major projects spanning a decade of engagement in the field. She has won countless awards for both her commercial and fine-art work and became a Hasselblad Master in 2008. To learn more about Julia Fullerton-Batten, click here.

DISCOVER THE HASSELBLAD H6D-100C

GÜNTHER EGGER

QUALITY AND DETAILS WITH THE HASSELBLAD H6D-400C MS

For Austrian-based product photographer Günther Egger, detail is everything. In order to capture every last aspect of an object, he relies on the Hasselblad H6D-400c MS.

Read next story

Mats Lind

Abstract Art on the Slopes

Instead of shooting standard sports photographs, Mats Lind wanted to create abstract images of the world’s best skiers gliding down the slopes. With only a second to capture his subjects as they sped by him at 100 km per hour, Mats blended multiple exposures together to create painting-like imagery that illustrates the exhilaration of competing for a world championship title.

Read more

BROCK ELBANK

HOW DO YOU C ME NOW?

Over a span of 33 months, Brock Elbank photographed 30 individuals with Congenital Melanocytic Naevus (CMN), an extremely rare birthmark that can cover up to 80% of the body which less than 1% of the world’s population is born with.

Read more

HANS STRAND

LOFOTEN LANDSCAPES

Known for its dramatic scenery and arctic beaches, Hans Strand took both the H6D-100c and H3D with him to capture the Norwegian archipelago’s diverse environments.

Read more

KARL TAYLOR

THE VALLEY OF LITTER

British photographer and Hasselblad Ambassador Karl Taylor decided to make a drastic statement; with volunteers collecting thousands of pieces of garbage from the nearby coastline, Karl staged studio shots with the H6D-100c using a baby placed at centre stage in the valley of litter.

Read more

COMMEMORATING 100 YEARS

SID AVERY AND HIS HASSELBLAD

Audrey Hepburn. James Dean. Elizabeth Taylor. Iconic American photographer Sid Avery photographed them all, many of the shots taken with his Hasselblad 500C.

Read more

THE STORY BEHIND

Herring & Herring

Creative maestros Dimitri Scheblanov and Jesper Carlsen combine to form one of the most talented photography teams in the world of celebrity and music photography, Herring & Herring.

Read more

THE FIRST HASSELBLAD 1600F

As a passionate photographer fascinated by bird watching, Victor Hasselblad wanted to create a camera that could capture the beauty of nature and easily fit in his hand – a portable, high-quality piece of technology.

Read more

TOM OLDHAM

THE LAST OF THE CROONERS

Portrait photographer Tom Oldham's award-winning series, The Last of the Crooners, features a group of jazz musicians found right at his local pub, The Palm Tree, in East London.

Read more