Hidden in the Tide
a photographic portrait project created by pupils at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School with Madeleine Waller, commissioned by Tideway, 2018
About the work:
Inspired by contemporary photographic techniques and working on the theme of identity, Hidden in the Tide was made by merging photographic self-portraits of eighteen pupils at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School with cyanotypes made from objects found in Deptford Creek and developed in the Creek water. A cyanotype is a type of photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print. It was developed in 1842 as a means of reproducing drawings commonly referred to as blueprints.
The pupils, aged between 7 and 10 years old, made self-portraits of each other using a medium format camera and film, carefully choosing their clothing, background and props. Each image has a story behind it revealed in the writing about themselves and their identity using the river as a metaphor.
Extracts from the children’s words include:
I move the water swiftly through a vast land just to get it over with,
My colours are dark like the city, navy blue and black with little streaks of light blue
I hear the woman wring her tears
Men trashing cans here and there
I will be free in the big city
I will be parted for everyone to have a piece of me
The images of found objects carried by the river tide are laid over the pupil’s portraits to give an ethereal quality to the images. They include bricks, bottles, crabs, and fragments of mysterious objects offered up from the creek bed. Together with the text, the images blend to form a tangible and physical bond between the pupils and elements of their environment.
As well as providing the pupils with a hands on opportunity to work with two remarkably different types of photographic processes – medium format and cyanotype – Madeleine encouraged the group to think critically about their artwork and participate in an in-depth analysis of their creations.
Madeleine has said: “Working with the children from St Joseph’s Primary School was a fantastic experience. I really loved the individual ways in which they were able to express how they saw themselves within their immediate environment. Despite living close by many of the children had never visited the creek before. It was wonderful to watch them explore the creek bed at low tide and collect objects they found discarded there. It was a real pleasure to support the children to make extraordinary pieces of work using simple photographic processes.”