03 April 2019

"Tower Bridge" by Harry Cory Wright

This lovely new book is part of a series of "pocket photo books", and is published alongside books on the Barbican Centre and Trinity College Library, Dublin. Harry Cory Wright is a photographer better known for his landscape photographs, who applies his sensibility to buildings for these small-but-sweet volumes.

Tower Bridge (Thames and Hudson, 176pp, 2019, amazon.co.uk) measures 17cm x 12cm and features 120 images of this iconic London bridge. There are some similar photographs in Tower Bridge: History - Engineering - Design, which I reviewed recently, displayed there at larger size, but I don't think the pocket format detracts from Wright's images at all.

Unsurprisingly, the pictures have something of a landscape sensibility. Very few show the bridge in its surroundings, but several show the surroundings viewed from within the bridge towers or walkways. Most of the photos show details of various sorts, viewed in a way which emphasises shape, colour and texture.

People are notable by their complete absence, even in images of the control cabin and visitor areas.

This makes an opening interview with Chief Technical Officer Glen Ellis feel like a stray presence from another book, some kind of ghost in the machine (although not in the Cartesian sense). Other than this interview, Wright's book is all machine and no ghost.

There are relatively few photos of the exterior of the bridge, and especially few of the stonework cladding, which is perhaps a shame as many parts of it are exquisitely detailed. However, Tower Bridge makes up for it with everything else that is included.

There are some fascinating images of the interior of the towers, glimpses of steel framework peeking out between stone and staircases. Rivets appear, and then reappear repeatedly.

There are some great images of well-preserved control gear within the bridge operator's cabin, and of the bridge machinery, both operational parts as well as the preserved but now motionless steam engines. The epic bascule chambers appear, but so also does the inside of the accumulator tower, which is not something I've often seen photos of.

Towards the end, there are some particularly nice photographs of small machinery parts, valves, cogs, regulators and the like, as well as workers' tools and shelves full of spare nuts and bolts.

The reader is left to make of it all what they will. Some brief information is given for each photograph in a section at the end, for the curious to pursue.

What stood out for me is the extent to which Tower Bridge really is one of our greatest surviving examples of Victorian engineering, notable for assembling in one place such a variety of interesting parts. It is extremely well cared for, and if it has been substantially altered then that is generally very well hidden.

Obviously, this is a book which should appeal to anyone interested in architecture and engineering, but also admirers of fine photography. The price and size also make it an affordable gift. I very much enjoyed it.

1 comment:

Peter said...

One of the nicest books about bridges.