Rediscovering Familiarity in Bath
I’ve lived near Bath almost all my life, its familiar – I thought I knew it? However with a camera I started to see the city in a totally new way and fell in love with it all again. It may be only 10 miles from my front door but it is one of my favourite places and even now every time I visit I see something I’ve never seen before.
The Abbey is a building that inspires and fascinates me for many reasons; it sits in the centre of the city, watching over it, pulling the tourists into the history. The current Abbey was started in 1449 however took more than two centuries to complete. Over this time, many were involved, it was sold more than once, the interior was stripped, the stained glass windows removed, over time with the love and passion of some, it became one of the last great medieval cathedrals to be built in England. Finally once complete, it was fittingly given to the people of Bath. In the sunshine the Bath stone glistens in a golden splendour, the churchyard is always full of music and performance from the buskers and entertainers and is a happy, joyful place.
Using a camera presented something special for me, despite having looked at the West front of the Abbey probably hundreds of times I had never really seen the angels before – but through a lens there they were climbing their ladder, all different, perfect, in a way totally animated, almost moving. Their story in the history of the Abbey is that Bishop Oliver King had a dream of ascending and descending angels which inspired the design of the facade and of the final building. Every time I look up I seem to see their progress!
Bath changes after dark, Bath stone when flood lit takes on a totally different colour against a night sky, as do my angels as they continue their climb.
Bath stone loses its golden glow after dark, in daylight it absorbs sunlight and across the day becomes richer however at night, it takes on a grey, dramatic look; for me it makes the Abbey appear gothic, more dominating over the City and for me even more beautiful.
We were privileged last year to be part of two illumination festivals, the city was lit in lots of different ways and for me presented yet again a way to see Bath in a new way. For the first event the Abbey was lit totally differently than I’d seen before at night, the almost gothic grey was replaced with an extreme golden glow, the whole building came alive and almost exploded with warmth.
Bath was involved in a second illumination festival to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee, again the Abbey was lit and to see the West front and the churchyard enveloped in coloured light was pretty special, as it was June we also had to wait until almost midnight before total darkness showed the illuminations in their best light. It was also the first time I felt like a ‘proper’ photographer as I joined others with our tripods at midnight.
I’m a big fan of architectural projection mapping, it was great to see this as part of the festival, the building is mapped, and the film then fits ‘into’ the building as the film is played, it can be quite extreme and complicated or in this case quite simple, you should almost forget to see the building as your focus moves to the film. The Roman Baths are of course what Bath is famous for, so to see this iconic building used with one of the most current creative formats was pretty special – this projection was of course very patriotic for the Jubilee, had moving eyelids, and a lot of character, I was actually led on the ground to get this shot, often this is the best way to get a sense of scale.
As it was the Jubliee, the festival took a comical, tongue in cheek approach to the illuminations, with a procession of famous ‘Queens’ being projected onto Pulteney Bridge above the weir. This is another of my favourite bits of Bath to photograph, the camera has been able to show me the power of the water as I can now zoom into it and looks even more exciting illuminated in colour under a clear night sky. As ever I had to find an unusual position for this shot and was literally hanging over the wall on Grand Parade!
I walked away from the Bridge, following the River Avon and onto North Parade, I was by now aware that if I followed the other people with a lot of camera gear they probably knew where the best shots could be found. I was right and with a long lens, a shot could be set up with the weir, the projection on Pulteney Bridge and the night time city proudly in the background.
For me I think this sums up that evening, it had been unique, would never happen again, it had taken my familiar, beautiful Bath and made it new and inspiring for me and my camera.