The River We Once Knew – David Morris

Rich & I had already admired David Morris’s beautiful photographs of the River Hull, taken in 1971 when we were lucky enough to meet him at the opening of the Hull International Photography Festival where we both had River Hull related exhibitions, ours ‘Open Bridges Engines and Insects’, and David’s ‘The River We Once Knew’. David kindly agreed for us to show his atmospheric photographs. Prints are available from David, details below.

‘The start of the day’

The River We Once Knew by David Morris

“These were some of my first attempts with a camera. I was after something romantic, picturesque, maybe in the manner of Frank Sutcliffe. He’d done good stuff further up the coast in Whitby, but decades earlier and with more primitive equipment. I didn’t realise at the time, but this was the last of it, the very edge of Frank’s world. He would have recognised the barges, the rough hairy ropes and faded paintwork, the bulwarks and rotting timbers, the ancient brick, the grim grime of a working river.

My old lecturer thought they were ‘good student photographs’; that is, nothing much to tell your mam about. It was a pedestrian everyday scene, something we took for granted and I’d got the light readings right that was all. Neither of us knew what was drifting away from us at the time. Looking closely at the Kodak negatives that made these images I’m struck by the blotchy lumps of mangled chemical colours. Only when you draw back do things begin to make sense, not for film the pin sharp, antiseptically cruel world of pixel capture. Older film is more like a glance that holds the grabbed image as an imprecise memory. It’s not as sharp; it’s softer, letting the imagination fill in the gaps.

The river has changed, it’s been cleaned up, sanitised, we now live in a digital age. I should have taken more while I had the chance – a lot more, I mean like everything. ‘You don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone’, as the singer said.

Hull’s City of Culture Year gave the town a lot of confidence for the future, and put a spring in her step. But it also gave people an opportunity to pause and think about who they were and what was their story. A chance to understand what they had gained and what they had lost. Certainly a fishing industry had been wiped out, a community of homes demolished and neighbours torn apart, relocated to the outer edges of the city.

The story of the fishing industry is well told and justifiably so, but what of the people who worked, ate, slept, and raised families on the river? Their story is less well known. They too have disappeared into the fog and mist of the old river. Maybe it’s time their story was made known.” David Morris 2018

All images copyright David Morris

The river we once knew
‘The river we once knew’
Barge crowded waters
‘Barge crowded waters’

Outside right a low barge, Bowdale? Then Leeds Neptune, Leeds Venus, Leeds Jupiter, Leeds Aurora.

The working river
‘The working river’

Inyx, Derwent maybe one of them is Lysbeth then Leeds Satellite, then East of ….?

Photograph at top of page ‘The start of the day’ Invincible.C. Humber Princess (man on board) then Firelitie?

If you can tell us more about the names of the barges please leave a message, or get in touch.

The photographs – all copyright David Morris – are available from David’s website: David Morris Photographer  or click here to email David directly.

Visit the River Full Of Stories memory page here for more stories, films and photographs.

Rich & Lou Duffy-Howard

Open Bridges made history when for the first time all 13 of the bridges over the River Hull in the UK’s City of Culture 2017 raised, swung or closed simultaneously splitting the city of Hull in two at 20:17 hours on 22nd September 2017.  Historic vessels sailed down the River to be met by 21st century tugs.

Open Bridges is an independent Hull/East Yorkshire based project.

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