London 1979

Peter MARSHALL


Cyclists in snow, Marble Hill House, Twickenham, Richmond, 1979
18s-35: richmond, snow, mansion, house, snow, boys, bicycles

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We had a lot of snow in December 1978 and January 1979, enough on at least one day, together with icy roads to stop me getting to work, and some days when I and my colleague did struggle in it was to find few pupils had struggled into school with the day starting later than usual and finishing earlier to enable them to journey home while it was still light.
 
I had extra time on my hands an spent quite a lot of it photographing snow, mainly in walking distance from where I lived, but also up in Derbyshire around Paul Hillís Bradbourne Photographersí Place and on a trip from there to Alton Towers. Unfortunately when I got home and developed those films I found my Leica M2 had developed a shutter fault, sticking slightly three quarters of the way across the frame, probably brought on by the cold weather, ruining most of my pictures and making a large hole in my pocket for the expensive repair needed. Though to be fair, it hasnít needed another repair since I got it back later in January 1979.
 
Fortunately I was also taking some pictures on my Olympus OM-1, which were fine. It wasnít a weather-sealed camera, but didnít seem to mind getting cold or wet, and on at least one occasion Iíd removed the lens after being out in driving rain and literally (and I do mean literally) poured the water out.
 
But Iíve never found snow appealing as a photographic subject. It covers everything with its overall gloop, removing subtlety. This is one of the few snow pictures Iíve ever shown or sold, taken on a walk from Twickenham to Richmond along the riverside. The snow forms as useful rather blank background for the three boys on bikes, who Iíd stopped to photograph. In the first frame they were together in a group and there was another riding away near the right edge of the frame; it wasnít a bad picture, but my second frame caught them just as the three were moving apart, those on each side of the group in opposite directions, their six wheel just still linked.
 
This was made with the revived Leica, which is perhaps why Iíve never cropped the image though I think it would improve it to do so a little, though there is something attractive about the huge expanse of white nothing with that small group in near-silhouette at its centre.