Riverbed stories — Mandy Williams

These photographs are from Riverbed Stories, a series I began in 2014 that documents the riverbeds beside the industrial areas of Erith and Dartford. It’s a location that I have been photographing since 2009, during which time it has become more polluted. Mattresses, chairs, televisions, and car tyres litter the beds, along with handless gloves, floating shoes and discarded baby carriages.

Most of my landscape photography shares an underlying narrative about human interaction or presence so when I began this new series I was specifically drawn to the mattresses that I had seen semi-submerged in water or abandoned in the grass along the banks. I was thinking of whom they might have belonged to – of different bodies being comforted and falling into sleep. It is poignant seeing these mattresses strewn along the side of the river – the loss of an intimate history. In summer the foliage can completely overwhelm them creating a hybrid form. Many appear entombed by soil and vegetation, as though the mattresses themselves are sinking into sleep.

The majority of the photographs are shot close up to reveal the sensory quality of the fabrics and surrounding vegetation. I wanted the images to be visually seductive and for viewers to see an object traditionally associated with intimacy disrupted by its unexpected setting. The intention was not to provide a straight-forward document of the environment but to show the impact of the situation in a different way.

This series aims to communicate the environmental destruction that is happening along the river in this area of natural beauty. The images collectively provide evidence of the local council’s difficulty in protecting the environment from fly-tippers and unethical waste disposal companies.

At the beginning of 2015 I began to film this area and some captures from the video are included.

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Mandy Williams is an artist working with photography and video. She studied Communications (Film) at Goldsmith’s College, London, and lived in Vancouver, Canada for several years. She has exhibited in galleries across Canada and the United States. Since returning to London, Mandy has exhibited in group exhibitions including the London Art Fair, RWA open, where she won the photography award, Raven Row, Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, National Open Art and Deptford X. Her videos have been screened in Athens, Cairo, San Francisco, Washington, and across the UK.  @artphotofilm