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Watching The River Flow

Tom Phillips talks about his new exhibition

Tom Phillips

Tom is a working photographer living in Kent, England. Landscape is his first love, but it’s sports and event photography that pay the bills, more often than not. Twitter


“Watching The River Flow” and subtitled “The Medway and its Moods” is my second exhibition. The first show, in February 2014, was a pretty miscellaneous collection of work, described by a friend as “a pre-retrospective that took him 60 years to put together”. In it were a few photos in it that I’d taken along my local stretch of the River Medway, and they were well-received. This helped reinforce an idea I’d had for a while that an exhibition about the river might work in its own right.


I had been been photographing a six mile or so stretch of the Medway not far from home, for several years, and had seen it in all kinds of weather. It’s maybe not gob-smackingly beautiful landscape much of the time, but it’s quite varied. Between Tovil Bridge and Wateringbury, which is what the show covers, the Medway runs through woodland, open fields and remnants of the Kent cherry orchards. It’s mostly quite open ground, and one constantly-changing feature of the area I’ve been photographing is its fantastic skies. The river is the focal point of the exhibition, but very often it’s been the sky that has given an image its mood and character.

There have been time when I’ve regretted that artists like JMW Turner and John Constable never painted in this part of Kent, as far as anyone knows. As a lover of 19th century art, I’ve occasionally, and more often than not accidentally, been able to give a hat-tip to some old favourites. I like a “painterly” look to my photos at times, which on this occasion only really been done by pushing a basic image ever so slightly beyond it’s comfort zone.


I’ve photographed the area with a variety of cameras, from a Bronica GS down to a far from humble iPhone 6. The latter has served me well with the components of panoramic shots stitched together in PTGui software.

When you spend your normal working day trapped behind a DSLR, it’s good to go out to play with different toys. My simple main aim has been to present “my” the part of the Medway valley in the way I’ve experienced it. When the mood has taken me, I’ve shot in mono. There are occasions, such as after heavy rain, when the water can be quite dark, and refuses to reflect a great sky. I’ve also worked all year round. Some spots shot in winter, with skeletal tree reflections in the water, are almost unrecognisably different in the summer, and all the more attractive for it.

The exhibition is not a “calendar” however. How we set it up on the walls of the lovely little “Below 65” gallery in Maidstone hasn’t been decided yet!

Watching The River Flow Exhibition runs at the Below 65 Gallery, Gilbert and Clark Frame and Print, Maidstone from 1st to 29th November 2016.

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