‘Controlled recklessness…the bite of chemicals’

In 1999, Marc Atkins and Iain Sinclair published a book together, ‘Liquid City’ – writing by Sinclair, black and white photography by Atkins. It’s a portrait of an already vanished London: Bankside power station before it became Tate Modern, Canary Wharf with just the one tall tower.

Atkins’ photos are grainy, dark, imperfect, in the Bill Brandt tradition. Here is Sinclair’s evocative description of the photographer’s working methods:

‘He worried at his prints. He rubbed the darkness until the first faint traces of meaning appeared. “I form a virtual bubble around whatever I’m photographing” he said. “I see the picture. I think in terms of recognition of shadows. I wait to recognise what I want, what I know is there. My prints are three-dimensional sculptures” …… If he had achieved exactly what he set out to do, he would reject the image. It would never become a print. He wanted a shape from which he could extract a measure of darkness. Controlled recklessness: the closed room, the sealed set, the bite of chemicals.’

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