My series, Fragments of a River, began when I first visited the shore of the River Thames in 2018, after living in London for four years. I was instantly fascinated by the cycle of the tide and the beauty of its contrasting states – oscillating between calm sanctuary and dangerous torrent, running through the heart of our city.

Walking along the shoreline, I collect discarded objects and washed-up fragments. On a moss-covered concrete block during low tide in Wapping, east along the river, I photograph delicate sculptural arrangements of these forgotten objects on a white sheet of paper. These assemblages draw on the aesthetics of Dutch still-life painting, using only natural light. The concrete block turns into a plinth and for the next hour or so, the river shore becomes my studio.

I capture the sculptures, always on the verge of tipping over, in a moment of perfect balance. Through the tension of the anticipated collapse, the image speaks of the momentary capture of photography itself, of the temporary nature of my work and of the ecological fragility of the river.

My intervention in the space can only ever be temporary.  At low tide the river offers a beautifully calm landscape, but within hours the water rises and the plinth disappears. Once photographed, I leave my sculpted compositions behind, allowing the river to become an active participant in the work. I am taking nothing away but leaving no trace. Whatever I extracted and created from the river is washed away, back where it came from.

As we learn new ways of looking at our waste as traces of human existence, through my compositions we find ourselves confronted with our immediate impact on the environment. The photographs echo the endless cycle of creation and destruction – for me, the river holds potential for both.

Text originally published in FT Weekend Magazine,  August 2020, London.

© Angela Blažanović, 2023