Ipswich Waterfront: Life through Two Lenses

Photographs are incredibly important in understanding and viewing the past. We are lucky to have such an extensive archive of images that relate to the maritime history of Ipswich. Which we are always looking to showcase and highlight it in different ways, Re-photography was one way that we have. Read on to find out more about our Life Through Two Lenses project and exhibition.


Last year we connected with professional photographer and local lad Ian Cutting on Twitter. Together we embarked upon a fascinating collaboration. A project whose aim was to combine our historic knowledge and photographic skills to retrace the steps of Ian’s Great-Great-Grandfather Harry Walters.

Harry Walters was a local photographer who worked out of his home studio in St Margaret’s Plain, Ipswich. His extensive collection of images captured between 1895 and 1915, represent some of the best photography of Ipswich’s Wet Dock and gives us an unparalleled view of life at the turn of the 20th Century. Harry’s collection also showcased the artistic potential of photographic techniques. He sold his trick photographs, as postcards alongside his local images, to help fund his projects around East Anglia.

Harry, like Ian was a prolific photographer and captured the vibrancy of Ipswich’s dockside community in many of his images. Ian has enjoyed photography even since picking up his first camera as a teenager and has since been able to turn his passion into his profession. Like his Great-Great-Grandfather, Ian is largely self-taught, but unlike Harry his specialities are motorsport and landscape photography. Most recently you will find him at race circuits around the country, photographing the British Touring Car Championship and the British GT Championship. With Ian’s expertise we have re-photographed Harry’s images a century later, and blended Ian’s modern versions with his Great-Great-Grandfather’s originals. The result are images that connect and blend the photographic styles of two relatives, from two very different eras.

Re-photography or “Then and Now” photography are images taken of the same location, but at two separate points in time. We have taken this a step further and placed the historic image over the modern one. Which shows with even more accuracy the changes that have taken place over the last 100 years.

Using the original photographs as a guide we made sure to pick images that had some continuity to their historic counterparts, including similar buildings, sight lines, horizons and much more.

Luckily the footprint of the docks has not changed much, and the vast choice of Harry’s images made re-capturing these photographs a little easier than expected. But at times it took us a while to get the angle right and have the weather on our side.

We met Ian in March 2019, but as you can see the weather was not on our side. But we showed Ian around the Wet Dock and discussed the project.

We met again in June 2019 in better weather and spent an afternoon capturing some great photos to overlay the originals with. The image of Artemis was tough, with us originally thinking that it was taken from Stoke Bridge. But we realised our current view was being distorted by the flood wall along St Peters Dock. Ian pointed out it was taken at a much lower angle, and we found the correct viewpoint on Stoke Quay instead.

View of the Artemis on Albion Wharf

Ian did some fabulous work merging the images together and we showcased them at an exhibition in the Old Customs House for the 2019 Ipswich Maritime Festival. This was one of our most successful exhibitions and we welcomed over 2500 people across 2 days.

Of all Harry’s photographs our personal favourite is of the barges passing under Stoke Bridge. It captures an iconic part of Victorian Ipswich against the backdrop of such a local landmark that still stands today. Barges were an important part of the dockside supply chain, transporting cargo downriver to warehouses around the docks and beyond.

As you can see, Stoke Bridge and the surrounding buildings have changed very little compared to other parts of the waterfront, being extended and updated rather than replaced with something completely unrecognisable. Harry’s photograph shows the inner workings of Ipswich’s maritime way of life at its pinnacle in the early 1900s. Where the roads, waterways, vessels and people were all essential parts of this dockside community. Ian captured and blended the modern image perfectly with a beautiful sky and modern truck passing over the current bridge.


We hope you enjoy these images and if you would like to purchase any of them as prints, then please get in contact with Ian.

Also if you have any images of maritime Ipswich that you would like to know more about or would like to donate to our Image Archive then please contact us and we would be more than happy to help with your enquiries.

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