The First Spiral

Today’s image was taken very nearly fifty years ago. I had completed the first three years of my medical training at Cambridge and had moved down to London to continue my training at Guy’s Hospital close to London Bridge.

I and three friends found a flat to rent halfway between Blackheath and Lewisham in SE London within reach of trains to London Bridge. The flat was owned by a man who worked overseas for the British Council in Istanbul. The stand-out feature of the flat was this classic iron spiral staircase that was sited in the corner of the main living room and provided access to the bedrooms upstairs.

I started printing my own black and white negatives in 1966. This photo would have been shot sometime between 1968 to 1970, and then printed in a darkroom I discovered that was available for hire above the Photographers Gallery in central London. And what you see here today is a digital photograph taken of that original ten by eight inch print. I have photographed many of my old B&W prints and quite a few of them have appeared on this blog – if interested you will find them in the Print Archive category listed in the Right Sidebar of the screen.

As we travel through life on our own visual journeys as photographers, inevitably we change. We grow, acquiring a wide range of skills along the way, and our unique view of the world starts to take shape. It is when we look back through our archive that we develop a greater understanding of how that journey has progressed. We will cringe at some of the work we thought was good, see our mistakes, and perhaps re-process work. Also, we will find images that marked the start of individual threads of our work that exist to this day. I have always appreciated flowing lines and curves. Spiral staircases are all about flowing lines.

I must have walked up and down this spiral hundreds of time in the course of two and a half years. This was home for that period of time, a time during which my clinical training led to my final degree and shaped my future life’s work as a GP (general practitioner or family doctor for overseas readers). And a period of time during which I met my future darling wife who has journeyed with me through life in all its ups and downs and is still here (thankfully).

This was my first spiral. I came to love that spiral and I still love those flowing sensual lines. If you haven’t seen my previous post of a spiral staircase at Tate Britain then click here to view it.



About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'.
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29 Responses to The First Spiral

  1. Sue says:

    Ah, that spiral staircase at Tate Britain takes on a new resonance, Andy! And I concur with your comment about threads of our work…I started taking images of a single person in the frame over three decades ago, but it wasn’t until I started this blog that I realised that the seeds were sown so many years ago….


  2. E. Brooks says:

    A wonderful memory and life story, Andy, and a very nice job photographing an alluring print. Yes, that’s one of the beauties of photography. We leave “markers” of our progress which so often define the change and growth we’ve experienced. Good post.


  3. 35:Chronicle says:

    Love this post on many levels. Touching and warming. Nice one, Andy. Best, Robert.


  4. Jenn Mishra says:

    Great spiral! I’m always on the look-out for spiral staircases. Love the light and shadows.


  5. Thanks for the glimpse into your past, Andy. I, too, like noticing that what interested me photographically many years ago continues to interest me. And then, yes, there are those cringes.


  6. shoreacres says:

    There’s something about those early homes we made for ourselves that are so memorable. How well I remember a first apartment in Kansas City. It didn’t have a spiral staircase, but it had a broad, welcoming stoop that was perfect for sitting in the evening.

    I haven’t had enough time with a camera to have developed certain preferences or themes, and I clearly never will have 30 or 40 years to look back on. No matter. Even the slimmest portfolio contains memories and treasures; you’re just lucky enough to have one that’s rich and full.


    • LensScaper says:

      Kierkegaard said: ‘Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.’ That’s equally true of our photography – it adds visual emphasis to the memories of our lives even if it hasn’t developed a theme or a style.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Zezee says:

    Oh I love spiral staircases too, so I’m really loving these photos (this and yesterday’s) that you’re showing now. I love lines in general so when I’m in the city my head is usually craned back as I stare up at buildings following their lines as they shoot up into the sky.


  8. ShimonZ says:

    Like this picture very much Andy… for the aesthetics. And separately, it brings back memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. bluebrightly says:

    Wow, the echoes between stair trim and chair legs, amazing! There’s a sharp eye for beauty working overtime! Wise words above, too. I think you’re doing a valuable thing, reflecting and sharing it all here – I get a lot out of it. 🙂


  10. rabirius says:

    Great composition.


  11. Ah, happy memories. You must be glad to reminisce. Have you considered going back to see whether that apartment is still there, and if so, asking to photograph the spiral stairway again after half a century?

    I learned to develop and print my own black-and-white photographs in 1969, three years after you. Like you, I still have those old negatives and prints.


    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks very much Steve for your comments. Sounds like we are of the same generation with the same background in B&W print making. Are you like me in retaining that same love of the B&W medium?
      I’ve never been back out there, although I think my son has been past the house because he has friends in that suburb of London. So much changes in 50 years. But, it would be easy to spot that staircase because it is close to a downstairs window. Maybe, I should consider taking a look…


      • Sure, go take a look, and if the spiral stairway is still there, knock on the door.

        I do find something magical in the look of a silver-based black and white print. That said, I’m grateful for not having to stay in a small room breathing chemicals for hours whenever I processed film and made prints. Digital cameras and Photoshop provide so much more control over an image than I ever had in the old days, and modern cameras and software just keep getting better.


  12. Jane Lurie says:

    I love your story behind the image, Andy. Excellent black and white– the shadows really make it sing. I am intrigued by the subjects that I was enamored with early on– some of them are the same 40 years later. It is interesting, however, to see how we grow as photographers in many different ways over the years.


    • LensScaper says:

      Thank you so much Jane. It’s true: some of our roots stretch way back into the distant past. Our personal archive is a treasure trove of ideas and evidence of our convoluted journeys. The original print has survived for very nearly 50 years, a lot of that time in a box and so not exposed to too much light, but I must have fixed it well all those years ago! And somewhere there is a contact sheet of the negative.

      Liked by 1 person

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