Surface Tension


There are estimated to be between 300 and 400 suicides and parasuicides on the tidal part of the Thames each year. Most of these are from London’s bridges and in 2012 the London Coast Guard reported 383 incidents. Very few suicides on the Thames are brought to our attention by the media. According to the Office of National Statistics in 2011 suicide was the leading cause of death in 5-34 year olds. Incidents from London’s Thames bridges have more than doubled between 2007 and 2012. On average there is now more than one incident a day on the Thames’ bridges.


Most of us have looked over the edge of a bridge, down into the water. It maybe whilst watching to see whose stick is the winner whilst playing Poohsticks or enjoying the playfulness of the water. Or it might be more contemplative, watching the allure of the water, possibly even imagining what it might be like to jump with no intention of actually doing so. A less common thought, though, is that of the person who is looking down into the water as they decide to jump to end their life.


This series of images hopes to enable an emotional engagement with a very personal and intense issue - the issue of a person feeling their only option is to take their own life. The images are an abstraction. They place the viewer in the position of a person in despair. Might it be that the person in despair is actually very similar to you and me?
The images are made from the bridges over the Thames, close to suicide and parasuicide sites. Looking down onto the water they show the viewpoint of someone contemplating their next step. If they should decide to jump then this will be where they enter the water, where their skin meets the river’s. The images hope to show that moment of tension, of contemplation, reflection on life‘s struggles, of the impending freedom... 


I am currently working on a new project on suicide and parasuicide. If this is a subject close to you and you would like to get involved please do get in touch.


If you would like further information or help please contact the Samaritans or PAPYRUS.

Water, river, Thames, reflection, contemplation, suicide, light, green, brown, orange, fire
London Bridge

"Water, when you look at it, can draw you, it’s like fire can draw people. You stare into the flames and you get drawn. People who stare into water get drawn towards it. If you’re on the edge of something it just takes a little bit, a few inches further forward and your gone."

Stu, Full Time Lifeboat Helmsman, Tower RNLI Station, 2013.

info
×
Water, river, Thames, reflection, contemplation, suicide, light, green, brown, blue
Tower Bridge

"I am so sorry. BK (big kiss). All my love to you and the girls. Hold them close."

Catherine Bailey, 41, by text, 2009

info
×
Water, river, Thames, reflection, contemplation, suicide, light, green, brown
Lambeth Bridge

"Rivers are not like roads, the work of the hands of man; they imitate mind, which wanders at will over pathless deserts, and flows through nature's loveliest recesses, which are inaccessible to anything besides."

Percy Bysshe Shelley, from a letter dated 1816

info
×
Water, river, Thames, reflection, contemplation, suicide, light, green, brown, shadow
Vauxhall Bridge

“The reason now I couldn’t attempt suicide again is because I know how it feels to be left behind.”
The survivor of his own attempted suicide. His father committed suicide when he was in his teens, 2013.

info
×
Water, river, Thames, reflection, contemplation, suicide, light, green, brown, blue
Tower Bridge

"I think there is a process actually where you kind of try to almost test your own humanity sometimes with the things you see. So afterwards you’re sort of thinking how should I be reacting. You know, should this be sticking in my mind, should it not, is it something I’m going to have nightmares about or not? Or dream about or not? I don’t know whether thinking about it like that is part of the process of putting it in an appropriate pigeon hole."

Ed, Lifeboat Crew, Chiswick RNLI Station, 2013.

info
×
Water, reflection, contemplation, suicide, light, green, brown
Vauxhall Bridge

Why should I care for the men of Thames,
Or the cheating waves of charter'd streams;
Or shrink attention the little blasts of fear
That the hireling blows into my ear?

Tho’ born on the cheating banks of Thames,
Tho’ his waters bathed my infant limbs,
The Ohio shall wash his stains from me:
I was born a slave but I go to be free!

William Blake
info
×
Water, river, Thames, reflection, contemplation, suicide, light, green, brown, blue
Tower Bridge

"It's a secret why he did it and how he did it. I keep asking myself, how did he get there? Did he take a bus? A cab? Did he walk? There was no reason for him to be there. The river is haunted - it draws people in. If I have to walk across it, I'm always thinking of Samuel." 

Samuel’s Mother, Zaiba Malik - The Guardian, 15th December 2004

info
×
Water, river, Thames, reflection, contemplation, suicide, light, green, brown
Waterloo Bridge

"I don’ t want to die, but I don’t know how to live...”
A very common theme from discussions with several suicidal people.

info
×
Water, river, Thames, reflection, contemplation, suicide, light, green, brownWater, reflection, contemplation, suicide, light, green, brown

Blackfriars Bridge

"Rivers are not like roads, the work of the hands of man; they imitate mind, which wanders at will over pathless deserts, and flows through nature's loveliest recesses, which are inaccessible to anything besides."

Percy Bysshe Shelley, from a letter dated 1816
info
×
Water, river, Thames, reflection, contemplation, suicide, light, green, brown
Hungerford Bridge
info
×
Water, river, Thames, reflection, contemplation, suicide, light, green, brown, orange, fire
London Bridge

"Water, when you look at it, can draw you, it’s like fire can draw people. You stare into the flames and you get drawn. People who stare into water get drawn towards it. If you’re on the edge of something it just takes a little bit, a few inches further forward and your gone."

Stu, Lifeboat Helmsman, Tower RNLI Station, 2013

info
×
Water, river, Thames, reflection, contemplation, suicide, light, green, brown
Westminster Bridge

"I've thought about it, I've taken months and months thinking it through, I made the decision a long time ago and now's the right time." 

Extract from Joe Poynter's suicide note. He committed suicide in the Thames in October 2010.

info
×
Water, river, Thames, reflection, contemplation, suicide, light, green, brown

Between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge.

info
×
Water, river, Thames, reflection, contemplation, suicide, light, green, brown

Between Southwark Bridge and London Bridge.

info
×
Water, river, Thames, reflection, contemplation, suicide, light, green, brown
Blackfriars Bridge
info
×

VIBRATIONS


Too often, a landscape can be pulled from the vibrations
Of the brain’s cold fibres and held, not as a mirror
That is too reflecting - but more as a window
Against the fertile pushing of odd memories that seek
To strike organization, reason and rationality
Into the events remembered because of their reflection
Of bitter evil, stupidity, and the inheritance of education;

And all too obscurely, traversing that slender window,
The large images rise, the coloured landscapes,
The face we sought to love but ended in leaving,
The moments of loneliness, the dark long lines
Of reminiscences, cluttering our wherefores and geographies,
The moods, the lighting of cold fires in far-gone winters.

David J. Murray, from the book Surface Tension

Using Format