“SWEET Thames, run softly, till I end my song,” Edmund Spenser wrote in his 1596 poem Prothalamion. More than 400 years later it still runs, possibly not as sweetly as it once did (though sweeter than it did 60 years ago; it was declared “biologically dead” in 1957).
And like all rivers it is a magnet for people, pulling them to its banks and into its waters.
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The photographer Chloe Dewe Mathews has spent years chronicling that attraction. In her images you will find druids, Anglican priests, Morris dancers mudlarkers, commuters, Hindus, families scattering the ashes of loved ones, fishermen and swimmers all drawn to the Thames as it travels from its source in Gloucestershire to the North Sea.
Here, a group of white-robed Pentecostalists from London in 2013 have travelled to Southend-on-Sea for a full-immersion. When the River Jordan isn’t close by, you find what works.
Thames Log by Chloe Dewe Mathews, £40, is co-published by Loose Joints and Martin Parr Foundation, who will exhibit the work in summer 2021.