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Demolition Photography - Liverpool Footbridge Newbridge Road
A big reason I love being a professional photographer is that it you generally don’t know what your next assignment will be. It is fantastic to be constantly surprised and challenged. Some jobs can take you well outside your comfort zones! Often, I feel very privileged to be the selected person capturing small bits of history. Maybe I can inspire others?
I expect people who read this blog will be photography enthusiasts and might be interested in “seeing” some of my more out of the ordinary photo shoots. I hope so. This is the first blog in a series I plan to write about past assignments that surprised or challenged me greater than most others.
Liverpool Footbridge Night-time Demolition
In October 2016 a new client - Group HIS, a diversified design and fitout company - asked me be on site for an “all-nighter” to document the demolition of a substantial footbridge over a busy road in Liverpool. The site at 2-4 Speed Street Liverpool will be rejuvenated into the new Liverpool Super GP Clinic where Group HIS will take a leading role as they specialise in the medical, healthcare and commercial industries. Demolition of a Footbridge at Liverpool GP Super ClinicBefore Image from Terminus Street
I’ve been on many construction sites but this was something new! It was a last minute arrangement so I wasn’t totally sure what to expect or what I would find when I arrived. Site induction completed I donned my PPE gear and attended the briefing conducted by the site supervisor from Mammoth Projects for teams from the demolition workers, engineers, crane drivers, scaffolders and a large team of traffic controllers. During the briefing, I was impressed by the professionalism of the people involved but I felt an underlying tension and I started to realise this was a significant act I was about to witness and capture. This demolition could be dangerous - things could go wrong! It depended on many elements coming together in a coordinated fashion. A mistake at any stage could result in a horrible disaster and on top of this, there were time constraints! The job had to be completed during the one night. If there were any hiccups, it would be a very expensive “bust”. Demolition of a Footbridge at Liverpool GP Super ClinicBefore Image - walking the bridge back towards the building to become the GP Super Clinic
This was obviously an intricate and very well-planned exercise - some 6 months in preparation but I could see, despite the best plans, some elements might be not be entirely predictable. My respect for these people grew as I began to realise the leaders were handling tremendous responsibilities. There was a lot at stake – including people’s lives!
The basic plan was to redirect the traffic, build a central scaffold support under the bridge on the roadway, position a large crane, then cut away the bridge in two halves using the crane to support then lift each half section away - over into an adjoining yard.
I was very well briefed but I had to make my own decisions from a visual and creative photography perspective. I knew what the action would be but I couldn't know, until I saw it, where I needed to be for each piece of the action. I didn't know what what obstacles I might encounter. It was going to be a long night! Demolition of a Footbridge at Liverpool GP Super ClinicCutting at both sides. Scaffolding is ready to support the structure after connections are severed.
For me, my main difficulty was that I needed to keep out of the way of the works but I needed vantage points where I could be certain to capture the action and points where I could return to at intervals to demonstrate the progress of each part of the demolition. I didn’t know which points might be best, as I didn’t have a good idea of exactly where or when the visual action would take place and I was aware that various obstructions might occur at different times. My MO was to circumnavigate the site on foot and keep taking photos from positions I selected. I would roam the site constantly during the early phases but over time, it became clearer where the best positions were.
Lighting was also a big issue. It was a dark and overcast night. I had assumed the construction team would erect good lighting but this proved not to be the case. The lighting was standard street lighting supplemented only by some spotlights on the crane beam. Lens flare became a major concern - dark skies-bright spot lights. High ISO settings and wide apertures were needed – definitely a tripod and cable release were valuable tools. But slow shutter speeds weren't generally a good option as I wanted people in the images to not "ghost out". Thus, I was operating at the extremes of my camera gear the whole night.
My photography started in the late hours of daylight capturing “before” images of the bridge and circling it to find the best vantage points. It turned out I could capture most images from just outside of the actual construction “roped-off” areas. As night descended and as work progressed, I worked out which was the main place to be but I still covered as many angles as possible – remaining ready to capture every aspect – using two cameras with radio triggers and two tripods.
It was a long night but fortunately everything went like clockwork. Even some threatening rain did not eventuate. The demolition experts knew exactly what they were doing and the bridge sections were methodically cut away. The crane was able to bear the loads and lift the sections away cleanly. As far as I could see no one was injured and the night was obviously a huge success. It was a joy to observe and to play my small role.
I felt privileged to be on site. To be there to capture and record for history the last images of a structure which had stood and served the local community for many years and to capture the very interesting process of how this feat was achieved.
I hope to be invited back to capture images of the finished Liverpool Super GP Clinic building for Group HIS.
Life as a photographer is rarely dull!
And all the people and other contractors who worked as a formidable team.
You can see all the photos here
I think you nailed the brief here! What an interesting project to be apart of.
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