Slave Traders' Statues
These images show the boarded up statues of Sir Robert Clayton (1629–1707), a British merchant banker, politician and Lord Mayor of London; and of Thomas Guy (1644–1724), a British bookseller, investor in the South Sea Company, member of Parliament, and the founder of Guy's Hospital.
The photos were commissioned by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity in 2021. It’s the first stage of a longer-term project, documenting the statues, which are located on the grounds of Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals respectively.
Both individuals had their statues erected in the early 18th century in recognition of their philanthropic giving to the hospitals. Since July 2020, the statues have been removed from public view by hoarding. This was done to protect the statues from potential damage as both individuals financially benefited from slave trade.
The future of the statues is currently under review, however, the hoardings will be removed at some point in the future. I’ve been asked to document the different stages of this undertaking, which will contribute to the wider discourse around these controversial statues.
From a photographic point of view, it’s an interesting challenge, especially as the location and condition of the statues means finding new approaches to creating meaningful images. Both statues are hidden away in unsightly wooden boxes and either tucked away in a forgotten corner of the hospital campus, or (in the case of Thomas Guy) surrounded by the tents of a COVID-19 vaccination centre.