England seems to suffer from flooding every other week these days. Sometimes it feels like that has been the case ever since the hosepipe ban was declared last spring.

A few weeks ago I went on a photo walk in York. Coming home to look at the pictures, more than half of them were showing scenes of the flooded river Ouse. When I looked at them, I was reminded of one of my conclusions after watching the World Press Photo 2012 exhibition last month: Pictures of natural devastation has much more impact if they are somehow related to human activity.

I find this troubling, but none-the-less the scale and the impact seems more comprehensible and easier to grasp if it is measurable in human terms. The pictures of the Tsunami in Japan had most impact when they showed flooded buildings, shipwrecks on top of houses and rivers of personal belongings being washed away.

My own pictures of the Ouse showed the same trend. In most of them I had focused on the water, but by omitting familiar reference points, they turned out to be meh when I reviewed them later on. The favourite (below), on the other hand, has several reference points:

  • The sign announcing the bicycle path clearly shows that this part is not meant to be covered by water
  • Similarly, the metal framework is clearly part of a stile meant for pedestrians or cyclists, so again it’s not meant to be covered by water
  • Finally, the trees in the middle ground shows where the opposite bank normally is.
Picture of the flooded river Ouse

The flooded river Ouse