Old photos of Holkham and Wells-next-the-Sea plus a bit of a ponder about photography

When I say old photos I mean my old photos.  I believe they are from a holiday in 1991 when I took my family to stay in Wells-next-the-Sea.  It marks the moment that I fell in love with Holkham. I had been there once before but this holiday gave me extensive access to the beach and the meditative process of searching for the perfect scallop shell. I have been scanning in some old snapshots from my childhood and while in the mood, looked out for pictures I took on past visits to my chosen beaches.  I have been shocked to find how many of the old prints have deteriorated and may have to pick the best and have some sessions trying to restore some images.

However, I am equally appalled at the poor quality of some of my photographs, even with a half-decent camera! But then again I have been finding that there is a lot of appeal in the not so polished performances – they are another example of the interaction of chaos and control, and they can produce things of great beauty, things of brooding wonder, things of oddity and humour.  And I suppose that’s what I am interested in: I do not want to produce pictorial images I want to make images which touch the ineffable qualities of my experience and somehow hope that others might sense it. Some of the most interesting images at the recent Munch show at Tate Modern were amongst the faded and scratchy photographic and movie images. Munch played around a lot with double exposures and self portraits. He wasn’t trying to create studio quality portraits or well crafted reportage: he was interested in exploring what photography could do for the way he saw the world. After many years of efforts to get good results from my cameras and lenses I am finding increasingly that the mistakes and chance happenings often capture more than the perfect shots where I got the light right and the depth of field spot on. An example is with the sample images you get on a computer or phone. I was flicking through my dropbox folder where my phone has dumped its samples and found that some of these images made me physically uncomfortable: they were so perfect they were unreal.

Storm approaching Brancaster beach

Storm approaching Brancaster beach

I love this image I found of what I believe to be Brancaster beach – OK I know it says Holkham and Wells at the head of the post but it is only just along the coast and the storm is probably over Holkham! What I like is that it holds how I felt at the time: there is a bit of the awe and wonder of a visually exciting natural event in a remote place but mainly there is a wistful, lonely, washed out sense that echoes how I was feeling a that time. The fact that it has faded and discoloured a bit adds to that feeling and there is something of the old sepia postcard about it – or a Victorian watercolour, even a bit Turneresque – with the yearning for a lost time that goes with it.

I am going to enjoy playing with this image and others, though at present I am trying to resist Photoshop. It is true there is ample scope for the intervention of chance and chaos with Photoshop due to my lack of skill using it, but somehow I need to be more physically involved at this time. I have been playing around with my scanner and printer in conjunction: making over-inked prints on the wrong paper, rubbing out the excess, rescanning, etc and starting to get some interesting results. So far it’s been in areas that are not relevant to this project, but I aim to mess about with some of those images I mentioned in the last post.

So you don’t feel I have cheated, here are a picture of sand ripples from West Sands, Holkham and the Quay at Wells-next-the-Sea:

Holkham sand ripple

Holkham sand ripple

Quay at Wells-next-the-Sea

Quay at Wells-next-the-Sea