This morning I saw a BBC report about a new landslip on the Jurassic Coast, at Monmouth Beach just west of Lyme Regis. The approach road has collapsed and it is believed some chalets have been damaged. Police are advising owners not to try to access their properties as they fear the recent heavy rains will make further landslides likely. The road has been closed “indefinitely”.
There has been a major rockfall today at Burton Bradstock on the same section of cliffs where Charlotte Blackman was crushed and killed in July last year. It is believed that no one was on the beach and thus no injuries resulted. The beach and coast path have been closed by the National Trust since the fall last summer and this latest landslide underlines the message that people are putting their lives at risk if they venture too close to the cliffs and other unstable areas along the coast around here.
This image has been provided by local photographer Stephen Banks. You can see more of his work with many great images of West Dorset and some great stargazing images at his blog dorsetscouser.com
I’d normally give a link to the Dorset Echo story on the subject but refuse on the basis that they don’t have a picture, don’t have much of a story and, most importantly, because they have used an unnecessarily tabloid headline referring to “killer cliffs”. Come on you journos, you can do better!
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.
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:
We went for a walk on Hive beach in today’s wonderful sunshine. We had been aiming to just pop down to West Bay, but it was like a summer holiday day – if not busier! I suppose the first sunny day after weeks of dreary grey and pouring rain was bound to get people out, plus of course the New Year holiday. So since we couldn’t find a reasonable place to park we decided to drive along the coast to Hive Beach at Burton Bradstock. We knew that would be busy too, but reckoned the overflow car parking would be less underwater than West Bay.
It was really good to get out in the sun, and the breeze (still chilly) had abated from the ferocity of the last day or two. I wished I had taken a camera and maybe the camcorder, but I am enjoying the images I created on my phone. Whilst it has got megapixels coming out of its ears, let’s face it the tiny little lens is pretty dire and the processor hardly brilliant! It also tends to give everything a much warmer aura than reality. BUT stretching its capabilities to the limit optically (and without using the reasonably sophisticated digital capture options) the grainy, noisy, distorted, solarised results are really quite wonderful as abstract images. I am currently trying to capture some of the magic pixellations of my camera’s screen on paper.
The choice of Marazion for one of my beaches from the past is intriguing. I have described my choices as places that have hooks in me, strong emotional attachments that have drawn me back to them. Yet I have only been back to Marazion once since those two holidays when I was a child. Perhaps those visits were the first times that I was able to hold a strong memory, a solid sense of “place”. In a way, however, I no longer have true memories from my childhood: they are more memories of memories. They are idealisations, romantic pictures of my childhood; they hold the first hints of love, of special, personal friends. Perhaps there were the first steps to individuation and a growing independence of self and thought.
When I revisited Marazion some years back I didn’t find it to be a particularly attractive or interesting place. The weather was pretty grey and dull which didn’t help. The section of beach where the camping coaches once stood was pretty featureless, and I doubt if it would have impressed itself on me had I come at it fresh on that adult visit. So in the case of Marazion at least I feel I can safely say that it holds importance for me purely because it was a place where something special happened and I have lodged it in my heart and mind rather than being a place that of itself imposed itself on me through its grandeur, beauty, geography, geology or whatever. It will be interesting to measure my reactions on my next visit.
I came across this nicely written article on the “this is Cornwall” website. I have not spoken about the many collections of beach litter that have been gathered together in structures and patterns at the top of Cogden Beach, but perhaps I shall soon. Click here to take a look.
On Friday we walked on Cogden Beach in the wind. It was some time before I was able to see, my eyes were streaming so much to start with. Then at the end of the walk I could hardly see clearly because of the salt spray on my specs!
Cogden Beach is a wild, wide empty space yet it felt closed in and the horizon seemed so close. I cannot begin to explain why it seems this way. The sea has made a wider space between the low and high tide lines (and it was about low tide when we got there) and has thrown up a higher than normal bank perhaps, but that would only make the horizon seem further away. Maybe it was because the cloud was low or the seaspray reduced vision or just because the cold wind turned me inward that made it feel that way.
The tidelines were deeply defined with a lot of weed but very little to grab my imagination. I tried to stay calm when the noisiest three boys in Dorset rummaged past smashing bottles and lightbulbs as they went. I hadn’t the will to remonstrate with them. I am not sure how I feel about their act of mindlessness. Yes it would be great if they gathered up rubbish as they went and I worry about broken glass in dogs’ paws, but what if the sea had smashed the bottles on the rocks and stones? The problem lies with the litterers: the thoughtlessness is in the mindless act of jettisoning rubbish into the sea and our assumption that the sea will take care of all our waste.
I found part of a plywood sign that has been sawn and reused then abraded by time in the sea. I love the way that the tiny sliver of a letter at the left edge immediately suggests an “O” and causes me to wonder what the word was: “SHOP” perhaps. The eroded surface reminds me of the sea: light on the water.
I wish I had taken my camera and camcorder when we went for our Christmas Day seaside constitutional yesterday. The sun was glorious; the wind whipped up the sea a bit; the sky full of colour and form; and there was enough nip in the air to keep the blood pulsing and the nerve endings quivering. But art and photography were not really on the menu. I hope I can get down there again on a sunny day soon before the sculpting of the beach has changed too much.
I grabbed the last hour and a half of sunshine and went down to West Bay this evening. Long winter shadows, warm red glow. I went to West Beach because I wanted to make some more notes of the shapes in the rocks that protect the west pier of the harbour. That side of West Bay doesn’t get the sweeping views: you are forced to look at the more local, it’s more intimate, less beautiful but more human, friendlier. I love the way there is always someone in the shelter and Margaret opens the kiosk for some warming drinks. Today there was a line of laughing, smiling, chatting folk in catching late afternoon sun.
With the sun so low there were some nice effects in the sea even though there was little swell. Of course it was impossible not to get a setting sun in the picture!
Even when you climb above the beach it still seem intimate. To the west you can only see Eype beach and East Beach is mostly hidden behind the cliff and beyond that Hive and Cogden beaches are foreshortened. I love the fact that the number of memorial benches keeps increasing and that people still visit in remembrance with flowers and ribbons.
You can see why the final westerly stretch of the esplanade is still closed off. These rocks above it are ready to fall:
And it was interesting to see the fishbone striations on Eype Beach from another angle compared to the view from under Thorncombe Beacon:
The Jurassic Coast has got Christmas decorations made from beach litter. Local artist Claire Nuttell and students from Arts University College Bournemouth used discarded bottle tops, plastic bags, crisp packets and sweet wrappers collected from Sandbanks and Chesil beach to create 20 football sized baubles to decorate Christmas trees at five sites in Dorset.
It’s great that someone is trying to get the issue noticed but I have to say I am not really that impressed. This is supposed to be by an artist and university art students, so it’s a bit depressing that the best they can muster – physically, conceptually, intellectually or artistically – is 20 football-sized tree decorations. I know artist that work with young children and can produce more than this in quantity, quality and excitement!
It is interesting that after scouring the net nobody has got any other pictures apart from this and the Bournemouth Echo – read the comments! Seems like even the people who did it don’t rate it visually! Claire Nuttell did some stuff back in the days of the Olympics which similarly was quite well covered in the press but with very few pictures. But then I could be described as cynical.
Compared to the brilliant work Fran Crowe does on the subject of and with the materials from beach rubbish, this really lacks impact and originality (as did the stuff in the summer) but at least it is trying to be relevant and fun, so that has got to be a good thing.