The South West Coast Path is largely just a series of ups and downs. So many in fact that once you have completed the 630 miles of path you could have scaled Mount Everest four times! The path is often described as strenuous with certain sections featuring repetitive ups and downs.
Any height that is painfully gained as you walk the SWCP is often immediately lost as you descend straight back to almost sea level. During one stretch to Port Isaac that the guide book described as ‘arduous’ we had climbed three hills each time dropping back down to sea level, all within half an hour and over a distance of less than a mile.
This series is a documentation of those incredible views over valleys and hills before making those strenuous ascents that the path is notorious for.
A Series of Ups and Downs is a continuation of my attempt to walk the Coast Path and photograph my journey.
Valley of Rocks is an area of particular natural beauty on the northern coast of Devon. The valley lies within the Exmoor National Park, though it is only small it leaves a much larger impression. At first the Coast Path runs alongside the Valley of Rocks overlooking the sea before turning inland and passing through its centre.
It wasn’t only the scenery that was different to what I had been used to walking along the coast path, but also the architecture. Hidden away in the grounds of Lee Abbey and the Beacon Activity Centre was a building of unusual origin and design that caught my attention.
The grounds of the Abbey were closed to visitors but I was able to grab a shot of my favourite building framed by the entrance archway. There was such a juxtaposition in the style of the buildings it sat between that it raised the question of how and why it came about. I tried to find further information but I wasn’t able to.
It wasn’t long before I was walking out of the Valley of Rocks and was surrounded once again with scenery that was more familiar and typical of what I was expecting to see. Idyllic stone houses with smoking chimneys sat alone before ascending out of the valley.
Lyton and Lynmouth are two towns on the northern coast of Devon. Though the towns are separate they are governed by the same town council and often referred to as one. While Lyton sits at the top of a steep cliff the harbour town of Lynmouth sits below, where the East and West Lyn rivers meet.
It was due to Lynmouth’s position on the river that it saw devastating floods in August 1952. After the South West was hit by a storm water rushed down the valley from Exmoor, bringing with it fallen trees and other debris. Overnight more than one hundred buildings were destroyed and resulted in the death of thirty-four people.
The river is a huge part of the town and a constant reminder of what happened here. The defences have since been modernised and bridges widen. Though, while the river is low they may seem like overkill they are completely necessary in not seeing a repeat of what happen in 1952.
There is another reason Lynmouth is a well known town along the North Devon coast. Late one evening in 1899 a ship was in trouble off the coast of Porlock Weir and a lifeboat was needed. The conditions at Lynmouth (where the lifeboat was stationed) were too severe to launch the boat so the crew decided to drag the boat 15 miles over land to the sheltered harbour of Porlock Weir.
The journey was an incredible feat. The boat and its carriage was said to weigh 10 tons, taking 20 horses and a hundred men to make the journey. After ascending and descending two steep hills, navigating their way through exmoor and widening the path with picks they arrived exhausted early the next morning. Launching the boat immediately the crew rowed through the heavy seas and managed to save all eighteen crew members.
Even on a rainy day in October there were people coming and going as we took shelter in the newly restored lifeboat house now a memorial detailing the floods of 1952. It’s clear to see that these two stories have had an impact on the town. Not only marks in history but also physically on the town itself and its reputation.
The two towns are connected by a cliff railway. The railway was first introduced in 1890 to ease the transportation of goods up and down the steep cliff that separates Lynton and Lynmouth. It’s a water-powered funicular railway, meaning that it doesn’t need any power to operate. Instead the railway uses the weight of water and gravity.
Each carriage has a water tank as well as space for passengers, which is its main used today. As the carriage arrives at the lower station the tank is emptied, while the carriage at the top has its tank filled. The weight of the added water lowers the top carriage while raising the lower one.
We looked back down the hill at all the bridges crossing the steep incline of the tracks not regretting our decision for a moment to use the cliff railway to ascend. We caught up with the path and continued on into the Valley of Rocks.
Next week I hope to continue my photographic journey along the coast path and pick up where I left off last October. In the meantime I wanted to share one of the highlights from my last trip that came in one of the most unlikeliest of places.
I was walking into Ilfracombe along the coastal path with the recently acquired knowledge that it was home to a sculpture by the British artist Damien Hirst. As soon as the small seaside town came into view I began looking for the bronze statue, thinking that it would stand out against the traditional back drop of the town.
The sculpture was known as Verity and stands 20m tall at the entrance to the Ilfracombe harbour, looking over the Bristol Channel. As I walked into town I was given the chance to see the statue from many angles before getting right up close.
From a distance Verity was a lot smaller than I thought it would be and had less of an impact than I thought it would. That was a completely different story when you were stood underneath it. The controversial design and theme of the statue were something I had become familiar with in Hirst’s work.
It was the first time I had seen anything like it outside of an art exhibit and what left more of an impression was that it was in idyllic coastal town like Ilfracombe where you wouldn’t expect to see it.
Of course the local reaction to Verity was mixed but with a name like Hirst attached I’m sure it would have a positive effect on tourism. Verity is on a 20 year loan (starting in 2012 when it was erected) to the town of Ilfracombe but lets hope that she stays.
Any of these images are available as prints as well as others from my time on The Coast Path.
I have visited London and another piece from Hirst which is very familiar in theme The Human Body.
As a photographer attachments grow for certain places, you find yourself revisiting them time and time again. It’s almost an obsession to capture the perfect shot under the right circumstances. Every time you visit the moment is different and the image you capture tells another, slightly different, story.
During the last year, and especially over the last few months, I have been photographing my local area regularly. There are buildings and locations that I have become attached to, wanting to photograph them through different times of day and even seasons. An image that represents that specific moment in time is what I aim to achieve as a photographer.
There is a story about the most photographed barn in America. I first read about the idea in Don DeLillo’s White Noise, though a fictional barn he depicts a place that has become a tourist haven. Its reputation has grown from nothing and for no reason, except the fear that people are missing out. A pursuit to capture the best photograph of a picturesque location just because others are.
This idea has become even more evident with the increased popularity of social media and the fact that everyone has a camera in their pocket. Iconic locations have become must visit destinations. Your proof, a photo. Scroll through Instagram and you will find the latest hotspots, the stairs from the latest Joker movie or over run lavender fields. Each vying for the opportunity to become the next most photographed barn in America.
I have always photographed for myself, creating and finding my own locations that have value to me. I wanted to take the idea of the most photographed barn in America and apply it to a place that was important to me locally. Instead of it becoming a must photographed location for others I wanted to begin to create a continuously growing gallery of images, each a comparison to the last.
After two days driving across the Nullarbor Plain and a night sleeping in the car, we had arrived at the first real sign of civilisation, Norseman. Here we were able to find a campsite and enjoy the comforts that we had been missing since Adelaide. It also gave us the chance to meet and talk to people that were going to cross the Nullarbor or already had.
Norseman was the gateway to the Nullarbor. The last stop before you began your thousand mile journey into the true Australian Outback. For us it was the first town we had come to since South Australia, though it only had a small population of about six hundred.
The campsite was filled with people travelling through but the man in the tent next to us caught our attention. He was in his sixties, maybe even older, and was travelling on a four wheeled sit down bike that resembled a go-kart. He had just arrived in Norseman after pedalling through the Nullarbor, but his journey was far from over. He was cycling around the entire coast of Australia!
The size of the journey and the fact that he would only cover about seventy miles a day was hard for me to comprehend. The distance we had travelled in two days by car would likely take him two weeks. He would be alone for days in the middle of nowhere with only the rumble of road trains and rush of cars as they passed him. But he spoke about his journey matter of factly and the size of it seemed to have little impact on him.
He told of his journey across the Nullarbor and an experience he had had recently when he stopped at a roadhouse for breakfast. A roadhouse was a one stop shop for travellers, petrol station, store, rest stop, and sometimes a restaurant and motel were available. For us it was often the location of the Nullarbor Links and where we could get our game cards validated.
Usually Roadhouses were found every one hundred miles or so, perfect if you were travelling by car as you were only an hour away from somewhere. Travelling by bike it was a different story. He had arrived at a roadhouse in the morning hoping to grab some breakfast but the kitchen wasn’t open yet. The cook told him there was another just down the road (another hundred miles) and by the time he reached it it would be open, not realising that he was travelling by bike and that was a days journey for him.
As we drove out of Norseman I was thinking about the man we spoke to and the magnitude of his journey. Highway 1 a network of roads that joins the mainland capital cities of Australia is approximately 9,000 miles, if his was his route it was already the same distance from Perth to London!
His journey had made me realised what we had just done wasn’t that unique. The size and emptiness of Australia was daunting to us but not for others. For many Australians crossing the Nullarbor was a simple task, something they were so comfortable with they would even do it by bike.
Even though we had crossed the Nullarbor Plain and the hardest driving was behind us we still had over four hundred miles before we reached Perth, where our journey officially came to an end. During this stretch we would be travelling through an area that was more inhabited and even cross through a few small towns along the way, including Kalgoorlie Australia’s mining capital.
My new zine Crossing the Nullarbor is available to order along with four prints taken at various landmarks we travelled passed on our route.
The Nullarbor Plain is an area of arid desert stretching across South Australia and Western Australia. To the south lies the Great Australian Bight, an area of unique natural beauty and diversity, and to the north the Great Victoria Desert.
I knew very little about the Nullarbor before a friend asked if I wanted to cross it. A mutual friend of ours had offered their car, while they went to the States for six months, and was happy for us to drive it from Melbourne to Perth, over 2,000 miles away.
The Nullarbor can be crossed at two points, the Eyre Highway or the Trans-Australian Railway, both via the Nullarbor Plain. Our route would be the highway named after Edward John Eyre, the first European to make the crossing back in 1841. Officially the highway starts in Norseman, a town 450 miles east of Perth, before travelling 1,300 miles to Port Augusta in South Australia.
Crossing the Nullarbor prior to 1976 would have been a completely different experience. The first ‘road’ was completed in 1942, though it was only a dirt track, it was suitable for cars. It wasn’t until theearly 1960s that efforts to seal the highway began. They started in Norseman but the Western Australian section wasn’t sealed until 1969, it was a further seven years before the South Australian section was finished and the highway was completed.
It wasn’t just the road that had changed. It was the way of life too. Many towns were established along with the introduction of the Trans-Australian Railway in 1917 and eventually to service those travelling on the Eyre Highway. With the decline in train services the small settlements got even smaller. Cook in South Australia was reliant on servicing the trains passing through, it once boasted a population of fifty but in 2009 it was said only four people still live there.
We would be travelling from the Mornington Peninsula, an area south of Melbourne, first spending two weeks on the Great Ocean Road and a few days in Adelaide before finally crossing the Nullarbor. After that we were onto Perth where our journey officially ended.
We had a 1991 Nissan with no air conditioning and only one window crank that we had to share between the other windows. Not only that there were four of us plus our luggage that spilled over from the boot to the back seat and into the footwells, just leaving us room for the passengers.
Everyone we met before leaving had thought we were crazy. The Nullarbor had a reputation among Australians and there weren’t many that would even consider crossing it. Our group of four was made up of one Australian and three ‘poms’, as we were known, another factor not in our favour.
Due to the risk of kangaroos we wouldn’t be driving at night and would avoid driving at dusk, a time of day when kangaroos were most active and very difficult to spot. We would also be playing the Nullarbor Links, an eighteen hole golf course stretching over 800 miles. Each hole was situated at a roadhouse along the route, averaging 40 miles apart with the furthest 120 miles apart. This would not only encourage us to stop and rest but also help us support the fading economy.
I had heard and read so much about the Nullarbor before leaving but one image was painted clearly, its endless emptiness. This was something I wanted to capture. On the road driving hundreds of miles a day I wanted to record our journey through this unique landscape, from the backseat. An unbiased view of what Crossing the Nullarbor was really like.
My new zine Crossing the Nullarbor is available to order along with four prints taken at various landmarks we travelled passed on our route. One of my favourites that features on the cover is from Lake Cowan which is now waterless.
During this unusual time photography has been a welcome distraction, even though in a limited capacity. Conversation with other photographers has been another, largely through the #believeinfilm community. This is where I found out about Quarantine.
As Lockdown and Coronavirus took hold of the world an idea was floated. A zine featuring images from around the world submitted by photographers in the film community. Once designed the zine would be printed using the original technique of photocopying the pages in black and white. It would become a document to the unique time we were in with each image providing a different perspective.
Quarantine issue #1
The idea was launched and submissions around the theme of quarantine were called for. I wanted to contribute something that showed isolation and the state of how things were. Shops were largely closed and high streets became empty and desolate, more so than usual, and that’s what I looked for in my image.
It was quickly decided that other issues would be planned, each with a new theme that would highlight different areas of the pandemic. The organiser was based in Hong Kong and it took a few weeks for this issue to arrive, I actually got it after the second. This was something that changed for subsequent issues due to Hong Kong’s postal restrictions.
Quarantine issue #2
Saving Graces. During Lockdown face to face conversation quickly became a thing of the past. I am not usually a person to be on the phone but I found myself calling family regularly and even talking to friends that I wouldn’t normally call. To keep those connections I was missing my phone became my saving grace.
Quarantine issue #3
For the third issue the theme was Zone. It was the opportunity for us to share where we were form and the places we where limited to during the last few weeks. Usually I would head into Portsmouth when wanting to showcase the area in which I live but for this I wanted to keep it more local.
I was walking over a pedestrian bridge over the train tracks as the barriers were down. It was my chance to catch the train coming down the tracks. Then another train appeared from around the corner, they converged at the same point. I wanted an image that looked over its surroundings, showing typical houses and other subtle details that could define my local area.
This was my favourite issue so far as I was able to get a glimpse into the lives of the other contributors. It also gave a look into how other places in the world were copping as there were submissions from photographers from around the globe.
Quarantine issue #4
The theme for the next issue has been decided and I have already submitted my photograph, this time even including a short text. It is currently in the design process and has no shipping date as of yet.
These zines will be a lasting collection of photographs and stories from around the world detailing the lives of its contributors. They are individual and unique just like the circumstances we are currently facing. It’s unclear for how much longer Quarantine will continue. Though in some places restrictions have decreased life still won’t continue as it once did and it would be great to see it documented in this way.
Essential features other photographs taken throughout lockdown.
At the moment you can find each issue at the following links. They are all hosted by different contributors and may not be available permanently.
With things the way they are it has affected everything about our lives. It dictates the places you could go, the things you could do, and took away many of the things that people enjoyed. We were forced to adapt, and in order to continue with things we loved we had to find new ways to do them.
For photographers we had to get creative, more than usual. Many had begun to photograph around the house, revisit old photos and bring a new life to them, and even use FaceTime to take portraits. I, like many others, used my daily exercise to take photos and being limited to my local area wasn’t a problem.
I had recently been using my camera to discover my local area (more on that soon!) and inspired by the news I had an idea for a theme. With a few locations in mind I gradually added them into my daily route and over the next few weeks managed to visit them all.
I wanted to try and capture the emptiness that we don’t see everyday. With a shopping culture that is pretty much 24/7, or as close to it as it can be, we don’t see shops closed and car parks empty. The impacts of a lockdown had huge repercussions, especially through the retail and hospitality industry.
When lockdown was introduced in the UK there was speculation and discussion over what an “essential” service was and some stores argued the right to stay open. Over time some places were able to introduce social distancing procedures that allowed them to protect their employees and customers and began to reopen. Others weren’t able to even though at first they had tried.
One place that became important to the project was the old parchment makers in Havant. Since it was on a busy road as well as the high street it has been difficult to capture it with as little car and foot traffic as possible. Havant was once the location for a parchment makers known for its high quality white paper, the ground floor of the current building is now occupied by a Weatherspoon’s.
Each of these images represents a different aspect of how social distancing and lockdown has impacted various retail and hospitality businesses. Once normality returns I believe it will happen quite quickly. It will be these images and others like it that remind us of what life was like.
Each month I am creating a limited print, or in this case, a print series. These are usually shot on film and will be limited in number only available for that month. This months feature is my Essential Series.
A great project I have been following from another photographer is Matt Day’s Social Distancing book.
In early 2004 I was studying photography at college and our final assessment was titled Documentary in Colour. After researching photographers and shooting a number of concepts I decided on my final direction.
At that time the City of Portsmouth was going through a moment of historical change. Over by the Historical Dockyards they were constructing the Spinnaker Tower. The 170m tall building was designed to resemble a ship’s sail and when finished it would provide views over the surrounding Solent, on a clear day you would be able to see over to the Isle of Wight.
In the centre of Portsmouth demolition was about to begin on the neglected Tricorn, a shopping centre and car park that had become a heated topic in the city. After years of indecision it was purposed that the Tricorn would be replaced by a modern shopping centre.
My aim was to photograph the change the city of Portsmouth was going through at that time, focusing on those two buildings. Due to the time constraints of a college program I wasn’t able to follow the buildings through the whole process of construction and demolition, only capture them as there were at that point.
At this time I was shooting on film, as digital photography was a fairly new concept, and though the project was Documentary in Colour I shot a few films in black and white as we were able to process and print these in the college darkroom. These Images would later become BRUTAL, a small zine documenting the Tricorn at this time.
Looking back now I couldn’t have chosen two better subjects. The Spinnaker Tower has gone on to become a symbol of the city of Portsmouth and a place I often find myself photographing.
The Tricorn on the other hand has become a lost relic. Still causing debate between people that loved or hated the building. The shopping centre that was planned never came to be and for the last fifteen years the space has been a ‘temporary’ car park.
As my photography has taken me full circle with me now largely photographing architecture, especially brutalism, I have recalled these images of the Tricorn. Bringing them to life and finding an audience of enthusiasts. They have become a piece of history, documentation of the city at that point in time, realising the aim of the project that I set out to complete in 2004 as a young college student.