Monday, 20 April 2009

On the Edge

Global warming and rising sea levels is changing the British coastline dramatically, causing part of the east and south coast to erode faster than ever before.
The battle with the sea is costly, with millions of pounds being spent on sea defences. Now the U.K government says it can not afford to defend the whole of the coast. This new policy, dubbed ‘managed retreat’ by scientists, means making difficult decisions about what land to save and what to sacrifice. Natural and cultural heritage is being lost and people of small villages such as Happisburgh in Norfolk and Skipsea in Yorkshire face no other choice than to abandon their homes to the sea. No compensation is offered for land or property lost due to coastal erosion; life along the sea has proved risky.

As the sea is moving further in, it is constantly reshaping the edge of Britain and redefining the borders as we know them.
This set of photographs looks at the land that has been left defenceless - soon to be claimed by the sea.

Thursday, 16 April 2009


Fairlight, East Sussex
The tide was out and the sky was bleak - finally I got some pictures.
I have been agonising for weeks over how to present this project, partly because I don't feel that it is finished and also because ideally in the non virtual if I were to present it, I would hang a set of large prints on the wall (probably only about six images) and use some of the affected peoples stories and comments together with facts. I still have no real solution to the presentation and have been playing around with different layouts for a pdf and have just discarded all of it... so it is fare to say that I'm going a bit crazy. I'm a very hesitant editor of my own work and at the same time a real control freak.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Sea Change

I'm reading a great book called Sea Change - Britain's Coastal Catastrophe by Richard Girling at the moment. Girling has dedicated a chapter to erosion and discusses many of the problems and conflicts involved.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Changing Landscapes

Broken Line - Olaf Otto Becker
A while back, I picked up a book entitled Vanishing landscapes, that I keep going back to again and again. All the photographers included in the book have documented landscapes that are undergoing change in some way. Olaf Otto Becker's work Broken Line covers 4000km along the west coast of Greenland, documenting the melting ice. Each image has the GPS location in the title. There is more amazing images on his website that has not been included in this book.
Jem Southam's Rockfalls are very much forming a typological study and are essentially of coastal erosion. Over the past 15 years he have kept revisiting the same location, studying the gradual changes of the rock surface. Seesaw magazine has a good interview with him about his work.
Rockfalls - Jem Southam

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

More stories from the cliff edge

Shanty Town in Skipsea, Yorkshire is a fascinating place - a row of chalets made out of wood and some train waggons. The buildings are literally sitting a few meters from the edge and many has fallen in to the sea over the years. Recently the residents have got planning permission to build 70 meters or so back from the cliff edge, so they should be safe for a bit longer. I met Trevor who have had to cut his house in half to save it from the sea. He says the salt water destroys everything and he can't keep up with the paint work or justify spending money on it.

Saffron is an Sculptor who have made Skipsea her home, she had an exhibition in Hull last year titled: Tides of R-Evolution that was about the community and their relationship with the environment. Now Saffron will be building an Eco house made out of straw bales on the land behind her present house. I also met a lady called Janet who had old postcards from Skipsea in the 1950's - a whole road and street of houses have disappeared into the sea since then. Janet's family had a caravan there back then but that land is long gone. Janet has a real interest in the erosion and dug out a load of photographs she had taken over the years. Her house is about 1 km inland and she told me she did not buy a house nearer the sea because of the erosion. Her perspective is interesting because she is not directly affected but she knows most of the people in the village who are. She is sympathetic but she also points out that there are people who bought big nice houses for a lot less than the actual prize in the area just because of the risk of erosion. The problem seem to be that they have been told that the erosion is a lot less than it actually is in some places, an average is measured in studies and can not foresee that several meters will just suddenly disappear. It seems clear that nobody really knows, their are so many different theories about sea defences, what works and what doesn't. Sea defences in one place speeds up erosion further down the coast where there are non. It is not just the sea who contributes to erosion, it is just as much the surfaces water coming of the cliffs.

I have been struggling to find people to participate in the project. I just feel that it is to intrusive to knock on people's doors, that the issue is a bit sensitive. John suggested in one of our tutorials that I write a letter and drop through people's letter boxes - a great idea that for some weird reason never crossed my mind. Thanks to having printed photographs to give and a letter explaining what I'm doing, it was a lot easier to get talking to people. I met many people outside because the weather was nice. Some people were happy to be interviewed but not photographed which is fine because their stories are fascinating in itself.
I'm still not quite sure how the project will look when finished, the landscapes taken from the beach looking up seems to be the most effective. I took some pictures inside Saffron's house, I was interested to see how they would work together with the landscapes but it does not quite do it for me. Maybe I'm trying to do to many things... I really need to think about this, aesthetically it is not working. I'm not even sure the people shots fit with the landscapes but I so want them to.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Some articles

I have just found a really useful website - They have published a recent article on the citizen photojournalism agency Citizenside - 'Citizenside is there a future for Citizen photojournalism?' This agency seem to be different from other agencies/companies that collect citizen's photographs in that they can check the authenticity of an image through an especially developed 'tool' where for example image changes online can be spotted and by using the senders IP address they will now where the image is sent from. They are also keen to share their technology and sell the reporter kit to traditional publications. I want to find out some more about this, could be interesting...

This weeks TIME magazine have a couple of good articles on the challenges newspapers are facing: 'How to Save Your Newspaper' and 'Turning the Page' (Charlie Beckett is quoted in this one). It mainly deals with the dilemma of decline in subscriptions, increase in people reading free online content and web advertising falling. Many newspapers and magazines rely heavily on advertising.... citizen journalism is also mentioned.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Cow smuggling and India's new fence

Photographer Prashant Panjiar

Time Magazine published a really striking story about the Indian/ Bangladeshi border this week, titled ' A Great Divide' India is building a fence on its border with Bangladesh that will when finished encircle the whole of its smaller neighbour. The Indian government sees this as a necessary step against extremism but there are several other border issues, the biggest problem is cows smuggled from India over to Bangladesh. Since cows are sacred in India they can't be exported for slaughter but they are in great demand for food in Bangladesh. Dozens of Indians die every year trying to earn $22 for getting a cow across. The Indian Border Security Force (BSF) captured 70,000 cows last year.
I also found another border story, 'The Wall - Ahmedabad' by the same photographer as above.