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.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Yorkshire and sound

The Holderness region in East Yorkshire has one of Europe's fastest eroding coastlines. The Alderborough area is estimated to erode as much as 3.8 metres a year. Walking the coast line there were bits of earth constantly falling off, creating a deep rumbling sound. It made me think of doing sound recordings of this, it all felt very athmospheric and there is also the constant sound of the sea. I'm not sure how difficult this would be to record yet, how near to the 'fall' I would have to be and then it is the sound of the wind to take into consideration. I saw an really interesting exhibition last year called Soundings from the Estuary that combined sound with images as well as text. The different sounds were playing on an constant loop in the gallery.

I found some good locations in Yorkshire that illustrates what I want to capture but the light was not right for most of the time, to much sunshine which does not fit with the bleak landscapes I want. I will make another trip for sure to get better light and there are still more locations in the Yorkshire area that I want to explore.
I'm looking for more people to include in the landscapes, people that are in some way affected. I want to interview them and use their stories/thoughts with the images. I think the writing could fit well with a set of landscapes and would hopefully add more understanding for how erosion is affecting peoples lives.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Major Project Planning

I have some very loose ideas of what my major project will be so this is really just throwing some thoughts in the air and most of them are quite unrealistic. What I have been thinking and reading a lot about is the Arctic. I am fascinated by the concept of the north and the idea it seems to hold in the collective imagination as a hostile and much uninhabited place. I'm interested in the settlements/towns - the people who inhabit these places as well as the landscape that surrounds them. The idea is off course very wide and the area massive so it has to be defined in some way.
There is the white nights (24 hour light) as well as 24 hour darkness in winter (which will be hard to include in the time frame of the project).
Global warming is affecting these areas - in Alaska a whole village was moved due to erosion, seal hunters fall through the ice.
Then it is the quest for the Arctic(oil & natural gas), what some call 'the new great game'.

Some good books:
The Arctic - An Anthology (Granta)
Running with Reindeer - Encounters in Russian Lapland, Roger Took
True North, Gavin Francis

Other ideas is to expand on my coastal erosion project and maybe look at other areas in Europe or continue to photograph the Thames Estuary.

Thursday, 15 January 2009


I went down to Selsey in West Sussex just before Christmas and met with Richard Dearsley who started the action group Save our Selsey. The sea is moving in closer and closer in this area. Richard and his wife recently moved from their house on the seafront to a house further inland because it became unbearable to stay on. The sea kept crashing in to the garden and things needed constant repair.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Beautiful story on Turkey

British Journal of Photography (BJP) published a really amazing set of images about Turkey this week by photographer George Georgiou . The work is called 'Happy is he who calls himself a Turk'. The images are so layered with past and future, ideology and transition and incredibly beautiful. I just can't stop looking at them!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Hard drive failure

On New Years Day my hard drive went bust, a pretty aggravating start to 2009. Fortunately all my images were backed up so no real disaster. But I lost almost all research (my bookmarks) for this project and what I have been researching for the potential final project, emails etc, aggghhhr.... It was just one of those things I never thought of saving somewhere else. So it has been a lot of loading programs and collecting information but I'm almost back on track and ready to crack on. I had a really nice and relaxing Christmas back in Sweden and now I'm back in chaos land.