We need to talk about Swanage…


This week, my friend Simon and I met up to have a pint and look at some of the work we have done so far with the Swanage project. This is a project contrasting the place between the summer (where it is packed with tourists) and winter (where it returns to being primarily a local community). This year we have been quite loose in our aims and have been mindful of the mass of work that has been done before about the British at the seaside. Martin Parr, Tony Ray Jones are two giants in this area.

Swanage is a great location in that it seems psychologically cut-off from the area around it, it has a feel that you are stepping into another place and another time. The town has a traditional seaside feel to it (where people use crabbing buckets, eat lots of fish and chips (very nice by the way!) etc. In the summer it is awash with people, and I can imagine that people would return to the place on several occasions over the years. It has that kind of quaint feel to it.

In the winter, the place seems to take on a different and darker character. The place feels more local, but it also feels more threatening and less welcome. This feeling might be ‘you had the place in the summer, but it’s ours now’. Growing up in Cornwall, I remember experiencing a similar feeling when the emmets (holiday makers) have gone back home. This contrast is really interesting, and certainly something that we want to thread into our work!

Taking a “let’s see what will emerge from the trips stance” has been an interesting approach. We are getting a body of work together now, and are starting to pull out some themes to organise how we think about the town. Contrast and colour have been dominant, but also how differently we both look at the town. Simon, it turns out, steps in closer than me. He is good at isolating the subject and creating a strong feeling of emotion in his work. My style is more about bringing the environment into the imagery. I tend to create less of an emotional closeness, but a more distant and reflective stance. That can only be a good thing, as we can invite the viewer to think in different ways.

However, we are still at a point using this approach where we are thinking “what is this project about?” and “what actually are we trying to say here?” We are getting a little clearer, but I still don’t think we have really got to grips with what the project is about. So far, it’s been a lot of fun, which is great. But, in terms of photography and saying something, there is a long way to go…

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