Monday, 18 June 2012

Sand and sky

Last week's Radio 4 book of the week was Strands by poet Jean Sprackland. It's about a year spent roaming my local beaches. As such I found it interesting and annoying in equal measure. Interesting because it told me things I didn't know about a familiar location. Annoying because it didn't match my perception of the beach. Nonetheless I bought myself a copy, which I am half way through, and got the urge to visit the sands again.

The area of beach I visited yesterday evening is where the shrimpers travel to the water. Their bastardised amphibious vehicles are penned in a compound above the high water mark and there is a churned track leading out to sea. A couple of posts serve as waymarkers. The shore is gradually being colonised by marram grass, to such an extent that the area is known as 'the green beach'. Not so much a beach as salt marsh in reality. Human activity is making its mark at the same time as nature is fighting back.

 The sea on this section of coast goes out miles, possibly literally, when the tide ebbs. Even on a summer evening the shore is a barren place. Trying to find pictures that are both interesting and say something about the sense of place is not at all easy. Not without reverting to cliché. There might be  some flotsam to make a hackneyed picture with - a shell on rippled sand, a branch silhouetted against the setting sun. Mostly it's sand and sky. There's sea if you walk far enough, and there's dunes and habitation if you turn around. Mostly it's sand and sky.

Perhaps the medium is wrong for the subject. Perhaps it requires a large format camera to make large prints where details such as a runner on the tide's edge would be clearer to give a better sense of scale and emptiness. Perhaps it can't be done photographically.

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