The Journey Begins!
After weeks of preparation finally the day had arrived. The car was loaded, sandwiches made (cheese and tomato of course) and I was ready for the first (and hopefully not last) Photographer’s Eye Road Trip! All I could do now was hit the road and hope that the cold that had been threatening to arrive could be halted in it's tracks with an extra dose of vitamin C.
The road trip (read about how I came up with the idea here) would last 10 days and take me across Southern England. Starting from my home in West Sussex, I’ll travel through the counties of Hampshire, Dorset, Devon and finally into Cornwall. We, my girlfriend was co-pilot, would be staying in Plymouth, Devon for a few days and then head onto St Ives in Cornwall. I had several story ideas lined up but first we had a 200 mile journey ahead of us and a quick stop in Bournemouth to document a slice of British seaside life.
During my research I had discovered some great seaside towns to visit but Bournemouth’s official tourism website reliably informed me the town had it all! And with a quote like that how could I resist ;-)
THE RISE, FALL AND THEN RISE AGAIN OF BRITAIN'S SEASIDE TOWNS
I grew up and have lived by the sea all of my life. The sea and the costal town’s and villages are a strong part in what defines me and certainly has a strong impact on my work. It’s been well documented that the traditional British Seaside Resort has been in decline for years. I remember working as a newspaper staff photographer back in the 90’s and covering a story about in Barry Island, South Wales. Cheap flights in the 80’s meant that even I as a young boy could be taken away to exotic places like Spain for a two week holiday! And who can blame us? Low airfares, guaranteed sunshine and the chance to experience another culture! The world was out oyster and many happy holidays were had by all. However this jet setting lifestyle had a big affect on many of the British Seaside Town's. With a decline in visitors many small family run businesses closed, turning many towns into run down, bedsit filled, soulless places.
However over the last few years I have noticed a big change. Sure people are still going away on holiday but a lot of people are re-discovering Britain’s wonderful seaside towns. People are moving back, probably due to the high property prices in the cities, and setting up homes and businesses. During the last recession people had very little spare money so even those cheap package holidays abroad had to be put on hold. Forced to look for alternatives people rediscovered the day trip or a long weekend by the sea. I live near Brighton in East Sussex and on a sunny day it you haven't arrived in the city by 10am you might as well stay at home. It gets so busy traffic jams clog the roads and as for getting a parking spot, think again! So things are changing and the forward thinking town councils such as, Worthing, Littlehampton and Bournemouth are moving with the times. They put on events all year round which attract people, this in turn attracts businesses which in return attracts more people because they know they can get a decent sandwich or coffee. Add into the mix peoples strong desire to visit the seaside and it becomes a win win situation. So why and what has this all got to do with me wanting to visit Bournemouth beach on a cold, dull, overcast day in March?
A VERY BRITISH SEASIDE TRADITION
Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside! I do like to be beside the sea! I do like to stroll along the Prom, Prom, Prom! Where the brass bands play, "Tiddely-om-pom-pom!" are the lyrics from a popular British music hall song from 1907, read more here. Most kids know the song as its a favourite to sing yes you guessed it on a school trip or family day out to the seaside. And I guess the lyrics some up what I wanted to try and capture. I wanted to document this love affair we all seem to have with Britain's seaside towns.
If you live in a city or in a landlocked country maybe you won’t understand, so I’ll try to explain. You see in my home as I grew up (and I’m sure many other's) it was a family tradition to go for a walk on the beach. I seem to remember this would often occur on Christmas Day after dinner, during Bank holidays, especially Easter, and occasionally on a wet Sunday afternoon. Just as my uncle Phil started snoring in front of the telly the suggestion would be made ‘I think we should go for a walk’ (normally from Mum or my Grandad) would be put to us all. Often ignored at first, as it meant getting up off the sofa, the second attempt was normally acknowledged with a large sigh or a "Do We Have Too?' reply. Unfortunately protesting was pretty useless. It didn't matter if it was raining, snowing, blowing a force ten gale or even if the latest episode of the The A Team was about to start. The decision had been made! A walk along the beach and some fresh air was needed and to be fair and in hind sight it was a good ideal. I mean Nan was on her second glass of sherry by then!
Now sure, I appreciate that sometimes you might have spent more time driving to the beach than actually walking along it, but it didn't matter. It didn't matter that you got sun cream in your eye or a seagull pinched your sandwich. It didn't even matter that due to the bad weather you had to eat your sandwiches in the car and that somebody, normally Dad, though it was a good idea to open the window and let a mini tornado into the car. You see it was and still is all part of the fun. No problem was a big problem. Anyway who needs to be stuck at an airport when you have a bucket and spade, a Mr Whippy Ice Cream and a pocket full of pennies to play at the arcade. Great fun!
As I drove into Bournemouth on a rather dull and overcast March day I remembered my own happy childhood seaside memories. Sure it was a shame the sun wasn’t shinning as the ‘Seven Miles Of Golden Sands And Sparkling Sea’ probably wouldn't look it’s very best, but it didn’t matter. I wanted to document Britain's love affair with the seaside during the short time I was in the town. Anyway I knew what ever the weather I’ll be sure to find some hardy soul walking along the pier, eating an ice-cream or building a sand castle! And for me were there’s life there’s a photograph.
POSTCARDS FROM BOURNEMOUTH
BEHIND THE CAMERA
Many of the photographs were taken whilst I was broadcasting live on Periscope. The video link (over there on the right) you can watch the edited footage. In the video you'll see me exploring the beach and pier, looking for photographs. If you love photography or are just interested in hearing about my thought process as I create my photographs then it's well worth a watch ;-)
KEEP ON TRUCKING!
Well that's all folks, my visit to Bournemouth was over and after emptying my shoes of sand we jumped back in the car and headed to Plymouth in Devon. I'll be sharing more stories from the road trip here on my blog soon, subscribe for updates via the link below.
Prints are available to buy via my online photography gallery. Every purchase helps me visit new places and document new stories.
Please let me know about some of your own seaside memories by leaving a comment below. I love hearing your own stories, so go on! Lets get the conversation started ;-)
Keep safe and enjoy life, till next time, Scott.