I’m happy to report When I Was A Boy, I Collected Pebbles From The Beach (2021) has been selected for the Crossings Poetic International Film Festival 2021. Thanks very much!
Twenty years-or-so ago, one of my oldest friends and I went on a couple of road-trips, stopping-off both times at Sidmouth in Devon. Sidmouth is a very genteel seaside town distinguished by its red sandstone cliffs – which you can’t appreciate in any of these black and white photographs! Our first visit was in the first month of 2000. I was packing some lovely 1600 black and white film, always good for cranking up the drama. In the topmost image, my friend, Jules, is wearing my blue and white striped jumper, a wonderfully heavy thing I was rarely seen out of in those days, a comfort blanket with sleeves. I think Jules must have been feeling the cold that day, and I was feeling chivalrous – which is why she’s wearing it, and not me, as she stares moodily out to sea. Our second visit to Sidmouth was more seasonal, Summer 2001. The day we arrived at the beach, the air was soft and luminously bright with sea mist. I happened to have some black and white infra-red film in my camera, which produced some richly atmospheric pictures with a sense of silence and timelessness.
Another set of photographs from our 2009 trip to Shellness, which included games of pétanque on the beach’s perfect surface of pale, crushed shells.
Another set of preposterously colourful photographs from the echium field at Church Plantation; like something from the seabed of a storybook.
Summer, 2009: a day trip to Shellness, on the Isle of Sheppey, noted around these parts for its nudist beach, but what I enjoyed about our visit was the beach’s silence and its strangeness. Another one of those end-of-days places with an atmosphere all of its own.
A few evening’s back, we went out to Sheldwich to see the field known as Church Plantation, with its dazzling crop of echiums. We weren’t the only people drawn to the improbable spectacle of blue, pink and white flowers, with its thrumming of bees, a young couple parked up and staging photographs for their Instagram accounts. We got there late, the sun all but gone, which meant the echiums were kicking out an almost neon-like glow, their green stems making for welcome contrasts, and the white echium flowers smattering the rolls of blue waves like foam.
Okay, so just a few more skyscapes taken from Whitstable beach back in the Summer of 2009, for this week’s blast-from-the-past. Like something from the ceiling of Sistene chapel.
When you live by the sea, in a place famous for its spectacular sunsets, there comes a point where you have to say ‘no more!’. No more photographs of sunsets, however extraordinary. No more photographs of clouds, however painterly! No more! In my defense, these photographs date from 2009, so well before that embargo, and I still remember very clearly how special this particular lightshow was, boasting skyscapes so dramatic they could have come from a John Martin painting.
Another ‘slow-cinema’ impression of the pastoral pleasures of my local landscape, and this time it’s the rapeseed field by Bysing Wood, alive with the buzz of insects and bird song, and desaturated by early evening sunshine.
I think this is probably an instance wherein the methodology behind the images is ultimately more arresting than the outcome itself, but having tasked myself with the challenge of trying to recreate the silent surface of the moon in response to the Kick-About No.29, I ended up working with some very earth-bound materials – principally, eight bags of plain flour, a plastic spatula for contouring, and three big glass paperweights.
That said, I must admit to a rush of fond filmic recollections, enjoying the way such humdrum materials could be turned into other-worldly vistas. One of my great excitements as a kid was learning how film-makers produced their special effects, kit-bashing spaceships from bits of Airfix models, or lining the corridors of futuristic sets with cheap plastic food containers bought in bulk and glue-gunned to the wall.
That I was able to recreate a lunar landscape on my dining room table, using the simplest means, reminds me of the power of imagination and the importance of play.
The ‘surface of the moon’ as it manifested in reality – a large plastic seed-tray filled with flour!