These photographs were taken on the day after the UK saw those uncanny, record-breaking temperatures. We went to the beach to escape the strange temperature of our terraced house and swam gratefully in the shallowing sea. A few people wondered what I was doing with my camera pushed into a translucent bag and photographing into the sun, but I was out there, experimenting, gunning for heat haze and the shimmer. Turns out that double-wrapping the lens with gauze makes moonlight out of sunshine.
A second batch of rooftop shots taken during the UK’s two days of record-breaking heat, when the sun blasted down Albert Street and the heat in every room of our drafty old house was commensurate with that moment when you first step off a plane or train in some distant, foreign country and first experience the furnace of another climate. These images are not as benign as that, however, coming off as more Nigel Kneale than ‘Wish You Were Here.’
What with the recent record-breaking temperatures in the UK, I wanted to somehow capture the sensory experience of the wall-to-wall heat, without simply taking pictures of sunny scenes. These photographs were taken of the street where I live towards the end of two of those hottest days, with the sun pushing down against the tops of the narrow, terraced houses. I wanted to express that saturation of heat and the spread of it, so I put my camera into an organza bag as an ad-hoc filter by which to capture the glare and dial-up the light-bleeds and diffusion. The resulting images will go some way to remembering our unprecedented ‘heatwave’, with some of them feeling a touch ominous…
You’re supposed to play petanque on a nice flat bit of sand or fine gravel – not on the lumps and bumps of a shingle beach. Nonetheless, we’ve enjoyed many games on Whitstable beach, lobbing those satisfyingly heavy silver balls through the air in the hope of landing them near enough to the jack to win.
It’s been a very hot and sunny week in this small coastal town, with no sign of the north-easterly breeze that more usually cuts through the rising temperature. This image from some similar sunny day back in 2013 was taken by squinting into the sun, with the light managing to make the shingle look like piled coins from Smaug’s lair.
This photograph, taken back in the high summer of 2013, represents that high-risk moment when I carried my camera out into the sea with me as I bobbed about. It was one of those silvery, milky days, great light, slight haze, and the water suitably warm(ish).
When Whitstable gets very busy, those-in-the-know eschew the more popular bits of the beach and head-off towards the West Beach, where you won’t get a pint or a bag of chips, but you will get treated to the impressionist splendour of the colonies of wild flowers covering the shingle. Throw in a few old wooden boats, their ice-cream colours peeling appealingly, and you’ve got a a little patch of painterly perfection.
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.
As the temperature continues to drop, I’m hankering after a blast of Summer heat and colour. Yesterday afternoon, the falling snow went from quick, dry powder to lilting goose feathers, and our small garden was transformed. I took the photograph below from our kitchen door, snowflakes settling on the toes of my woollen socks. Beautiful though it certainly was out there, I couldn’t help but fast-forward the scene before me. The snow has buried the snowdrops and the hellebores, but strange to think all that saturated summer colour is buried out there too, embers, already stirring under the frozen earth.
Whitstable garden, February 10th, 2021