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WORSE THINGS HAPPEN AT SEA

Musings of a photographic nature

Scale is Everything

Dunes
One of the functions of landscape art was to establish human scale, not only literally but cosmologically: what place people occupy in the order of things. Here, too, the middle ground has been lost, with human beings now capable of manipulating on the microcosmic scale of genetic data and subatomic particles and the macrocosmic scale of damned rivers, altered stratospheres, and the small exploding suns that constitute nuclear bombs, and drastically changing the direction of their world from both ends of the spectrum. Scale seems to have been lost in the process, and the landscape is where it can be re-examined if not re-established.
— Rebecca Solnit, 'As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender & Art
Elizabeth Happisburgh

Spring has finally sprung after a few false starts and a lot more snow that you’d expect.  There’s nothing quite as wonderful as the day you can finally go for a walk without multiple layers a flask of hot tea. A few days ago to celebrate my friend Elizabeth and I went out to explore in the sun; we headed down to Happisburgh to have a walk and photograph the shifting cliffs (if you’re friends with my long enough you too will end up taking photos of eroding clay and sand cliffs-apparently being this much of a nerd is contagious).

Everytime I visit Happisburgh the landscape and the cliff line changes, last summer when I was photographing it for my MA there was more cliff and a ramp onto the beach. During the winter that fell away and now getting onto the beach requires navigating down a slight drop and climbing a few rocks, which is great fun providing hights don’t intimidate you. Mild mountaineering aside, it’s more than worth it to explore the beach.

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There’s something about the textures of the landscape, the layers of history compressed into the colourful layers of clay and sediment. Time is huge, beyond full comprehension to our brains but in the textures of these cliffs it’s presented in a scale that is just about easy to comprehend, the eroding nature of them a tangible reminder that even the land itself is ephemeral and subject to powers greater than itself. In that respect it feels almost as mortal as you or I. Landscape is a testament of the depth of time and that’s a one of the reasons that I like to document it. If you do something long enough patterns begin to emerge, core ideas that you’re constantly drawn back to; for me a couple of those are time and scale. Especially the scale of these cliffs, with textures so complicated and so much history encapsulated in fragments of them, that even these tiny sections could feel like entire worlds on their own. It’s easy to get lost in the detail of a just a foot of this space, only to be confronted with the scale of the whole landscape when you finally look up. Scale is everything.

[Landscapes]…their innate capacity to be understood as sites where time is layered and compacted. We engage not only with the moment the photograph is taken but also with its depiction of the passing of the seasons or the memories of past cultures and historical events.
— Charlotte Cotton, The Photograph as Contemporary Art
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Time has also been on my mind a lot recently and is something you can't really help but think about in a space like this. The beginning of April marks the passage of my first six months of being a photographer full time. Six months is a long time, a lot can change, but in the larger scale of time it’s nothing at all; just a small step forward through a very big landscape.  

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