Back in 2011 I did a brief project which I later titled ‘The Naked Ape’. My initial thoughts were that I wanted to do a landscape project but a landscape project which explored my emotional response to the landscape. That is, the landscape which is close to my home and which most of my life I have at various times explored. As the project progressed it began to develop into an exploration of masculinity and male identity using the landscape to explore notions and issues central to masculinity coupled with feelings of emasculated vulnerability and exposure within that particular landscape. I was so pleased with this image that it being the first I’d made towards this project I wondered how I could better it. Still I progressed and made several more images towards the series on the theme. A few months after I had completed this somewhat personal project I was invited by a close friend to show this work at a presentation evening at Derby Quad. I think it’s fair to say it was reasonably well received by the audience but the Curator of Derby Quad more or less stated that images of the naked male were not the kind of thing suitable to exhibit at such a gallery. One wonders whether the images had been of the female form it would have been similarly treated ? Perhaps we will never know.
For the time being my Naked Ape project has been parked but I still occasionally make images which for me explore some of the same themes.
The light was superb. A sea mist was sat just off shore and rising. Ten minutes earlier you couldn’t see a yard in front of you, either up the beach or down. That perfect seascape still eludes me. With a wide-angle lens getting the horizon straight can be tricky, not helped by lens barreling. Just lining the shot up and out the corner of my right eye I see a man about to walk into the field of vision. He’s carrying a large piece of wood on his shoulder. Bingo ! I get the shot. I love these unexpected moments. Right there right then, and suddenly you think you’ve got the perfect shot.
My quest to capture the perfect seascape continues. This comes close I think. I take my influence from LS Lowry who painted the below. I was bowled over when I first saw this painting many years ago hung in a gallery; ‘ There’s nothing there’ I thought, but of course there was. More there than I could have possibly imagined in those youthful days of mine.
Courtesy of the Lowry gallery, Manchester
In 1954 the Manchester Guardian wrote ‘Not a pebble on the beach, nor a cloud in the sky. But a storm breaks over Seascape.’ Purchased by Salford Museum & Art Gallery for 54 guineas, the picture had a hostile reception from some councillors and members of the public for its apparent lack of subject matter. Lowry, drawn into the controversy, declared ‘I never expected the picture to be very popular. It took me 18 months to paint and I think it is one of the best things I’ve done.’
The wife likes this shot so that’s a good start. I seem to be drawn to this scene, someone looking out to sea, especially a man, being one of those myself ( well I try ! ) I’m drawn to the sea constantly. I’m not so bothered about being on or in it, more by the side of it. There’s something about looking out to sea that placates my soul. Simultaneously both looking out at the past and into the future. Of course in this shot it’s the blue shirt that does it, the blue jeans and the black shoes. It’s on this particular beach that beachcombers search for jet, a semi precious black rock made popular by Queen Victoria who spent too much of her life mourning the death of her beloved husband Albert and thus made black a popular colour. When found jet can be fashioned into pendants and other fancy little ornaments. A good piece fetches a good price. My quest for the perfect seascape continues as does my quest for the perfect piece of writing.
Is looking out to sea a male pastime or do I just notice men looking out to sea more ? Do I identify with them more, looking out to sea ? Are we thinking the same things ? Are we saying goodbye to something or are we waiting for something ? Waiting for Godot ?
Meanwhile further along the beach another man was looking out to sea. It was the Motorhead T-shirt that I noticed first.
You hope that when you press the shutter you are capturing the essence of everything you have ever thought and everything you have ever felt. That is what you might be trying to do ? If the resulting image has even a fraction of that then you are doing well. If not then what is the point.
I like this image. I’ve liked it from the moment I took it and I’ve continued to like it ever since. I like the soft evening light and the colour of the sea. I like the pink pram and the Minnie Mouse rucksack hanging from the left handle and the red sandcastle bucket hanging from the right. I like the way the woman’s sweater pattern is repeated in the cobble stones on the slipway and again on the gentle waves of the sea. I like the the black tied back hair of the woman on the left repeated by her trousers and the trousers of the wet through man whose just emerged out the sea. I like all of those things and the simplicity of the composition. What I really like though is that there is a narrative to the image and I don’t quite know what it is ? That for me is the beauty of the image, an incomplete or invented narrative depending on the perception of the viewer. It proves the statement of Winogrand that if you put four edges around a set of facts you change those facts.It’s the way the man has his head bowed in front of these two women who are ignoring him. I printed it off and stuck it on my office wall and I wrote on it ” I didn’t know what to expect but it certainly wasn’t this !” for that is what I intended to title the image. It was something my wife said and at the time it felt prophetic and apt. I hope one day it will be published or exhibited somewhere. That would be nice.