The first visit to Shingle Street was a moody cloud/sun day – 30th January 2020, the day before Brexit. In true flaneur fashion I wandered around taking photographs of things I noticed and thought indicated something significant or interesting about the place. Mostly grey and melancholy signs and seas/shinglescapes, reinforcing my feeling of alienation from ‘English’ surroundings where the majority of the population voted for Brexit, and also for Tory MP Theresa Coffey. As former Environment Minister and now Work and Pensions minister, she opposes gay rights, most environmental and social protection legislation, and welfare and housing benefits.
This series of photographs is the basis for 4.1 ‘Outsider on the Edge’ a largely textless photobook and slideshow personal project – audience and benefit to the world to be determined at the end with the benefit of hindsight and perspective of deeper investigation and local knowledge.
Despite the feeling of alienation, I found Shingle Street intriguing. After a week of intensive on-line investigation following Google and Facebook chains, and links from ‘The Shell Line’, I decided there wer more than enough interesting angles on this one location for the whole project – including other photographers, artists and writers as well as active Facebook page and website for the local magazine ‘Village Voices’. And that I would learn much more from following up on the different angles and potential audiences and purposes than covering too many locations in a more superficial way.
I revisited Shingle Street a week later on February 5th, a sunnier day determined to have a break from Brexit issues. And to follow up on some names, addresses and locally available books about the area. This time we spent more time in the local pub in Hollesley, and Oxley Marshes as well as Shingle Street itself in order to get a better rounded picture of the area. People were extremely open and friendly, including many who were very knowledgeable about the area as well as photographers and birdwatchers from other places. The campsite proved very reasonably priced with a very helpful owner, to enable multiple visits and staying overnight. Thus confirming my decision to focus only on this one location and visit at regular intervals to develop local ‘audience engagement’ with people who could fill in gaps and provide feedback and potential market links with visiting tourists.