The Archive


Not Mablethorpe, Ben Dolman 2013


Today I have been going through my archive and I came across a series of photographs I took last September on a field trip to Mablethorpe in North Lincolnshire at the start of my MA and two images caught my eye, not in themselves but in their association with one another. Neither photograph was taken at Mablethorpe but instead just up the coast for although Mablethorpe is photographically interesting it was not for me, deciding to leave the subject matter to Martin Parr I ventured out up and down the coast either side of Mablethorpe seeking other subjects.
About ten miles north of Mablethorpe I found a single track road that led down to the beach, as arrived a couple were having an argument and then the man broke off and headed to the beach and the woman returned to the car. The tide was out and the beach stretched out for about three quarters of mile before it met the sea. I watched the man head out across the sand before stopping at the break water, I took a photograph. This photograph is one of only four photographs I have taken in the past three years that has a person in it. The other photograph was taken about 10 miles south of Mablethorpe, again I found a side road that took me to the beach and sea. At this location there were about 40 fisherman who were packing up as a big storm was blowing in from the North Sea. As people retreated from the beach I proceeded down to the breaking waves. The power of the sea set against the darkening sky was quite dramatic, I took at photograph. I very rarely do photographs showing nature’s tempestuous side, this photograph is perhaps one of ten photographs I have done in the past three years that depicts the extreme turbulence that can be found in nature from my landscape photography.

The photographs were taken about three hours apart, in that time the tide came in and the weather totally changed, both photographs are of the same subject yet offer two different stories in themselves and another story together. They share the same composition structure dominated by the horizon that gives a linear bisected space of the foreground and the sky equally divided. The foreground in both photographs are both of the sea, presence and absence, one depicts the actual waves whilst the other shows the traces of the sea in the ripples left in the sand. On their own both photographs are sort of OK but together they seem to offer more in the sum of their parts not only in the pictorial but also in their visual psychosis.

I have experimented with diptychs before but I usually slightly separate the images with a narrow margin between them as some photographs work better using this layout, a breathing gap that allows the photographs to retain their individuality whilst creating interesting interactions with one another. Other photographers have often used diptychs in the layout of their work which is perhaps a nod to the photo-book where one of the main concerns when laying out the sequence of photographs is their narrative and association with one another especially if photographs are placed on opposing spreads. I am going to continue to explore this narrative device and see what new possibilities or not it might afford, I am drawn to groupings rather than the singular in the editing of my work at the moment, it maybe be a cop out rather than trying to nail one defining photograph but I find it closer to the experience I have out in the land and the visual stories I would like to tell.

After writing this post I feel the need to visit the sea again.