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  • Mark Wylie

Out of season

Most of my photographic focus at the moment is on documenting life in coastal communities in the closed season. The working title for my project is ‘Out of Season’ and the aim of the work is to explore the beaches outside of the summer thrall. The project is loosely set along the English south coast. Places like Bournemouth and Weymouth will feature heavily as they are very close to where I live. However, I am also intending to get further afield and explore areas like Brighton and Margate, if time allows, over the winter period.

So, what is appealing about photographing the coast in the autumn and winter seasons? Most street and documentary photography tends to cover the busy summer season on the coast. It is a fantastic time to shoot, I shot my Summerland project during the suncream season for this reason (more on this another time). The crowds, barbecues and smell of fish and chips pervades the atmosphere as people play, laze and enjoy the water in the hazy sunshine.

Winter on the coast is a very different prospect. The crowds have gone, replaced by local dog walkers who have reclaimed the beaches after a summer of exclusion. The coast is a much quieter, more reflective space. People often seem to head to the coast to just watch the sea and feel the salty air that can get whipped up into a frenzy by the high winds and changeable weather that mark the winter period.

Many of the cafes are now only open for a few days’ a week. The summer tat shops, previously selling buckets and spades, have mostly closed for the winter. Most of the people sitting outside on a warm day, drinking a hot chocolate or coffee are generally retired and taking advantage of the out of season accommodation prices.

In Bournemouth over the last few years there has been a lot of work on the beaches over the winter period to replace the groynes (the long wooden sea defences that pepper the beach). This means that large sections of the beach have been fenced off. This work is to keep the beach from washing away, particularly in a place like Bournemouth where much of the beach is continually dredged up to create the pristine sands that people enjoy.

With my projects I tend to just start exploring and shooting. I never really go into a project with much more than a basic idea of what I want. Being outside and exploring are key parts of my identity, meaning that my work will tend to reflect this at a basic level. Much like Bruce Davidson, I’d rather explore an area, shoot and build up the work from there. I tend to work in iterative cycles, where I shoot for a period, then edit the work completed to find out what areas I am satisfied with and what need further attention. I keep notes in a journal, along with small 6x4 inch prints to give the project a physicality beyond the ethereal confines of Lightroom.

I’m not a photographer who will just stick to one aesthetic, such as black and white photography. I like to explore different ways of taking photographs, meaning that I will work in colour, monochrome, film and digital. This project has pretty much ended up being shot in colour on a digital camera. I tend to go with what feels right after some exploring of different mediums at the start. The temptation is usually to go with monochrome, as I had spent the previous nine months just shooting in that way. So, I suspect the main driver for the change was just simply wanting to shoot colour for a while.

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