The seaside is a mysterious place and the piers themselves an enigma. Does photography make things plain or render them more uncanny? In Anne Briggs’ Sandman’s Song (on The Time Has Come), the punch-and-judy man is troubled, as ‘every night when folk go home / I realise I’m not alone / there’s voices in the sea, coloured lights in the foam’. The singer ‘formulated a plan’ and ‘fetched the family photograph man’ who provides an explanation of sorts, that ‘he thought it the boat of the dead’. Watching into the night a strange double ship is seen – a ‘silver moonlit ark’ above a ‘golden barque’. Has the ‘family photograph man’ in his unlikely authority explained things, or summoned further strange intrusions?
Piers have been photographed almost too much. Perhaps it is this, as much as the effects of water, weather, fire and vandalism, that has destroyed half of them. Having set myself the task of capturing images on each of the piers I visited, I needed to decide what kind of kit to use, and what kind of ‘photograph man’ I would be. Eventually I opted for a Lomography 360 Spinner, which I bought from Zoingimage in Brighton. (There’s a video here showing how they work.) The toy-like yet substantial construction, the physicality of analogue photography, the shaman-like gesture of rotating the camera blindly – all these aspects seemed appropriate somehow. Having made a start, I realise I will be in the photographs, making it a kind of gonzo photography. Also that a hand-gesture will appear a split second after I release the ripcord. So this could also be called ‘Giving You the Finger from Some Piers.’
I will also take some digital photos, in greater quantities, to document the journeys to and around the piers. These will appear in the blog posts and are collected here. Seaside piers get photographed a lot and so I expect to concentrate instead on the littoral zone around each pier, trying to reveal something of the spaces where they are sited. Digital and analogue are of course fundamentally different. Digital = optics + mathematics = metaphor; analogue = optics + chemistry = metonymy.