An apologia by Sally Mann in the New York Times, reflecting back on the reception given to “Immediate Family”. It is also worth reading one of the articles it responds to, by Richard Woodward, in the same magazine.
A forgotten yellow bucket. A cold grey sky. A sea too apathetic to be whipped into anything more passionate than a mild froth. The windswept sand. Clumps of weed and meandering footprints- who could have direction here? Where would one go without some means of going back, not in space but time; for in the here and now and in the future, stretching endlessly on, Morecambe is grey. This is the town of the historian and the photographer- the past and its broken skeleton the only sights. Nothing but the shadow of the past- a stained and dirtied photograph.
The lone figure, shivering looking outward to the empty sea reflects the degraded town Morcambe has become. A once happy town, buzzing with sea seeking tourists has been reduced to a half demolished depressing centre, spotted with charity shops and arcades. The tide rolls out reminiscent of the visitors who have departed, taking their sunshine with them. The figure is attacked by the wind, whilst exposed by the desolate Morcambe promenade; the hood also providing a shield from the sights of social disintegration. A back turned on the gaudy lights which hold an empty promise of happiness and 2penny wealth.
Morecambe attracts literally hundreds of tourists each year, some travelling over five miles just to get a piece of the action. The beachfront boasts a buzzing hotspot for birds of different feathers, as seagulls and pigeons put their differences aside in the perpetual pursuit of Morecambe’s extensive culinary delights, from fish and chips to sausage and chips to chips and gravy. Why not stroll along the promenade until it gets a bit windy or it pisses down? Seek shelter in the loving arms of the locals in Pleasureland as they gamble the day away, or realise that the whole thing’s futile and just go home.
The cat looks at the hand, the dog at where it points.
The gull looks at the world beyond; beyond Morecambe, beyond the frame, beyond our knowledge. Atop the watchtower, he gazes outwards to avoid gazing back. His lamppost roost omits light, and he peeks over the shadow reflective of the ground aspiring to sky, and crushes with the power of light, of hope, of nostalgia, the present. With the glorious historical home to which there can be no return. Morecambe presse.
We look up, he avoids eye contact. His sniper beak flirts with impending wound, and the pain to follow. The scab rips off and the gull cries, the light dies.
Rain pours from a sky with forgotten clouds, and pounds the upturned faces of the people below, gawping up at the watchtower.
Two opposing realities. One, a reality of blustering winds, empty promenades and desolate decaying buildings. The other, a photographic reality. A breaking strip of blue in grey clouds – hope. Garish objects of a childhood that has been long forgotten, as the hovering spade desperately digs away at the gathering storm above. The interior and exterior of Morecambe mingle in a reflection that grasps at the memories of sunnier days lost. “‘So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
It’s the little round bulge of a nail on one of the rings of Saturn; both there and not there, a signifier of a gently rusting world, ionising memory as a little stain on a universe of plastic and painted signs, entrance points to a past so deeply buried in the pores of the World’s many bodies (the body of photography, the body of Morecambe) that its futurised characters walk through petrifying reflections, speaking in tongues – an incomprehensible language you immediately somehow get. Its decay only intensifies the rioting pliability of modernity, in its hard, melancholic locales: Time’s negative.
(This is drawn from my Donuts and Seafood photograph.)