My work assignment that has seen me bouncing back and forth between Durham and Southend has at last reached its conclusion; which is not to say that I won’t be back, but in the meaningless words of that political cliché that will doubtless be endlessly repeated in the run up to the UK General Election:
There are no plans to do so at present.
I could do some street photography of Southenders on their way to work, but realistically unless I chose to focus on the fashion choices of the notorious “Essex Girl” then it wouldn’t be truly unique to the place.
How about the amusement park, or the Palace Hotel that dominates the seafront? They’d fit the bill were there no more appropriate option.
It had to be the Pier. After all my previous disappointments, Southend’s world-record-holding landmark was finally open for business!The pleasure pier was particular popular with the Victorians who had a developed a taste for the attractions of a seaside holiday; the trouble being that in many of the resorts that they favoured the daily tidal movements meant that the sea was too far away to enjoy for much of the time. On golden sands like those of my beloved Whitburn and Seaburn this isn’t a problem; in fact the returning waters are then a frustration to those who sunbathe and play on the exposed beach. In Southend’s case however the receding tide reveals no sandy shore, but instead expanses of estuary mud. Great for wildlife, not so for recreation. A pier overcame this issue, literally, and allowed those who walked its boards to venture out to sea without fear of wet feet or dirty clothing.
But what to actually shoot? The structure of a pier can be a worthwhile subject, Saltburn being a good example, but here the mud denied me access to the underbelly and a railway line to its surface; the pier being long enough to deter some from walking its 1.3 miles and back. At the end of the pier is an interestingly structured pavilion, a lifeboat station, and a couple of places to sit and enjoy the picture postcard view but nothing that really enthused me. I even resorted to the odd selfie on the train and more creatively with my shadow on the silts below that had been sculpted and textured by countless consecutive waves.
In the end there was nothing for it but to embrace the mud, not literally(!), and make the most of its wet ability to create reflections and scatter the light. The final image has had surprisingly little processing. That light did all the work for me.