Estuaries,marshes,creeks and saltflats,the edge of the land. These are the places that have fascinated me since childhood. The unseen and unvisited places between the water and the earth. As a photographer I would explore these lonely, unloved places and photograph the emptiness. Names such as Allhallows,Dead Man's Island,Whalebone Marshes and Egypt Bay appealed to my imagination. Occasionally I would stumble across a beached hull,stripped of its planks with only its oak ribs remaining. I had found my subject. They epitomized the wild,otherworldliness that attracted me to these places. Object,sky and land had become one.
I soon found that these abandoned wrecks littered our estuaries and mudflats .They were mostly wooden but a few were of steel and iron. They were abandoned for many reasons. Some had been lived in and had deteriorated beyond repair,others were actual wrecks,beached in a storm, but most seem to have just been parked and left. The majority of the wrecks are work boats, Thames barges,second world war minesweepers or MTBs,lightships,ferries,fishing boats and small rowing skiffs. There are also abandoned pleasure craft, streamlined wooden yachts,plywood motor cruisers and rowing boats. They are abandoned alone on mudbanks or in tidal creeks far out and beyond reach or in small groups in a kind of ships graveyard quietly sinking back into the silt. Some have names and histories but most have been forgotten.
Their beauty has much to do with their location.The pitted timbers seems to grow out of the mud,defiant and graceful in their decline.The colours merge with the land and sky creating a savage, mysterious beauty. They lie broken and abandoned washed by salty tides and lashed by the rain.They become the landscape,merged with the sky,sea and land . There is an undeniable romance in ships and shipwrecks.They are the stuff of adventure, adversity and danger. They are memorials from a slower,more straightforward and honest world. Their basic technology and logical construction appeals to our sense of order. These are simple vehicles,made to do a a simple job, to carry man and cargo upon the water.
The photographs were taken over many years and were taken on an Art Panorama 170 camera,made in Japan. The camera uses 120 film and produces a negative 6 x 17 cm.
John Whitfield 2010