tue 22/05/2018

Tough & Tender: Sheila Rock's English Seascapes | reviews, news & interviews

Tough & Tender: Sheila Rock's English Seascapes

Tough & Tender: Sheila Rock's English Seascapes

Best known for her punk portraits, the American photographer introduces a gallery of images from a very different love letter to England

Going coastal: the cover image of Sheila Rock's 'Tough & Tender'All photographs © Sheila Rock

I had never really photographed landscape. But I spent many wonderful weekends in Suffolk and Norfolk along the coast. This project began when I just decided to photograph the sea in a very abstract way. The sky and the light and the flatness were quite inspiring for me.

And then commercial jobs were taking me to places like Staithes near Whitby in North Yorkshire, and Cornwall, and I just thought it was so beautiful that I’d say to my assistant, “If I book you for a day or two, let’s travel along the coast and do some more atmospheric pictures.” As I began to explore other parts of the countryside, friends would say, “Have you read Theroux or Bryson?” And those books fuelled the idea of exploring more of the coast. A friend in Deal, another in Hastings, would say, “Come down, spend a bit of time.”

It’s this incredible British resilience: whether rain or shine they are going to have a good timeI was introduced to the idea that there were horses and donkeys on the beach, fairgrounds, crazy golf and Ferris wheels. And people would sit on the beach as far away as possible from the edge of the water. I found that really charming. That was not part of my seaside experience. My family came from Hawaii, a tropical paradise where everyone is in the ocean or as close to the edge as possible.

I had this idea of photographing the English by the sea in blistering hot weather and it either poured with rain or was freezing cold. I showed some of these pictures early on to American friends who would go, “Why are they wearing so many clothes?” It’s this incredible British resilience: whether rain or shine they are going to have a good time. I saw that time and time again.

The more I travelled to different parts of England I realised how Blackpool was so different from Weymouth, which is phenomenally different to Clacton-on-Sea. And they all had their charm. I’ve learned so much about living in England. But I’ve learned more from being on the edge of the coast. It’s much more like forgotten England.



It’s this incredible British resilience: whether rain or shine they are going to have a good time

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