Fraying at the Edges

This was the title of the photography project relating to coastal erosion and the effects, if any, posed by tourists and tourism on the British coast line, with their total disregard for the environment or the dangers it poses, to both them, and their children, all in the name of a holiday or day trip to the seaside, These images were made on Ilford Pan F. 50ASA Monochrome film, and 6 x 6mm Rolleicord camera,

Here are three images from the project I did many years ago documenting the erosion of the east coast of Yorkshire, Ranging from Filey in the North to Withernsea in the South covering the whole of the Holderness coast line.
This is a subject constantly in the news and never gets any better, I’ve been to the region since and it’s much worse
than this, time to do a update I think ?



SEASCAPE Fraying Edges

Early 19c travellers then, ventured further afield to gaze on new and more exiting places like France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and many more, all this of course was still the preserve of the wealthy, The nineteenth century photographer Francis Frith 1822-1898 embarked on a photographic business designed to bring these exotic images of eastern and western European culture to the English based poorer people in general as a Tour du Mondé, (tour of the world) when he himself travelled the so called grand tour, “which had long been regarded as a finishing school for the sons and sometimes the daughters of the gentry, but producing more xenophobic’s than the expected sophistication” to get them, and, travelling as far south as Egypt for even more exoticism, that very same company existed and traded as a photographic company into the 1950s.
…It was a belief amongst many European Doctors that spa water had medicinal properties, leading the wealthy to travel great distances to partake in it’s qualities, and, in 1626 after Mrs Farrow, a Scarborough woman, found a spring on the beach there, which was later developed into what was to be the first spa town in the country, and incidentally by the seaside, the wealthy came in their droves, thereby encouraging other suitable towns to follow, towns like Harrogate in the north and Bath in the south plus many more, Dr Wittie decades later advocated the drinking of, and bathing in sea water, and, since Scarborough was beside the sea and also had a spa, it was a favoured place in the north for the gentry to play and be physically and medically enhanced at the same time, dunking naked in the sea from within they’re bathing carts, drinking the water and also partaking of the spa waters as a general pick me up, thereby making the beach a place of medical well being rather than a place for pleasure.
…This urbanisation and capitalistic industrialisation brought with it extra wealth for the working classes but also took away the parks and walks used for recreation, in favour of industrial buildings and housing for the ever increasing population, this housing befitting only to the working classes, was built in long rows of 20 or 30 houses all joined together, many with only one bedroom and one room downstairs and came to be known as 1 up and 1 downs, these houses were constructed in a unique way to make good use of the space available of which there was little, and by joining two rows together back to backs where the result, effectively a row of 30 houses could provide homes for 60 working class families, with all toilet facilities outside at the end of the row and for communal usage, this was repeated on the opposite side leaving a gap of around 30ft or so which became a cobbled street, this having been repeated 4 or 5 times produces a community of 240 to 300 families in five rows of houses and four streets which equates into a possible 1200 or more people all needing space, the bourgeois industrialists and the landed gentry of course living in the laps of luxury, in custom built housing with all modern day facilities and plenty of garden area in which to participate in leisure activities of their choice, at the expense of the working classes who’s labours put them there, despite their not wishing to be associated with them at work or at play.
…Other types of facilities more suited to the ethos of the new visitor were quickly put in place, and towns all along the coasts were to follow that lead, on the west coast however, this was not the case, at the advent of the railway Blackpool for example was only a small village, whilst Morecambe to the north and Rhyl to the south in north Wales hardly existed, Rhyl in fact in 1800 had only two buildings, by mid century

it was a small town, this idea of what can only be classed as manufactured towns built specifically to cope with the growing tourism was also evident on the east coast of Lincolnshire, Skegness being a typical example. Despite all this restructuring and building of new coastal towns, it was still initially intended for the wealthy upper classes’ in fact the working classes were in some cases considered vagrants with no money to spend and they had no wishes for their greater influx, dissuading the railways from day tripper excursions, Morecambe a new town at that time wanting only people who would take up residence for more than two or three days, ironically in later years Morecambe was to be made up of people moving in from the industrial towns of West Yorkshire, some of whom commuted back and forth every day to work, and in fact it’s first mayor was from Bradford.
…All this could be found depicted on cartoon and photographic style post cards also sold at the gift shop, along with many others depicting a multitude of exciting and different images, but all in keeping with the romantic notions of this utopian destination, cards with views of the sea, or idyllic rural landscapes within easy reach of the place they were staying, either by local transport or on foot, with other places of interest for the visitor to gaze upon, people bathing, kids playing on the beach, building sand castles with their buckets and spades, and even images of the guest house in which they were staying, all this and more could be purchase and posted back home to friends or relatives not so fortunate as they, whilst they themselves were elevated to a feeling of grandeur and better position in life.
Post cards were developed in a way as to be seen as cheeky, with buxom women and virile men in clandestine rendezvous, the visual message reinforced with suggestive captions, some others with young women portrayed in a way as to meet with the male conception of how the ideal woman should look, again with the appropriate caption implying that all this and more is available here at the seaside, this was developed further with photographic sets of giant size post cards, depicting all these different images but with the faces removed, removed in such a way as to leave a hole, a hole large enough so as to allow the visitor to place his or her head through from behind and become an inherent part of the picture, and ironically part of the cheeky or clandestine act being depicted, then photographed by some enterprising photographer and sold as a record of their holiday for posterity to keep in a holiday snaps album, which in itself reinforced the pleasures to be had at the seaside.
…The manufacturing and leisure industries were now pressed to produce more goods and different ideas to meet the ever increasing demands of this new consumerist way of life, day and half day trips were arranged and ironically tourists on day trips to the seaside, would go on half day trips elsewhere, to take in as much of this utopianism and romantic new found world as they could, in the time available to them, from Scarborough for example, half day excursions would travel to Whitby, where the tourist could gaze at leisure for two or so hours at the splendours of the abbey ruins and at St Hilda’s church, to the site at which Bram Stoker was said to have been inspired to write the Dracula stories, and to take photographs of these newly visited places, with their new Kodak Brownie camera, another commodity marketed on the back of the coastal and rural idyll, together with the all too necessary film it required before their return journey.

…It’s strange how we remember the good times in our life, even so far back as the fifties, for example, I remember going to bed quite early so as to get a good nights sleep and able rise early for the ritual of going to the tea hut before breakfast, which was usually about 9am, my uncle was always an early riser, and, although I didn’t realise at the time, I now understand that as a textile worker, he, like all the others had to work to a strict time regime, a habit which lasted his lifetime, and that of all other manual workers of the time, even when on holiday, hence the early trip to the tea hut.
…Whitby a fishing village 20 miles up the coast north of Scarborough, is to this day a quaint old fishing village, sixty or seventy years ago it must have been a sight to behold for these working class voyeurs of the idyll, a place they could gaze upon for hours on end, watching the fishermen and women going about their daily business, the smoking sheds where Herrings were smoked over burning oak turning them into Kippers a commodity which could be purchased direct from the smoking sheds, where the proprietors would package and post them to anywhere in the country, this was even better than a post card, to send to their friends and relatives back home, who could now get a taste of the seaside faire instead of just a view on a card, fuelling their feelings of the perceived wealth of the sender, it was the working class’s seaside holiday, though, that was to personify the post card elevating it to the iconic heights of surrealism, I have heard people state, whilst gazing at a romantic view, “it’s just like a post card“ implying the only thing better than natures romantic idyll is a card containing its image.
…All these new ventures were now able to be represented in a way that had never been plausible before, Television an invention making it possible to transmit moving images to your own front room, and it didn’t take long for industry, including tourism to take advantage of the facility with advertising campaigns, the romantic idyll of the pastoral and coastal utopia could now be experienced at home, or at least a proportion of it, of which was artificially manipulated to imply grandeur, what it didn’t show was the debris and devastation left by the contractors on the peripheries of the camp sites, a phenomena the tourists themselves failed to encounter, they being more interested in gazing at the abundant pleasures they had paid to view and be part of, omitting from mind and memory any degradation there may be around them, themselves creating antisocial rubbish dumps with discarded wrappers, crisp packets and the like in the very places they regard as the idyll, with not a care in the world.
…Since the camps were generally built on cliff tops providing spectacular views out to sea it was also necessary to provide access to the beach and the that sea, this in most cases required the excavation and degradation of the coastline itself, cutting gullies in the very place of beauty they have come to see, leaving a ten or so foot drop onto the beach, as though to keep the sea from impinging on the camp, this drop had to be negotiated by the use of purpose built wooden steps, at the end of man made paths hewn out of the cliffs and trodden by the millions of feet making their way to the beach, where they would set up their home for the day.
…These areas are of course disregarded by the audacious tourists who have little regard for anything likely to have adverse effects on the holiday, despite the serious health hazards, which are also disregarded, but still surround their semipermanent utopian residency, after all, this unsavoury condition is not representative of the holiday or the place where the holiday is being savoured, and therefore not the problem of the tourist, in fact nothing within the environment is the responsibility of the tourist, and to reinforce that fact they are prepared to, and do set up their daily seaside camp beneath clearly dangerous crumbling cliffs, obviously believing that this is a safe place of picturesque beauty, reinforced by the vast numbers of holidaymakers that visit from both working class and middle class backgrounds, together with media publications and the ubiquitous post cards and bill boards on view every where they look, implying and encouraging the very same feeling.
…The British institutionalised annual holiday by the sea is unique to England, or was in the 50’s and 60’s and probably into the 70’s, when everyone seamed to prioritise time with the holiday at the top of the list, by now the camp owners were starting to segment the market, providing special interest centres for different tastes, Centre Parks, adult only centres, and so on, all of which could be erected inland under a glass or perspex dome, to keep out the British weather, an artificial seaside closer to what was now fast becoming the privatisation industry of Thatcherism, reducing travel and thereby cost. and, whilst we are living in a multicultural society we very rarely encounter multicultural holiday making, either gazing at the so called delights of the seaside, or the aesthetically beautiful landscape, an object of the 17ᵗʰ century Dutch art genre, a genre which become central to British and European culture.

Fraying at the Edges


Fraying at the Edges

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