Mar – Gate. Gateway to the sea. Though I hated living on our boat, I still love the sea and am always drawn back to it. It also hard to avoid when living in the UK – drive in any direction and you eventually hit water.
Somehow Britishness relates to being an Island nation, having an indefatigable spirit, and being determined to make the best of what we have. There is nothing more British than standing on a beach in gale force winds with your toes buried in cold clammy sand having a ‘good time’. Or sitting in a parked car with a thermos, the windscreen wipers brushing away the tears of another summer downpour.
Margate is a place that most of us have heard of. It is the poster child British seaside town, its name synonymous with childhood memories of swimming in water that's just a bit too cold, of buckets and spades, ice cream, deckchairs and donkeys. Its history riddled with familiar pairs: mods and rockers, Chas and Dave, Del Boy and Rodney, highs and lows, boom and bust. We all have our own Margate – you can find one on every British coast.
This project explores what is beautiful about Margate - then, and now. Shot entirely with expired Polaroid film echoing family snapshots of yesteryear, these pictures show what a good old-fashioned British holiday resort looks like on the cusp of resurgence.
Polaroids imbue a cultural cellular memory and nostalgia for all of the millions of childhood moments spent ‘beside the seaside, beside the sea’. The film is now extremely expired causing imperfections, bearing resemblance to the scars of passing time and memories transforming, blurring the boundaries between past and present. These effects also mirror the cracks and decay that permeate the walls of every British resort town. These photographs are my memories, your memories, our memories.
Even after a recession, a change in taste, and the advent of cheap flights and package holidays abroad, Margate is still beautiful when the sun shines.
Benidorm. Fish and Chips on the promenade, fried breakfast for €1, brightly coloured full board wristbands, and the smell of sizzling skin and tanning oil. You could be forgiven for thinking you were in Blackpool rather than the Spanish Costa Blanca, if it weren’t for the sun and sangria on tap.
I’ve always been interested in 'the holiday destination', partly down to my unusual upbringing aboard our boat, Jannes. While sailing, we spent a lot of time in coastal holiday locations stocking up on supplies. Most people that we met there assumed we were on holiday, like them, rather than our nomadic existence being a lifestyle choice.
It was in the Canary Islands that I first met British tourists en masse. They spoke my language, I played with their kids, we had fun and I was welcomed. I never saw the Brits at work, and I never experienced the rain or cold of home. Britain symbolised opportunity, fun, and wealth. At that age I had only ever visited England the once, but I think it was the beaming smiles of those holidaymakers that ignited my thirst for Britain.
Benidorm stands as the flagship destination for Brits abroad. My visit to Benidorm took me right back to being eight years old when those arcades, ice creams, zip wires, and banana boats sent me into a frenzy of longing. Revisiting Benidorm was like finding the missing piece of my British jigsaw.
This series documents my love affair with ‘Britishness’, a culture I am still able to observe from the outside, and in many ways don’t feel part of. These pictures are of people just like me, trying to find something familiar to cling to in a sea of strangeness.
A part of me feels at home in Benidorm. It’s a little like walking onto a set but the people are real. Benidorm can be intense and immersive, and strangely liberating, where the sun never stops shining and the spirits never stop flowing, and where you can literally lie back and think of England.