I moved to Morecambe, a small town of the North West coast of England, nearly 6 years ago and it began a new phase in life for me. I discovered photography not long after moving here. But it wasn’t the charms of Morecambe or its faded glory, typical of many British seaside resorts, that first opened my eyes to photography. It was a place that lies only a few dozen yards away from the shops, bars and hotels of the town. It’s a place that barely gets a glance from the locals as they go about their daily business.
Every morning I look out of my bedroom window and I see this view, this extraordinary space of Morecambe Bay staring back at me. It’s the place where I first came alive and it’s the place where I still live, in a photographic sense.
I first picked up a camera in 2007 to catch some of the spectacular sunsets that occur here. Soon I began to wander off the beaches and onto the mudflats and sands of the inter-tidal zone. I discovered a place apart from the land that surrounds and the sea that covers it twice every day.
The bay is a place of rhythms. It works to it’s own beat, not that of the world around it. The usual cycle of seasons don’t apply here. Go out in winter or summer and it’s the same place, give or take a few notches on the thermometer, but it's moods and colours change by the minute. The heartbeat of Morecambe Bay are the tides. And what tides they are...
The bay has a tidal range, the difference between high and low tides, of 35 feet (10.5 metres). The ebb tide falls away an astonishing 7.5 miles (12km). It exposes 120 sq miles (310 km²) of inter-tidal sand and mudflats.
One spring high tide contains the same volume of water that would take 10 days to flow over Niagra Falls, yet this amount flows in and out of the bay twice a day. It is a dynamic, dramatic world where huge volumes of water are in constant movement. Despite the enormous natural forces at work, it’s a place of surprising peace and calm. You’d be forgiven for imagining a raging torrent but the tide insinuates its way into the nooks and crevices of the bay. It's barely noticable, turn your back and you can find yourself completely surrounded and cut off from the safety of the shore.
It’s a dangerous place, filled with quicksands, deep sucking mud and those silent, deadly tides. One night in 2004, the year I moved to Morecambe, 23 shellfish harvesters drowned after being abandoned by their gangmaster out on the sands. Despite being only a few hundred yards from the shore, despite rescue efforts from their friends onshore and searches by 2 rescue helicopters, only one person was saved from the water. The last body was only recovered recently; the shifting sands trap and entomb so efficiently.
Even though the tragedy is well known and warning signs are everywhere I’ve seen numerous holidaymakers rescued; caught by mud, sand and tide. Although I've learned to read something of its moods as well as the tide tables, it’s a place to tread warily.
When I step out into the inter-tidal zone it feels as if I’ve entered another world. The ground is no longer a certain, solid presence. Sometimes it clings and sucks at your feet, sometimes it bounces and vibrates to the rhythmn of your gait.
The light changes too. Impossible colours become common-place. Nature's photoshop leaves me with little to do, except record what is placed in front of me.
I might be just a hundred yards away from the main street but the only sounds are the trilling songs of the oystercatchers and whimbrels, the almost constant wind and my own breathing.
It's a place without the normal visual references we use to place ourselves in a landscape. It is timeless, an hour can pass in a subjective minute. I go there to empty my mind of everyday worries, I go to clear photographers block or simply if the light looks interesting. The bay always delivers. This huge empty space always gives me something.
Although it was the sunsets that first tempted me to walk into the space of the bay, I found so much more than I could have imagined.
I found the bay possesses a real physical presence, with a voice and character of its own. Its unique beauty is unsuspected to those who never venture further than its beaches.
I found new and surprising aspects to my own personality when I discovered photography. Creativity played a small role in my life before. The bay changed that.
I continue to find so much in this huge empty space of Morecambe Bay.
To borrow from the title of this Utata project, I found “Where I live”.