Deckchairs, Bournemouth, Dorset, England 1983

December 3, 2023
Deckchairs, Bournemouth, Dorset, England 1983
Deckchairs, Bournemouth, Dorset, England 1983


Projects sometimes develop without prior research or specific intentions. Curiosity can lead to a keen interest, which may in turn transform into an avid infatuation. Such was the case with a series of photographs I made in England between 1983 and 1986, of which Deckchairs, Bournemouth, Dorset 1983 is included.


I was born and brought up in a large, working-class family in the North of England. Our summer holidays usually consisted of two or three daytrips by coach to various seaside resorts such as Blackpool, Scarborough and Llandudno. I settled in the USA in the late seventies, and was away from England for some time so I was anxious to revisit familiar places.


I photographed a great deal in Northern England, which is the subject of my next book, but I also explored the South Coast. Inevitably, I visited Bournemouth where I spent some time photographing. Much of my work is about the relationship, juxtaposition, even confrontation between the elements and the structures that we humans place on the earth. I attempt to photograph the invisible in the visible - the patina of past actions, memories, and traces. I try to suggest presence through absence, and greatly enjoy the geometry and graphic abstraction of straight lines set against free-flowing forms.


During the early eighties, I was also experimenting with long exposures at night. Looking at this image now, I see a rectangle that has three horizontal areas with differing kinetic dynamics. The ground is wet and reflective. The water is moving, faster than the clouds, which are further away. The stacked deckchairs suggest an activity that has gone on and now stopped. The minimal, yet sturdy semi-circular fence provides a secure anchor. The stage is empty, the actors are gone, but we are left with all the props as catalysts for our own active imagination. As viewers we are gently seduced into being part of an ongoing performance.


Technically, this photograph was made with a 35mm Nikon FM camera, and a fairly wide lens, perhaps a 24 or 28mm if I remember correctly. The exposure would have been only about a minute judging by the water patterns. The edition of this image sold out a long time ago. I remember that I had to make both the sky and the shadow from the deckchairs a little darker. I did this in the printing. It was important to me that the print retained a certain restless brooding aspect to it. We can note that the deckchairs take centre stage in this drama. The corners are purposely darker than the centre, and there is just enough detail in the shadow areas of the print.


Michael Kenna, 12th March 2021

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Michael Kenna

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