PHOTOGRAPHY PROJECT EXPLORING WHY PEOPLE VISIT SOUTHSEA IN THE WINTER MONTHS
We might be on the cusp of the summer but we’ve had a long, long winter in Portsmouth, yet still people visit the Southsea seaside, no matter the conditions. Hampshire photographer Stephen Fell has an ongoing photography project that explores the relationship between the people who visit Southsea and the immediate vicinity of Portsmouth harbour in the winter months. We caught up with Stephen to find out more.
What is your background in photography? How did you get in to it and what do you now do?
Until 1996 I had always used a basic 35mm compact camera for simple snaps, but that year I purchased my first SLR. It was then I became a firefighter working shifts, which gave me an enormous amount of free time that needed to fill with something interesting. A friend loaned me a Canon AE-1 with a 50mm lens. Subsequently I purchased my own SLR and read pretty much everything there was to read on the technical aspects of photography and how each of the controls affected the image. It also became apparent that if I wished to master exposure correctly I’d need to shoot unforgiving slide film as the latitude is very tight.
After a couple of years my slides/transparencies were accepted into a commercial stock library and at the same time I had several sales of landscape images to calendar companies and some Formula 1 testing images to a local paper as I was living close to Silverstone at that time. In more recent years a young family, combined with shift work has seen an adaptation to tighter time restraints.
Despite embracing digital; photography for weddings, portraiture, stock and editorial images I have constructed another darkroom at home so I can produce prints once again from black and white film. There is immense satisfaction in being in-charge from exposure of the film to a final print by your own hand.
There is immense satisfaction in being in-charge from exposure of the film to a final print by your own hand
…friendliness of the people, that unique freshness the sea gives off, the space of the common allied to straightforward entertainment and fun with amusement arcades, fish & chips, candy floss, promenades, and café’s…
Can you tell us about your ‘Waiting for Summer’ photography project? How did it begin?
The idea for a seaside project began in 2014. Currently I am on a BA (Hons) History Degree with The Open University. In 2014 one of the modules covered the British Industrial Revolution and the impact it had on the seaside. This gave me an idea for a photography project, which I haven’t started yet due to time constraints, but the idea split and evolved into ‘Waiting for Summer’.
As a nation we have a long-standing affinity for the coast and visiting Southsea in December it struck me how we go about our affair with the traditional seaside even in winter, just wrapped up greater and out of the water (in the main).
The rides on Clarence Pier still show the shapes and colours we associate with the excitement and fun of hot days, yet remain locked behind steel gates, partially adorned with their grey covers, patiently awaiting the children and families.
In summary the project is to demonstrate our love for activities at a seaside resort, whether it is walks on the promenade, playing on the beach or eating traditional foods. Either way there is a refusal to let poor weather or cooler temperatures defer our enjoyment of the same things we would do with a few less layers of clothing. It is the straightforward values of fresh air and easy entertainment.
You are based in Petersfield, what was it about Southsea that made you choose it for the project?
Having only lived in Petersfield since 2010, what struck me when I first visited Southsea was it upheld all traditions of the British seaside. It allows us to escape the banality of everyday life just as the Victorians discovered through the simplicity of being outdoors; friendliness of the people, that unique freshness the sea gives off, the space of the common allied to straightforward entertainment and fun with amusement arcades, fish & chips, candy floss, promenades, and café’s, oh yes, and the railway will deliver you right where you need to be.
Is there a particular camera or process you are using for the project? If so, why?
Primarily I shall be using my Nikon D3 with 50mm 1.8G lens. It produces great files (I always shoot NEF/RAW) and it allows emphasis of a subject through isolation but maintains its context within the image. The Nikon D3 will also take what ever the weather can throw at it too. If I decide to shoot black & white film it’ll be on my Leica M6TTL with 50mm and 35mm Summicron’s as they are superb wide-open. For black & white film where I require great detail, such as the pier I will use my Mamiya RZ67 (medium format) and tripod.
I see you use a darkroom and shoot film, will you incorporate that in to the project?
Having shot black and white film for so long I cannot deny digital colour did allow some welcome flexibility. However I’m already considering other images, which I think, would make great black and white prints and so black and white film will be incorporated.
What are your aspirations for the project? Where do you see it going?
Primarily, the project is to push my editorial photographic skills further and hopefully engage with people on a personal level as they identify with the perspective. I need to explore Southsea further still, away from the coast and find a few treasures it’s bound to have.
It is my intention to have a selection of prints for sale via my website, and it would be nice to have an exhibition and/or a book. Ultimately I wish it to link back to my original project idea and I know that Southsea will feature in that too, because that is what inspired it.
To see more images from Stephen’s ‘Waiting for Summer’ photography project visit Stephen’s website:
…push my editorial photographic skills further and hopefully engage with people on a personal level…